College Fraternities

A fraternity, as defined by the The American Heritage Dictionary is “a
chiefly social organization of male college students, usually designated by
Greek letters.”(pg. 523) This definition, however, is very limited and leaves
plenty of space for short sighted people to believe the stereotype conveyed by
the popular media, where fraternity members are depicted as drunks who
accomplish nothing either scholastically or socially. Unfortunately, both this
definition and media portrayals fail to mention the fact that membership in a
fraternity is a life-long experience that helps its members develop social,
organizational, and study skills during college, and that teaches true,
everlasting friendship. As a matter of fact, fraternities have a long
tradition of high academic achievement, and most of our nation’s presidents
were members of a Greek association.

According to Irving Klepper, the first fraternity (Phi Beta Kappa) was
founded for “social and literary purposes” at the College of William and Mary
in Williamsburg, Virginia on December 5th 1776. After half a century of
existence, it became and has since remained a scholarship honor society.

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Throughout the nineteenth century, many new fraternities were founded, but none
of these were permanent. Then, in 1825, the Kappa Alpha Fraternity (now Kappa
Alpha Society) was born at Union College. Two years later, Sigma Phi and Delta
Phi had been founded at the same college, constituting the so-called Union
Triad which was, in a large measure, the pattern for the American Fraternity
system. By the end of the nineteenth century there were over thirty general
fraternities in this country (pg. 18).

Today’s fraternities still have all the characteristics and precepts of
the their past fraternities: “the charm and mystery of secrecy, a ritual, oaths
of fidelity, a grip, a motto, a badge, a background of high idealism, a strong
tie of friendship and comradeship, and urge for sharing its values through
nationwide expansion.” (Klepper pg. 18) In addition, today’s fraternities help
their members develop many skills which are used in and out of college.

During membership in a fraternity, one must learn leadership skills,
because the chapter has to be run in a business-like manner and because it
embraces different offices (President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Scribe,
etc..) which are held by its members. These offices closely resemble the ones
of real business. Additionally, since membership in a fraternity is seen as a
great achievement by other Greek associations’ members, every brother must be
able to uphold that office at any time.

Organization is a must for every member of a fraternity. Fund raising
activities and community service always have a high priority in every chapter,
and each member is required to organize and/or take part in many of these
activities as a pledge, a brother and an alumnus. This helps individuals
within the group to develop organization and planning. In addition, since the
fraternity might be located in a house, each brother must learn household
organization for his brothers well being.

Fraternities are famous for their energetic social gatherings (parties)
which require all of their members to be socially active and outspoken when
the occasion calls for it. This helps fraternity members develop very strong
social skills. Since the act of one member reflects over the acts of all the
others, self-control and awareness of actions are mandatory. In addition, when
the brothers live in fraternity houses, this adds to the development of social
skills in the way that a member must be able to deal and live with different
kinds of people in different situations.

Since there are people of different scholastic levels in a fraternity,
the member of the fraternity have access to a great deal of knowledge on many
different school subjects. It is normal for fraternities to organize study
groups regularly during the school year and especially before exams.

In addition, members might also use the opinion and advice of other
members about the faculty in their favor, and most fraternities keep test files
and other such study aids available for the benefit of their members. Most
fraternity members are also eligible to receive a number of different
scholarships and awards based on academic excellence, leadership, and personal
achievement which can contribute to both the resume and the self-esteem of the
person receiving such an honor.

Fraternities are also well known for their support toward their
community. In fact, other than the usual, chapter-run projects, many chapters
require their associate members to organize and participate in their own
community service project before they can be initiated into full membership.

This helps the fraternity to enhance their image, increase their popularity
and their members’ awareness toward the community.

It is common for some fraternity members to stay active after
graduating from college. In this way they can help the chapter in many ways
and especially as “advisor of the real world.” It is also a positive
experience for the graduate member, who will be able to keep in contact with
the new and old members of his chapter. As Sidney S. Suntag wrote “I know of
no better way to keep young than to associate with young people”(pg. 15).

Even if some members are not able to remain active, the chapter can
always count on them, since the spirit of fraternal brotherhood never dies. It
is common for fraternities to build their houses and fund their activities with
the support of their alumni. The number of alumni for a given fraternity in
any urban area can range from a few dozen to several thousand.

But the most important gift a fraternity can offer is a true and
everlasting friendship that transcends the normal bonds between friends and
ties them together as brothers for life. It is something no other organization
can offer, and the bond that is formed between fraternity brothers is felt
throughout the whole organization and not just local chapters. This explains
why, when greeks of the same fraternity meet is felt like a reunion between
blood brothers.

Clearly, a feeling of comradeship is present not only within each
fraternity, but between all of the members of Greek organizations. This can
only lead to positive relations with the Greek community of a college or
university, which is always fairly numerous at those institutions which have
Greek organizations.

As Brian Abramson stated in his interview, “If you look at any Greek
organization at Florida International University, or any other College or
University, you can find a catalogue of services which that organization
provides for the benefit of the greater community through the service projects
which it conducts every semester.” Tau Epsilon Phi, for example, participates
in Bowling for Kids’ Sake every Spring, a tradition which began several years
ago. Every fraternity has its own special philanthropy, as well as other
public service projects which that fraternity takes part in from time to time.

In fact, cooperating in public service not only provides the members of the
brotherhood with valuable connections in the community, but it also serves to
strengthen the bonds of brotherhood which hold the members together.

To keep true to the feeling of brotherhood in a fraternity, every
member must be trustworthy and at the same time must be able to trust every
other member which makes the bond of brotherhood even stronger. Unfortunately,
a lot of people overlook fraternities during college because of the ominous,
ever-present rumors about hazing. This image is also a part of the popular
stereotype of fraternity members.

Hazing, as defined by the Fraternity Executive Association is “Any
action taken or situation created, intentionally, whether on or off fraternity
premises to produce mental, or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment
or ridicule.”(pg. 48) As John P. Nykolaiszyn puts it, “If anyone is caught
hazing, not only can fines be imposed upon the individuals, but conviction and
even jail time could result. Organizations which practice hazing also run the
risk of losing their charter and being closed down.

As Mr. Nykolaiszyn states in his letter to the editor, “While some
organizations may choose to haze and humiliate the people who try to rush them,
that is in no way an accurate portrayal of all Greeks.” He goes on to point
out the fact that, “Greek life is not just about partying and drinking. Greek
life helps to build character, self-esteem and life long friendships.”(12) It
is indeed very sad that many people are stuck with the “Animal House” view of
fraternities and avoid looking into what fraternities are really all about.

Works Cited
Abramson, Brian D. Personal Interview. 1 Apr. 1996. Fraternity Executives
Association “Statement of position on Hazing and Pre-initiation Activities” The
portals of Tau Epsilon Phi Tau Epsilon Phi Fraternity, Inc. Atlanta, Georgia
Klepper, Irving The portals of Tau Epsilon Phi Tau Epsilon Phi Fraternity, Inc.

Atlanta, Georgia 1937
Morris, William, ed. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.

Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts 1982
Nykolaiszyn, John P. “Hazing: Greeks get a bad rap.” The Beacon Feb. 13th 1996:
Category: English


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