Thoughts On Brotherhood

Photos contributed by Nick 0389 Nardone

As a part of his approach to exploring what a future fraternity house might look like, Bob Testa first started with the question "What is Brotherhood"?  And how is it manifest in the physical plant a fraternity occupies?  What is needed to stimulate and foster brotherhood?

Bob's thoughts are below.  I have enabled this section to allow anyone to add to Bob's ideas.  The more perspectives added, the richer the collective insights will be.  You should feel free to discuss brotherhood alone, ideas about what physical attributes should be considered in the house of the future, or anything else along the lines of fraternal values and future needs.

While this section is enabled to accept pictures from other contributors, apparently it doesn't allow simple text.  So if you have something to add, send it to me at: davefitzharris@hotmail.com.  I will post it to this page.

From Bob Testa (BE 161):

Brotherhood: a concept not easily described or defined, even by a dictionary.  It can be different things to different people, yet it is what differentiates fraternity life from dormitory-boarding house- or student apartment-living, whether on- or off-campus.

  • It is a family of men of diverse backgrounds, religions, beliefs and values, spanning eras and geographic locations, built around life-long commitments and shared beliefs that we will treat one another as if we were siblings.We dwell in harmony in spite of our individual shortcomings.

  • It creates a network that enables the sharing of friendships with men who left college together or separately, even decades apart or from different colleges.It fosters a desire to be helpful to one another forever.

  • It is a reason why so many brothers participate in each other’s weddings and eventually eulogize each other. Such moments are reserved for family, or those who might as well be family, and those with whom we’ve forged a connection that is far deeper than just sharing beers or taking trips together.

As we think about the physical aspects of brotherhood and the characteristics of our living arrangements at UCD, we think about:

  • Shared, private living spaces where rooms and roommates are changed quarterly, and where bedroom doors are closed or locked to provide privacy or solitude when desired and when occupied, but are otherwise open to entry to any brother as our rooms at home are open to any member of our family. Needed security is provided by locking exterior doors and entryways.

  • Comfortable, common lounging areas and recreation areas in which to enjoy each other’s company,

  • Family-style meals that provide a regular, consistent opportunity to create meaningful shared experiences that offer a sense of belonging to all participants. Such meals offer experiences that touch all our senses—sight, touch, taste, smell and listening to warm laughter and good conversation. They offer an opportunity to connect with each other, communicate daily about fraternity happenings and give each other time and attention. Not every meal needs to be a sit-down extravaganza, but they should be frequent, fun and family-centered. They provide a sense of unity and identity and a vehicle for carrying on valued traditions.

  • A regularly used meeting or Chapter room where rituals are followed to create meaning behind our actions. Rituals serve to strengthen the brotherhood by reducing anxiety, bringing people together and increasing confidences. It helps in focusing on what is important in conducting the affairs of the fraternity. It serves as a constant reminder of who we are and what we represent.

 

From Drew Porter (BE 526):

First, I love Bob's thoughts.  I want to add one more of my own.  As a historian, I think Turpie had a deep appreciation of this aspect of Brotherhood.   
 
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Brotherhood involves a deep understanding of the history of the chapter (and the Fraternity), the vision for the future, and one's place in it.   
 
I think that it is critically important to address the role of the actives in the history of the house.  They are the custodians of the flame.  It is their college home, but in accepting membership in the Fraternity and the Chapter and the privileges pertaining thereto, they also agree that they are the custodians of an important legacy.  This legacy ties the past to the future.  The legacy forms the bedrock of the Chapter as we knew it.  Their understanding of the legacy insures that the actives live up to their end of the bargain in keeping the flame alive and living up to expectations regarding how they act, how they operate the chapter and how they care for the houses.  The actives came close to killing our chapter only a few years ago, because we failed to make sure they knew what their responsibility was and the valuable intangible with which they had been entrusted.  In short, the acceptance of the custodianship of the legacy and gaining an understanding of what it means to be a BE is critical to the success and future viability of the chapter. 
 
I think that the chapter dodged a bullet during the period when the Beta Epsilon charter was suspended.  The result could have been that the chapter might have been shut down and the current actives ejected from the house in anticipation of recolonization at a future date.  Who knows if there would have been a recolonization, or if the houses would have simply been sold off.  I believe that had they been properly educated about the great legacy that is Beta Epsilon, and fully understood the responsibility of being entrusted with it, that they might have acted differently.  I think that if we had paid more attention, we might have gotten involved sooner.  But for us, our memory was that Turpie was always there to make sure that the actives understood this important role they filled.  We failed to fully comprehend what his passing meant.  We now need to help them understand their responsibility again.
 
Yours in the Bonds/Of the Troops, For the Troops,
Drew Porter, BE 526
 
From Matt Zwerling (BE 193):
 
My initial hit was that Bob covered most of the bases.  Another point would be that the occupants of the house, unlike in a dorm and to a lesser extent an apartment, are responsible for the maintenance and repair (as possible) of the facility and that work parties create another form of bonding and shared experience.  I strongly agree with the value of shared living accommodations (i.e. double or multiple occupant bedrooms vs. singles) and the regular rotation of roommates as Bob writes.

Matt

From Dave Fitzharris (BE 205):

First, I should acknowledge that my concept of brotherhood was formed by my own experiences at the House back in the ‘60’s.  I would very much like to hear from “younger” brothers that had different experiences, and, consequentially, may have much different opinions about what constitutes “brotherhood”.  Their views probably more accurately reflect today’s university and cultural climate and might be better suited than mine for planning purposes … although it pains me to say that!

Since I came from the early years, I agree with everything Bob, Drew and Matt have said.  I’d just like to add my two cents.

 Adult Influence. 

Drew mentioned Turpie, who was the backbone of the House for 50 years.  He was of immeasurable value to the Chapter and maintained its continuity over that half century.  But he has been gone for over 15 years, and with him what it meant to say “Remember who you are and what you represent” (a famous Turpie saying) may have been lost.

Without the adult guidance Turpie and others provided, today’s actives have to find their own way in establishing a winning culture and rules of conduct.  Of course, the AB, the University and the National set some guidelines, but otherwise it seems to me they’re pretty much on their own.  That didn’t work out too well in The Lord Of The Flies!

“Back In The Day” we had honorary members (Turpie was one) who sat in on meetings and gave us some adult direction.  They even played a hand in alerting us to promising prospective rush candidates.

So one thing I would like to add to “brotherhood” is the “big brotherhood” that could be provided by alumni or honorary faculty members, if that tradition could be re-implemented.

Communal Living.

Next, I would like to support Matt’s point about roommates.  While it’s nice to have privacy, something is missed by not having a roommate.  It’s not the same as living next door to a brother.  When you live in the same room , you can support each other, share confidences, connive, whatever.

I won’t name names, but currently, one of the older brothers is very sick.  Two other brothers visit him almost weekly because they roomed with him in college.  That’s a particularly close, long-lasting bond.

We used to fit 3 or even 4 guys in a room, and had 50-55 men living in.  We did that with sleeping porches and bunk beds.  Again, a different era, but a lot of bonding came from that togetherness.  I guess the sleeping porch will never be brought back, but I don’t think bunk beds are necessarily outrageous.

Working Together.

Also to reinforce Matt’s comments, brotherhood was strengthened with group projects.  Today, Habitat For Humanity is the Chapter’s – and the National’s – philanthropic cause.  My hat is off to the House for this.  Especially if this includes actually building a house together, that’s a great way to build brotherhood in the process.

I’m sure, too, that the brothers band together to get ready for parties or other social functions.  Those, too, cement brotherhood.  Playing together is fun and brings guys closer, but I would submit working together (which generates its own fun) creates a sense of accomplishment and shared satisfaction for those who participate.

Here are some of the things we did when I was in the House:

  1. Participated in a University-sponsored Work Day, where all living groups helped clean up the campus.

  2. As a PR project, performed some community service for the City of Davis (for several years, it was hanging Christmas decorations on lampposts; once we installed a Little League Park).

  3. For several years, we entertained the kids at Perkins Youth Authority Center at Christmas.

  4. We teamed with one of the women’s dorms to take children from a Sacramento orphanage out for an afternoon.

  5. Every year, we would design, build and push a float during the Picnic Day Parade, as did all the fraternities and most of the dorms.The float punching party the night before the parade was one of the dating highlights of the year.

  6. Before each Fall term, all brothers were required to show up a day early to participate in a Work Day at the House: gardening, painting, sanding and repairing the three buildings in hopes they would last another year.

I don’t how that relates to planning the future chapter house, but I thought I’d include it while I was on a roll!