Spring Sing, graduation prep, rain and Resurrection Sunday. These are the events and traits that most at Harding associate with the month of April. Here, April is the final full calendar month of the school year and a time in which many begin to plan for the summer and a new year of academics. For me, last April marked the beginning of a new and exciting role in which I have had the privilege to lead the men’s social club Theta.
Theta. Loud, reserved, zealous, indifferent. Rebellious, obedient, proud, humble. Spontaneous, arranged, obnoxious, calm. Loving, hurtful, confident, Theta. For some, these are words that come to mind for some whenever one utters the word Theta. For others, the word Theta might bring to mind a completely different set of adjectives.
If you can’t beat it, join it? Theta was created to be different. This club was formed out of a desire to challenge the view of social clubs and bring light to the good and bad parts of the club system. Clubs introduce students to enriching community, but they also make some students feel like they have to be someone else to “fit in” or to be “cool.” Clubs can help several students get involved with campus life, but they can also reject several students from the same opportunities. This rejection can be painful and detrimental to a person’s sense of worth and value. Clubs can help bring students into intimacy with others but they also can create a toxic and unhealthy pride in clubs.
These are truths of the club system that I and several Theta members wish to point out. Unfortunately, Theta has become part of the good and the bad. Theta is by no means better than other clubs nor is our intent to be the “best.” Theta strives to bring light to a broken system and to not take clubs so seriously but rather relationships seriously. Have we made mistakes? Yes. Have we offended some people? Absolutely. It is for these reasons that I apologized to the leaders of the other social clubs in an ICC meeting on Aug. 27 and now take this opportunity to apologize to Harding for creating an unhealthy tension with some people and offending other clubs. Our intent is unity, and it is unity that we will continue to strive for.
“Theta is exactly what I needed it to be.” These are the words of Theta’s former secretary, alumnus Kaleb Turner. Shortly after joining Theta, it became very evident to me that there was a mix of a lot of different personalities and mindsets within the club. It also became clear that every club holds some aspect of diversity. It was diversity that made it difficult for Theta to center our club around changing the “club system.” Instead, we had to direct our focus on fostering fruitful relationship within the club. It was in these efforts that I discovered that “being in Theta” was going to mean many different things for many different people. And that’s OK.
Theta is simply a social club. Social clubs are simply that. Unlike a company or an advocacy center, clubs are not organized under a common goal to produce a tangible good or change in a community. Social clubs are simply an avenue for building community. That being said, communities can make a difference and can stir the pot of tradition, but that’s not what Theta is to me. Theta has introduced me to people who are working for change and, more importantly, to advance the Gospel — but that’s not the mission statement of Theta. There is not a word or a phrase that can accurately describe Theta or any other club for that matter. Likewise, there is not a primary goal that our leadership can state that will accurately represent the goals and aspirations of the current Theta and future Theta. Theta is simply a social club that consists of different types of people. Social clubs are simply organizations that consist of different types of people. I don’t seek to diminish the role of social clubs; rather, I wish to point to the beauty of social clubs that lies in simple diversity.
Theta looks much different now than it did one year ago. A year ago most of the leadership was looking for a club to join, including myself. And in a year, most of the charter members will be gone, and the future of Theta will be in the hands of two induction classes. That should not discourage the leadership of Theta, but rather encourage us to create an environment that we feel fits our current members. Part of being a leader is paving the way for new leaders to step up.
My hope is that when Spring Sing, graduation prep, rain and Easter roll back around, the leadership of Theta will have worked to create a system in which new leaders feel equipped by our tradition and history, but completely free to make Theta what they need it to be for the club and for Harding. As I sit here in the middle of September, in the thick of the club process, I can’t help but ponder what Theta will look like come April 2020.