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Alumni coming in for various events always make for an interesting weekend. As a pledge, it was terrifying, because they were “the guys who didn’t have to follow the rules.” As an active, it was awesome, because it scared the shit out of the pledges and you knew you were going to hear some fantastic stories about what it was like to be a member back in the day–don’t we all secretly wish we had pledged in the ’80s? But alumni guests are not without their faults. The fact is, they miss the glory days, so a lot of them are going to complain about certain things. Sometimes it’s because they’re true, but usually it’s because they’re a little bitter. Their complaints typically fall into a few categories.
1. The State Of The House
Your house is either physically shittier than it once was or it’s too clean and fancy. There’s no winning here. If the house was once a proud, architectural masterpiece when they were active, then they will act as if you and your goon brothers have mucked up the place, never mind that there’s a natural decomposition that happens to all buildings. On the other hand, if you’re lucky enough to have gotten a nice, new house in the time between their pledgeship and yours, they’ll talk about how it has no character. How could a group of guys live in a place so well-kept and clean? Back in their day, they threw cans out in the backyard so the pledges could build forts out of them and stage large scale battles against each other. You idiots went and got a foyer and a staircase railing that didn’t give way, so good job fucking that whole “fun and grungy” thing right up.
2. Intramural Performance
No matter what, you guys are way worse at sports than they ever were. Here’s the problem with intramural history: no one really knows how good your old teams were. Sure, there are championship banners in the gym where all of the actual winners get listed, but there’s no colloquial history of intramurals. We know the Detroit Pistons were an extremely dominant team in the late ’80s and early ’90s even though the team only had two championships to show for it, because stats, Hardwood Classics, and the “Bad Boys” 30 For 30 exist. If you believe any alumni who comes in to watch you guys play, that’s who they were, and he was Isiah Thomas, of course. In all likelihood, the guy was probably the fourth best player on his chapter’s second string, but there’s no way you’re going to know that. He’ll feel free to criticize your lackadaisical pick and rolls and poor flag-snatching skills, because you don’t have any real evidence to argue otherwise.
3. A “Watered Down” Pledgeship
I’ll grant that pledging in general was much harder for the generations that came before us. You could get away with so much more back then, because lawsuits and social media weren’t a factor. I’m not even saying that hazing was necessary for that to be true. Oftentimes, the looming threat of hazing is much worse than the actions themselves. Back in the day, everyone had a healthy fear of certain activities that they had heard rumors of, even if they never ended up having to participate in them. But now, all pledges know going in that there are certain things you guys simply can’t do to them. Any threat of serious punishment for failure will fall on deaf ears, because they know you can’t really back it up.
That’s not to say, however, that their pledging process was any better than yours. The great thing about the crackdown on physical pledging is that it has forced fraternities to be more creative in how they keep their pledges on their toes. Where once upon a time, some fraternities might have resorted to simply beating the shit out of a pledge to prove a point, modern chapters will instead play mind games, which, in my opinion, is infinitely more fun for the actives. It’s also more effective in accomplishing the stated goal of pledging, which is to mold idiot kids into respectable brothers.
4. General Attitude
If you believe the stories of any alumnus, every brother he pledged with and was pledged by was a legendary figure. You’d think that he’d had every politician, successful businessman, and John Belushi-type to ever wear letters in his pledge class. They look at their years as the 1927 Yankees rather than who they really were–a group of dumb college kids, some of whom were funny and cool, others a little too serious, and even some total morons. I’m all in favor of the “worst pledge class in history” storyline when you’re actively pledging kids, but once you talk to actual members, it’s pretty fucking insulting to treat them like they belong to some inferior version of the once great institution you were a part of.
In the final analysis, some of these criticisms may be warranted. Hell, your old chapter might truly turn into a cesspool, a shadow of what it once was. I’ve seen it happen countless times. If you’re a current member, though, it’s important to remember that when alumni come to visit, they’re only going to tell good stories. You’ll hear about their craziest nights over a four year period, not about the hundreds of other nights where they just got drunk and yelled at Vanna White turning letters manually on “Wheel of Fortune.” Someday you will graduate, visit your alma mater once a year, and do the exact same. It’s the circle of Greek life.