College Fraternities Essay, Research Paper

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.

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

1937

 

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:

12.

 

** Note – This was the first termpaper on School Sucks. I asked a friend at FIU to get me a homework assignment and he gave me this on a floppy disk in May-June 1996. I appreciate this and hope he’s doing well!