A fraternity, as defined by the The American Heritage Dictionary is “achiefly social organization of male college students, usually designated byGreek letters.
“(pg. 523) This definition, however, is very limited andleaves plenty of space for short sighted people to believe the stereotypeconveyed by the popular media, where fraternity members are depicted as drunkswho accomplish nothing either scholastically or socially. Unfortunately, boththis definition and media portrayals fail to mention the fact that membership ina 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 traditionof high academic achievement, and most of our nation’s presidents were membersof a Greek association.
According to Irving Klepper, the first fraternity (PhiBeta Kappa) was founded for “social and literary purposes” at theCollege of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia on December 5th 1776. After half a century of existence, it became and has since remained ascholarship honor society. Throughout the nineteenth century, many newfraternities were founded, but none of these were permanent. Then, in 1825, theKappa Alpha Fraternity (now Kappa Alpha Society) was born at Union College. Twoyears 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, thepattern for the American Fraternity system.
By the end of the nineteenth centurythere were over thirty general fraternities in this country (pg. 18). Today’sfraternities still have all the characteristics and precepts of the their pastfraternities: “the charm and mystery of secrecy, a ritual, oaths offidelity, a grip, a motto, a badge, a background of high idealism, a strong tieof friendship and comradeship, and urge for sharing its values throughnationwide expansion. ” (Klepper pg. 18) In addition, today’s fraternitieshelp their members develop many skills which are used in and out of college. During membership in a fraternity, one must learn leadership skills, because thechapter has to be run in a business-like manner and because it embracesdifferent offices (President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Scribe, etc.
. ) whichare held by its members. These offices closely resemble the ones of realbusiness. Additionally, since membership in a fraternity is seen as a greatachievement by other Greek associations’ members, every brother must be able touphold that office at any time.
Organization is a must for every member of afraternity. Fund raising activities and community service always have a highpriority in every chapter, and each member is required to organize and/or takepart in many of these activities as a pledge, a brother and an alumnus. Thishelps individuals within the group to develop organization and planning. Inaddition, since the fraternity might be located in a house, each brother mustlearn household organization for his brothers well being. Fraternities arefamous for their energetic social gatherings (parties) which require all oftheir members to be socially active and outspoken when the occasion calls forit.
This helps fraternity members develop very strong social skills. Since theact of one member reflects over the acts of all the others, self-control andawareness of actions are mandatory. In addition, when the brothers live infraternity houses, this adds to the development of social skills in the way thata member must be able to deal and live with different kinds of people indifferent situations. Since there are people of different scholastic levels in afraternity, the member of the fraternity have access to a great deal ofknowledge on many different school subjects.
It is normal for fraternities toorganize study groups regularly during the school year and especially beforeexams. In addition, members might also use the opinion and advice of othermembers about the faculty in their favor, and most fraternities keep test filesand other such study aids available for the benefit of their members. Mostfraternity members are also eligible to receive a number of differentscholarships and awards based on academic excellence, leadership, and personalachievement which can contribute to both the resume and the self-esteem of theperson receiving such an honor. Fraternities are also well known for theirsupport toward their community. In fact, other than the usual, chapter-runprojects, many chapters require their associate members to organize andparticipate in their own community service project before they can be initiatedinto full membership.
This helps the fraternity to enhance their image, increasetheir popularity and their members’ awareness toward the community. It is commonfor some fraternity members to stay active after graduating from college. Inthis way they can help the chapter in many ways and especially as “advisorof the real world. ” It is also a positive experience for the graduatemember, who will be able to keep in contact with the new and old members of hischapter.
As Sidney S. Suntag wrote “I know of no better way to keep youngthan to associate with young people”(pg. 15). Even if some members are notable to remain active, the chapter can always count on them, since the spirit offraternal brotherhood never dies. It is common for fraternities to build theirhouses and fund their activities with the support of their alumni. The number ofalumni for a given fraternity in any urban area can range from a few dozen toseveral thousand.
But the most important gift a fraternity can offer is a trueand everlasting friendship that transcends the normal bonds between friends andties them together as brothers for life. It is something no other organizationcan offer, and the bond that is formed between fraternity brothers is feltthroughout the whole organization and not just local chapters. This explainswhy, when greeks of the same fraternity meet is felt like a reunion betweenblood brothers. Clearly, a feeling of comradeship is present not only withineach fraternity, but between all of the members of Greek organizations. This canonly lead to positive relations with the Greek community of a college oruniversity, which is always fairly numerous at those institutions which haveGreek organizations.
As Brian Abramson stated in his interview, “If youlook at any Greek organization at Florida International University, or any otherCollege or University, you can find a catalogue of services which thatorganization provides for the benefit of the greater community through theservice projects which it conducts every semester. ” Tau Epsilon Phi, forexample, participates in Bowling for Kids’ Sake every Spring, a tradition whichbegan several years ago. Every fraternity has its own special philanthropy, aswell as other public service projects which that fraternity takes part in fromtime to time. In fact, cooperating in public service not only provides themembers of the brotherhood with valuable connections in the community, but italso serves to strengthen the bonds of brotherhood which hold the memberstogether. To keep true to the feeling of brotherhood in a fraternity, everymember must be trustworthy and at the same time must be able to trust everyother member which makes the bond of brotherhood even stronger. Unfortunately, alot of people overlook fraternities during college because of the ominous,ever-present rumors about hazing.
This image is also a part of the popularstereotype of fraternity members. Hazing, as defined by the Fraternity ExecutiveAssociation 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 putsit, “If anyone is caught hazing, not only can fines be imposed upon theindividuals, but conviction and even jail time could result.
Organizations whichpractice hazing also run the risk of losing their charter and being closed down. As Mr. Nykolaiszyn states in his letter to the editor, “While someorganizations 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 pointout the fact that, “Greek life is not just about partying and drinking. Greek life helps to build character, self-esteem and life longfriendships.
“(12) It is indeed very sad that many people are stuck with the”Animal House” view of fraternities and avoid looking into whatfraternities are really all about. BibliographyAbramson, Brian D. Personal Interview. 1 Apr. 1996. Fraternity ExecutivesAssociation “Statement of position on Hazing and Pre-initiationActivities” The portals of Tau Epsilon Phi Tau Epsilon Phi Fraternity, Inc.
Atlanta, Georgia 1937 Klepper, Irving The portals of Tau Epsilon Phi Tau EpsilonPhi Fraternity, Inc. Atlanta, Georgia 1937 Morris, William, ed. The AmericanHeritage Dictionary of the English Language. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston,Massachusetts 1982 Nykolaiszyn, John P. “Hazing: Greeks get a badrap. ” The Beacon Feb.
13th 1996: 12.