Studying at UB but pledging at Buffalo State was worth it

Ask any member of a cultural Greek organization on campus if being in a fraternity or sorority these days has gotten any easier – they might just laugh in your face.

Most students at UB don’t want to pledge. And who could blame them? With all the negative media coverage that various organizations have been getting due to hazing allegations and misconduct, some people might truly believe that Greek Life as we know it is plummeting to its ugly and inevitable death.

But for a small group of individuals like me, who while attending classes at UB completed most or all of their process at SUNY Buffalo State or vice versa – the value we attribute to our organization is drastically greater than your average on-campus pledge.

Going to UB but pledging at Buff State was really my only option. When I joined Phi Iota Alpha there was only one brother at UB in my chapter – all of the others were students at Buff State. So I used public transit to get to and from Buff State – an hour-long commute – every day for eight weeks and five days.

Imagine being from New York City and growing up without the luxury that is your own car. Transfer that same experience into a place like Buffalo and you can assume that even small trips to Wegmans become four or five hour voyages to stock your fridge for the next month.

You don’t really know how cold a bus stop can be until you have to stand at one as a pledge at 6 a.m. to make your daily hour-long commute to campus for your 8 a.m. classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – a computer science class that you know you’re already failing. But you would much rather sit in a lecture about stuff that you don’t understand than be where any other Greek can find you – because that means you’re probably going get harassed for being a pledge.

Generally speaking, members of cultural organizations, whether they’re black, Latino or Asian, do things marginally differently from any other social or professional organization.

There is a social probation of sorts, like most organizations. Brothers have certain expectations of the pledges and expect them to follow through in the completion of every task. But what makes cultural organizations different in my opinion is that the pledge process has a rhyme and a reason for everything that a pledge does.

In my experience, most cultural organizations don’t even allow the pledges to consume alcohol or any other drugs during their process. It adds this very real, very sobering perspective to what I’ve heard some people compare it to a hyperbolic time chamber, where things focus in on the present moment and you feel more connected with how your daily events are unfolding.

One experiences a positive form of isolation that invokes the growth of ones cultural awareness. In the end the pledges are expected to be able to demonstrate some sort of understanding in regards to a part or parts of the history of their cultural focus.

My desire for greater cultural and historical understanding is what kept me warm at that bus stop. Knowing that no matter how cold I was that the men who trudged through the Andes Mountains to liberate Chile were probably knew a colder cold than my bus stop. Knowing that the colors of my flag were more than just red and blue squares and learning about the different cultural histories and experiences of the two men I call my line brothers.

Tomas Olivier is a features desk editor and can be reached at