GATOR MEMORIES: THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX
Updated: Oct 22, 2020
Before reading, please keep in mind this blog entry isn’t meant to be disrespectful in any way. I have the utmost respect for Allegheny College, Theta Chi, Greek Life and its efforts, and the Meadville community. But that’s not how you think when you're in college, right?
When I look back on my time as a student at Allegheny College, only one experience comes to mind for how my alma mater has shaped me. No, it wasn’t my classes, COMP-ing, the welcoming Meadville community, or my interactions with the one McKinley’s cashier who kept saying “thank you” after I already purchased my meal and was ten feet from the register (just let me eat my quesadilla, Jeanie). I am talking about my experience in joining the Theta Chi fraternity.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “Oooo another self-important frat bro alumni trying to relive his so-called glory days where the only things on his mind were parties, mixers, Springfest, and wondering if an all-nighter before the due date is enough time to finish that paper he procrastinated on all week. How original.” Well . . . you’re probably right.
BUT. Theta Chi taught me a lot of life skills and provided challenges you can’t come across in your college courses. And only at the cost of my regular sleep schedule and probably my overall health. What a deal! Well, sit back, read along, and you’ll probably think twice before you start judging that one guy in letters hanging out by your academic building.
Playing tough guy with the bros
You’ve probably seen the Theta Chi house before. You know, the festering wound of a building conveniently located at the top of the hill, overlooking most of the campus. You’ve probably thought to yourself “How has that building not been condemned yet?”, “How do 20+ dudes live there?” “Have I been exposed to things much worse than the Corona virus after stepping foot in that house?” Or shared the lingering thought: “This isn’t a bathroom. It’s an abomination”.
In order to thrive in such a place while living with that many people you will have to be flexible, collaborative, determined, and sometimes able to think outside the box to make it work. Here are some examples.
During the harsh winters, a lot of people entering our house would slip and fall coming right through our front door. That is just a potential lawsuit waiting to happen! How did I resolve this? I found a floor mat by the side doors of the campus center, rolled it up, and “borrowed it”. It fit perfectly in our front foyer. Boom! Problem solved.
When you have that many people, along with two dogs, and an entire litter of cats (thanks Brendyn!) living in the house at once with guests coming and going and no custodial staff, it can go from being clean enough to getting completely destroyed in a matter of days. Bathrooms went from "passable" to "horrifically gross" and no one wants to clean up after other people. Now you’re probably thinking this where I took charge, pulled up my bootstraps, and organized the biggest house cleanup you’ve ever seen. Well, you’re wrong. Oddfellows was right across the street and I’d just use that bathroom. That's right. Thinking outside the box. The kitty litter and human litter box.
The summer going into my sophomore year, our Fraternity was faced with a daunting obstacle. We had to sink a lot of money and hours into fixing the house from inside out in order to pass every code for fire inspection and to keep it livable for the upcoming year. It gave me both the challenge and the opportunity to appreciate all the effort being put into our happy haven at the school. Not that I fully acted on that appreciation. I distinctly remember hiding with one of my buddies upstairs while everyone else was tearing up that nasty green carpet. But hey. We managed to jump through another hoop to keep things going for the next year. I helped out with painting and fixing the ceiling though.
Keeping the house going and maintaining the brotherhood community was only one aspect of Theta Chi. We also needed to interact with the rest of student life and the Meadville community to the point where they could genuinely leave us glowing reviews like “Okay fine. These guys can stay for now, I guess.”
Let me tell you about "Furniture Closet", our philanthropy event where we’d give away pieces of furniture to those in need. People would arrive from all over Crawford County, and come up with creative ways to haul a couch, dresser, and a queen-sized mattress using only their Toyota Camry and some rope. Of course, since we had around thirty eager brothers show up for the feel-good moment and just a handful of interested furniture seekers turn up on any given day, only a few of us would have to carry the furniture out to cars while the rest of us would play Hackensack and make the really big decision about who was going to get their MSG fix at China Buffet afterwards.
As much as Meadville was an impressive hub for nightlife and culture. We somehow had at least a quarter of campus crammed into our house for Theta Chi dance parties. It gave students the chance to ease the stress of their classes by dancing with some random Gator on the dance floor. Or, if you were a football player, punch out our ceiling tiles until we started to notice and kicked you out after a lengthy beer-fueled confrontation. We even gave folks access to our own "steam room", and by that I mean we had enough people in our basement to the point where it became extremely humid and the walls would start dripping with sweat.
As much as we were happy to provide these services to the student body, it got to a point where people refused to leave, even into the late hours of the night. We had to get creative by playing as much off-putting music as possible to get everyone out. Have you ever watched Silence of the Lambs where Buffalo Bill is dancing by himself to that one special song “Goodbye Horses”? Picture that. It eventually worked.
I can’t forget my time on the InterFraternity Council, where I triumphantly became both recruitment chair and secretary through a tenacious campaign and running pretty much unopposed. We were a prestigious group of appointed guys who were given the responsibility of nagging the rest of our respective fraternities into complying with the school’s whims. This varied from dorm-storming for SAMS (Students for the Awareness of Multiple Sclerosis), organizing Greek week, putting together endless award ceremonies, and various other traditional events. While a lot of the time this seemed like pulling teeth, event-planning did have its perks such as "productive" meetings at the Penny Bar, UTZ challenges, and excess funds being spent on well-deserved pizza.
While I probably could have used my time in college more wisely like working harder in my classes, attending an extra Gator Day event or two, or even joining a division three sports team, there was hardly ever a dull moment in Greek Life. I’ve heard the current undergrad chapter works very hard with fewer resources and people than we had and I commend them for that. But the little shenanigans are what kept me entertained during my small-town college life and I don’t think I would have gotten through four years at Allegheny without it.
Now I give back to Greek Life by serving as a Theta Chi alumni board member where my rigorous duties involve showing up to satisfy meeting quorums, occasionally voting, and attending the golf outings where I lose my cart privileges for driving too recklessly. Some things, it seems, never change.
~~ Noah James Krassenstein (Class of '13, Communication Arts Major)
FOR ALL THOSE MEMORIES, GEEK OR GREEK, PLEASE DONATE SO OUR STUDENTS WHO ARE BATTLING TOUGH TIMES, CAN HAVE GREAT GATOR MEMORIES OF THEIR OWN. THANK YOU.