Fraternities and sororities in North America
Fraternities and sororities (from the Latin words frater and soror, meaning "brother" and "sister" respectively) are social organizations for mostly undergraduate students. The term refers mainly to such organizations at colleges and universities in the United States, although it is also applied to analogous European groups also known as corporations. There are also many fraternities and sororities in the Philippines due to its close association with the United States since 1898. Similar, but less common, organizations also exist for secondary school students. In modern usage, the term "Greek letter organization" is often synonymous in the United States, with the terms "fraternity" and "sorority".
Typically, Greek letter organizations are gender-based initiatory organizations. Fraternity refers to a male membership, whereas sorority refers to a female membership. Membership is typically considered active during the undergraduate years only, although a notable exception to this rule are historically black organizations and National Multicultural Greek Council organizations, in which active membership continues, and into which members are often initiated long after the completion of their undergraduate degrees. As with Freemasonry, Greek letter organizations may sometimes be considered mutual aid societies, providing academic and social activities. Most groups also maintain a chapter house, providing residential and dining facilities for members.
- 1 Terminology
- 2 History and development
- 3 Types of Greek letter organizations
- 4 Rituals and symbols
- 5 Chapter houses
- 6 Joining
- 7 Controversy and criticism
- 8 North American Greek letter organizations in other regions
- 9 Philanthropy
- 10 Sororities
- 11 High school fraternities and sororities
- 12 In popular culture
- 13 Other countries
- 14 See also
- 15 References
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In modern usage, the term "Greek letter organization" has become synonymous with the North American fraternity and sorority. The term fraternity, often colloquially shortened to "frat" (though use of such term may be derogatory in some contexts), typically refers to an all-male group, while the term "sorority", created for Gamma Phi Beta by Dr. Frank Smalley, typically refers to an all-female group. Additionally, some groups that define themselves as "fraternities" or "sororities" may be mixed-sex. Due to the ambiguous nature of the terms "fraternity" and "sorority" with respect to gender, and due to the inaccuracy and potentially sexist nature of the use "fraternity" to describe aforementioned organizations, it has become commonplace to use the synonym "Greek letter organization", since the vast majority of fraternities and sororities identify themselves using Greek letters. A recent example of this is the usage of the terms "(historically) Black Greek letter organizations" (BGLOs) and "Latino Greek letter organizations" (LGOs) within the literature. However, since most of those organizations that do not identify themselves using Greek letters are structured similarly to and share other several common characteristics with those that do identify themselves using Greek letters, all of these organizations are still considered to be "Greek letter organizations". All this said, the public at large and most members of fraternities and sororities still use the traditional terms ("fraternity" and "sorority"), to refer to all-male and all-female groups, respectively. Coeducational service fraternities and academic honors organizations (despite sharing a common history, as well as a common naming scheme, with modern fraternities and sororities) tend to be referred to more specifically. "Greek letter organization" tends to be used in "formal" contexts, but rarely in popular discourse.
The term social fraternity is used to differentiate four-year, undergraduate, and frequently residential groups from other organizations, many of which also have Greek-letter names, such as honor societies, academic societies, or service fraternities and sororities.
History and development
The Phi Beta Kappa Society, founded on December 5, 1776, at The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, is generally recognized as the first Greek-letter student society in North America. It was founded by John Heath, who had failed at admission to the two existing Latin-letter fraternities at the College, the F.H.C. Society (nicknamed as backronym the "Flat Hat Club") and the P.D.A. Society (nicknamed "Please Don't Ask"). The main developments associated with Phi Beta Kappa are the use of Greek-letter initials as a society name and the establishment of branches or "chapters" at different campuses, following the pattern set by Masonic lodges. The Greek letters (ΦΒΚ) come from the motto Φιλοσοφία Βίου Κυβερνήτης (philosophia biou kybernētēs, "Philosophy is the helmsman of life"), now officially translated as "Philosophy is the guide of life". Greek was chosen as the language for the motto due generally to classical education at the time, and specifically because Heath "was the best Greek scholar in college." One official historian of the society, William T. Hastings, and some others believe that the society was originally known by the Latin name Societas Philosophiae (Philosophical Society), and that the name Phi Beta Kappa became the society name over time. This use of Greek letters was briefly preceded by the use of Latin letters, notably the F.H.C. Society drawing its name from its secret motto, presumed to be "Fraternitas, Humanitas, et Cognitio," or "Fraternitas Humanitas Cognitioque." (These are two renderings of "brotherhood, humanity, and knowledge.")
However, Phi Beta Kappa was very different from a typical college fraternity of today, in that the membership was generally restricted to upperclassmen, if not seniors; and men initiated as students remained active in the society after becoming members of the faculty of the host university. The annual Phi Beta Kappa exercises at Yale were public literary exercises, with as many or more faculty members of the society than undergraduate.
As Phi Beta Kappa developed, it became an influential association of faculty and select students on several college campuses, with membership becoming more of an honor and less of social selection. Many came to see the increasing influence of the society as undemocratic and contrary to the free flow of intellectual ideas in American academia. As a curious side effect of anti-masonic controversy in the early Republic, the secrets of Phi Beta Kappa were published in the appendix to a book in 1831. After that time, Phi Beta Kappa ceased to be a social fraternity in any real sense and is now only an honorary society, though prominent and respected.
Chi Phi was established at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey on December 24, 1824 on the principles of Truth, Honor, and Personal Integrity. However, shortly after the founding the Chi Phi Society (which included both faculty and student members) became inactive. Some 30 years later the name and traditions of the group were unearthed and adopted by a second organization founded at Princeton in 1854, but not as a direct outgrowth of the original organization. This was acknowledged formally by Chi Phi's national president A. Holley Rudd, at the public ceremonies in 1924 celebrating the Centennial of the original group. Two other organizations of the same name merged with it to create the modern Chi Phi Fraternity in 1874. It is also possible that other college organizations with Greek letter names may have existed prior to 1825 without having a direct influence on the future history of the fraternity system.
Union College in Schenectady, New York became the "mother" of the existing college fraternity movement with the establishment of the Kappa Alpha Society on November 26, 1825, an outgrowth of an organization called the Philosophers that was founded a year earlier as a literary society. Kappa Alpha possessed most of the distinctive elements of a modern fraternity, and was clearly the model that inspired the development of other societies according to Baird's Manual, the definitive reference work on fraternities. (The Kappa Alpha Society is distinct from the southern Kappa Alpha Order.) Kappa Alpha's founders adopted many of Phi Beta Kappa's practices, but made their organization an exclusively student group, adopted a much more elaborate ritual and doubled as a literary society. Its example encouraged the formation of two competitors on campus; the Sigma Phi Society formed in March 1827, followed by Delta Phi in November. These three are generally called the Union Triad.
The fraternity system becomes "national"
Sigma Phi was the first fraternity to expand "nationally" when it opened a second chapter at Hamilton College in 1831. That and an effort by The Kappa Alpha Society to enter Hamilton led to the formation of Alpha Delta Phi in 1832. Delta Upsilon, the first non-secret (originally anti-secret), fraternity was founded at Williams College in Massachusetts in 1834, following the establishment of chapters of Kappa Alpha and Sigma Phi in 1833 and 1834, respectively. Beta Theta Pi was founded at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio in August 1839 in response to the chartering of the new chapter of Alpha Delta Phi. Kappa Kappa Kappa, the nation's oldest local fraternity was founded in 1842 at Dartmouth College. Delta Kappa Epsilon was founded in June 1844 at Yale College, followed by Alpha Sigma Phi in December 1845. Phi Delta Theta (1848) and Sigma Chi (1855) were founded at Miami University. Along with Beta Theta Pi, these three fraternities have been called the Miami Triad. Also, around that time the Jefferson Duo was formed at Jefferson college in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, consisting of Phi Gamma Delta (1848) and Phi Kappa Psi (1852). Although this is a duo, it is recorded along with the other triads formed at the time. Union College continued its role as the "Mother of Fraternities" with the founding of Psi Upsilon (1833), Chi Psi (1841) and Theta Delta Chi (1847). With this second "triad", Union College can lay claim to the foundation of nearly half of the thirteen oldest fraternities in the country. Delta Tau Delta was founded in 1858 at Bethany College in Bethany, Virginia (modern day West Virginia). It later absorbed a southern fraternity known as Rainbow Fraternity due to declining membership in the south following the Civil War.
The Mystical 7 was founded at Wesleyan University in 1837, and established the first chapters in the South, at Emory in 1841, and elsewhere. Sigma Alpha Epsilon was founded at the University of Alabama in 1856, and it is the only fraternity founded in the Antebellum South that still operates., Then in 1847, Phi Alpha Pi was founded at Olivet College (Michigan), and it remains the oldest house on campus. Phi Alpha Pi is the brother house to Iota Kappa Omicron
Growth was then mainly stunted by the Civil War. Theta Xi, founded at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York on April 29, 1864, is the only fraternity to be established during the War. However, following the War, the system as a whole underwent strong growth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, both in the number of organizations founded and chapters of existing organizations established. This was aided, in part, by the reopening of schools and the return of veterans as students. Alpha Tau Omega was the first Fraternity founded after the Civil War, and it also was the first Fraternity to be founded as a national organization, not local or regional.
Alpha Phi Alpha, Phi Iota Alpha, Rho Psi, Phi Sigma Nu, Zeta Beta Tau, and Alif Laam Meem - Alpha Lambda Mu (as a national fraternity) were founded as the first fraternities for African-American, Latino-American, Asian-American, Native American, Jewish, and Muslim students, respectively.
The names of North American fraternities and sororities generally consist of two or three Greek letters, often the initials of a Greek motto, which may be secret. For example: Phi Beta Kappa (Society), from phi (φ) + beta (β) + kappa (κ), initials of the society's Greek motto, "φιλοσοφία βίου κυβερνήτης" (philosophia biou kybernētēs), meaning "philosophy is the guide of life".
Fraternities and sororities are referred to by the encompassing term "Greek letter organization" and described by the adjective "Greek", as seen in phrases such as "Greek community", "Greek system", "Greek life", or members as "Greeks". An individual fraternity or sorority is often called a "Greek house" or simply "house," terms that may be misleading, since it could be taken to refer to a chapter's physical property, whereas many fraternities and sororities do not have a chapter house. "Chapter" and "organization" are used in these contexts, with the latter referring to the group as a collective entity, and the former referring to a specific division of such entity, though not all fraternities and sororities have multiple chapters.
The use of Greek letters started with Phi Beta Kappa, then a social fraternity and today an honor society, at the College of William & Mary. Several groups, however, do not use Greek letters. Examples include Acacia, FarmHouse, and Triangle, as well as final clubs, eating clubs, secret societies at some Ivy League colleges, such as Skull and Bones at Yale and the military affiliated fraternity the National Society of Pershing Rifles. Alpha Epsilon Pi uses Greek letters for its North American chapters but Hebrew letters for its Israeli chapters, with the Herzliya IDC chapter designated "Aleph", and the Hebrew University chapter "Bet". The name of Alif Laam Meem - Alpha Lambda Mu is derived from an ayah of the Quran which contains only three Arabic letters: Alif (ا), Laam (ل), and Meem (م), hence "Alif Laam Meem" (2:1). The meaning of this ayah (verse) is unknown. The fraternity is named after those three Arabic letters in addition to their formal Greek equivalents: Alpha, Lambda and Mu.
Types of Greek letter organizations
The variety of Greek letter organizations are distinguished from more informal clubs and from each other by their function. They can be specifically organized for service to the community, for professional advancement, or for scholastic achievement.
Most Greek letter organizations are social organizations, presenting themselves as societies that help their members better themselves in a social setting. The most visible of these are the often residential "Academic and Social" fraternities and sororities, which are almost exclusively populated by undergraduates. "Professional" fraternities and sororities align to a specific major field of study (for example, Chemical Engineering), group of major fields (like Performance and Fine Arts, broadly), or to a specific career. Professional societies admit members at the undergraduate or graduate level, and vary in their class requirements. They can be residential, but are often not, but will include social programming within their meeting schedule. "Honor Societies" are similarly grouped with the other forms of fraternities and sororities because of historic ties (well over a century of such listing in Baird's), because of their adherence to a national and chapter hierarchy, and their adoption of Greek letter names. Some are among the oldest of all Greek letter societies. Honor societies have much higher criteria for entrance, which are publicized and promoted. Typically they may admit only the top 10% of a class, or GPA rankings at 3.5 or higher on a 4-point scale, though this varies by society. Honor societies award past achievement and meet less often than other societies, perhaps only annually. Many Professional and Honor societies publish journals of their activities and member achievements. Similar to Honor societies, "Recognition Societies" award membership upon completion of a training course or entrance into a select rank; today, Recognition societies and Honor societies are closely aligned in purpose, and the definition between the two is blurred. Finally, "Service Fraternities", such as Alpha Phi Omega are a small but viable contingent of the broad family of Greek letter organizations, and exist to effect campus or community service projects.
Certain organizations were established for specific religious or ethnic groups, while others focus on numerous qualifications. For example, Phi Sigma Pi, a national honor fraternity, stresses both academic achievement and leadership in the community. Some social organizations are expressly Christian, such as Alpha Chi Rho (founded as Christian, presently non-exclusive). Jewish fraternities, such as Alpha Epsilon Pi, Zeta Beta Tau, and Sigma Alpha Mu (historically Jewish, but has been non-sectarian since the 1950s) were established, in part, in response to restrictive clauses that existed in many social fraternities' laws barring Jewish membership, which were removed in the mid-20th century. A controversy remains between the idea of creating supportive communities for distinct groups on the one hand and the intent to create non-discriminatory communities on the other.
There are also organizations with a cultural or multicultural emphasis. For example, Alpha Phi Alpha and Kappa Alpha Psi, both African American Fraternities, were established at Cornell University in 1906 and Indiana University – Bloomington in 1911, respectively, the first Chinese fraternity, established at Cornell in 1916, and Sigma Iota, the first Hispanic fraternity, established at Louisiana State University in 1904. The latter later merged with other Hispanic fraternities and organizations around the nation to form Phi Iota Alpha, the oldest Latino fraternity in existence, in 1931. The Phi Sigma Alpha fraternity in Puerto Rico can also trace its roots back to Sigma Iota. There are now 20 Latino fraternities in the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations. A distinct set of black fraternities and sororities also exists, although black students are not barred from non-black organizations and there are black members of non-black organizations. Non African-American students are also not barred from predominately African American fraternities and sororities.
Organizations designed for particular class years do exist, but are usually categorized separately from other types of Greek letter organizations. While these were once common in older institutions in the Northeast, the only surviving underclass society is Theta Nu Epsilon, which is specifically for sophomores. Many senior class societies also survive, and they are often simply referred to as Secret Societies.
Competition and cooperation
Early fraternal societies were very competitive for members, for academic honors, and for any other benefit or gain. Some of this competition was seen as divisive on college campuses. Today there is still competition, but that competition is intended to be within limits, and for nobler purposes, such as charitable fundraising. Often, organizations compete in various sporting events. There is also a greater emphasis on interfraternity cooperation. The single greatest effort along these lines was the creation of the National Interfraternity Council, now the North American Interfraternity Conference, a century ago, which was intended to minimize conflicts, destructive competition, and encourage student members to recognize members of other fraternities and sororities as people who share common interests. The National Panhellenic Conference regulations has similar goals to unite national sororities.
Structure and organization
Most Greek letter organizations were originally organized on one campus. An organization that has only one established chapter is a "local." A local can authorize chapters of the same name at other campuses. After the first authorized chapter, a local is considered a "national," even if it only has two chapters. Over the past 180 years, North America has accrued several large national organizations with hundreds of chapters. Two or more nationals can also merge, and some of the larger nationals were created this way. Several national fraternities are international, which usually means they have chapters in Canada.
A local organization can petition one of the existing national organizations and be absorbed into their organization dropping all ties to the former local organization. Through the 20th Century this has been the preferred method for expansion within national organizations because the members have already formed a bond and presence on campus but choose to change their name, ritual, and structure for (almost always) an older, more elaborate set.
The central business offices of the organizations are also commonly referred to as "Nationals". Nationals may place certain requirements on individual chapters to standardize rituals and policies regarding membership, housing, finances, or behavior. These policies are generally codified in a constitution and bylaws. Greek letter organizations may once have been governed by the original chapter, but virtually all have adopted some version of governance with executive officers who report to a board of trustees, and 'legislative' body consisting of periodic conventions of delegates from all the chapters.
Rituals and symbols
All Greek letter organizations maintain traditions, sometimes accompanied by secret rituals, which are generally symbolic in nature. They include an initiation ceremony, and may also include passwords, songs, and handshakes. For example, writer Julian Hawthorne, the son of Nathaniel Hawthorne, wrote (in his posthumously published Memoirs) of an ironic coincidence surrounding his fraternal initiation:
I was initiated into a college secret society—a couple of hours of grotesque and good-humored rodomontade and horseplay, in which I cooperated as in a kind of pleasant nightmare, confident, even when branded with a red-hot iron or doused head-over heels in boiling oil, that it would come out all right. The neophyte is effectively blindfolded during the proceedings, and at last, still sightless, I was led down flights of steps into a silent crypt, and helped into a coffin, where I was to stay until the Resurrection...Thus it was that just as my father passed from this earth, I was lying in a coffin during my initiation into Delta Kappa Epsilon.
Meetings of active members are generally kept private and not discussed without formal approval of the chapter as a whole.
For organizations with Greek letters composing their name, these letters are the initials of a motto (such as Delta Upsilon), a set of virtues (such as Alpha Kappa Lambda), or the history of its organization (such as Phi Tau).
Greek letter organizations often have a number of distinctive emblems, such as colors, flags, flowers, in addition to a badge (or pin), coat of arms, and/or seal. An open motto (indicating that the organization has a "secret motto" as well) is used to express the unique ideals of a fraternity or sorority.
Pins or badges
Pins have become increasingly popular to collect, even by individuals who never were members. Groups such as the Fraternity Pin Collector Society have collected thousands of pins worth tens of thousands of dollars in individual collections while organizations such as Kappa Kappa Gamma's "Keepers of the Key" work to reunite lost or stolen badges with their original owners.
According to Martin (1918), the primary fraternal jewelers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were D. L. Auld Co. of Columbus, L.G. Balfour Company of Attleboro, Mass., Burr, Patterson and Co. of Detroit, Upmeyer Company of Milwaukee, A. H. Fetting Co. of Baltimore, Hoover and Smith Co. of Philadelphia, O. C. Lanphear of Galesburg, Ill., Miller Jewelry Co. of Cincinnati, J. F. Newman of New York, Edward Roehm of Detroit, and Wright, Kay and Co. of Detroit. Currently the most widely used jewelers are Herff Jones and Jostens. Jewelers' initials and stampings are typically found on the back of pins along with the member name and/or chapter information. The history of fraternal jewelers is important when determining age of non-dated jewelry pieces.
Since fraternity and sorority pins are used as the primary symbols for societies, licensing and marketing concerns have developed. As a result, many of the larger organizations have had to put a legal team on retainer as consultants.
Coat of arms
Fraternities and Sororities have coat of arms that represent the familial aspect of brotherhood and sisterhood. The greatest representation of fraternal coat of arms is found in yearbooks and chapter publications from 1890 to 1925. Engravings were made of coat of arms and tipped into the yearbooks, often later removed and framed. Sizes range from a square inch to a full page layout. Many of these engravings were signed, creating a period art form.
Fraternal coat of arms engravings were typically made by cutting lines in metal or wood for the purpose of printing reproduction. The earliest known engravings printed on paper in this fashion date back to the 16th century. Much of the engravings done in the 19th century were metal engravings where the image was carved into a piece of steel or iron. In the early 20th century, it became more common to use photo-engraving, or photogravure to print the coat of arms.
Believing in their beginnings in Greek tradition, Alpha Omicron Pi is the only Greek organization that does not have a coat of arms, and instead uses a Jacqueminot rose as their symbol. A coat of arms is a medieval or masonic tradition, and therefore has no roots in the Greek tradition.
Apparel such as shirts, pants, bags, canteens, jewelry and key chains are often worn by members with their Greek letters on them. These shirts and other articles may later be used for a pass-down ceremony between seniors and fellow members. Seniors may choose to pass down some or all of the clothing they own that is associated with the sorority. Some of the shirts are ten or more years old and in some chapters, girls will compete for them. In those chapters, generally members feel it is an honor to have older artifacts. At some institutions, it is considered inappropriate and may be prohibited to wear apparel with the society's name when the member is consuming alcohol. It is considered disrespectful to have their letters on when drinking, regardless of their age. Also, it is generally taboo for non-members to wear any apparel with a group's letters.
Membership pins are not worn at all times. Some organizations limit pin-wearing to times of professional or business dress, also known as "Pin Attire".
Unique among most campus organizations, members of social Greek letter organizations often live together in a large house or distinct part of the university dormitories. This can help emphasize the "bonds of brotherhood or sisterhood" and provide a place of meeting for the members of the organization as well as alumni. For reasons of cost, liability, and stability, housing is usually owned or overseen by an alumni corporation or the organization's national headquarters. As a result, some houses have visitor restrictions, and some national organizations restrict or prohibit alcohol on the premises. At some colleges where chapters do not have residential houses for the general membership, they may still have chapter houses where meals are served for their membership and guests.
The process of joining a Greek letter organization varies from organization to organization. Organizations governed by the National Panhellenic Conference or the North-American Interfraternity Conference commonly begin their process with a formal recruitment period, often called "rush week," or formal recruitment, which usually consists of events and activities designed for members and potential members to learn about each other and the organization. Rush week can be very stressful for the many girls who are interested in checking out the different sororities. Some sororities even require special clothes to wear. At the end of the formal recruitment period, organizations give "bids", or invitations to membership. Most organizations have a period of "pledgeship" before extending full membership. Some organizations have changed the name of pledgeship due to negative connotations to the process (such as calling pledges "Zobes" or "new members"). Some organizations, such as Sigma Alpha Epsilon, have given up the process in favor of other joining requirements. Upon completion of the pledgeship and all its requirements, the active members will invite the pledges to be initiated and become full members. Initiation often includes secret ceremonies and rituals. Organizations governed by the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations (NALFO), or the National Multicultural Greek Council (NMGC) have very different recruitment processes. The fraternities and sororities associated with these councils often do not participate in a typical recruitment process nor do they host a rush week. Instead interested students must formally express their interest to a member, or more often than not, members of the particular organization they are interested in.
Requirements may be imposed on those wishing to pledge either by the school or the organization itself, often including a minimum grade point average, wearing a pledge pin, learning about the history and structure of the organization, and performing public service. When a school places an age or tenure requirement on joining, this is called "deferred recruitment", as joining is deferred for a semester or year. The pledgeship period also serves as a probationary period in which both the organization and the pledge decide if they are compatible and will have a fulfilling experience.
Controversy and criticism
Impact on members
A 1994 study examined the cognitive effects of fraternity/sorority affiliation during the first year of college. Statistical controls were made for individual pre-college ability and academic motivation as well as gender, ethnicity, age, credit hours taken, work responsibilities, and other factors. Data showed that men who were members of fraternities had significantly lower end-of-first-year reading comprehension, mathematics, critical thinking, and composite achievement than their peers who were not affiliated with a Greek organization. Sorority membership also had a negative effect on cognitive development. However, only the effects for reading comprehension and composite achievement were significant and the magnitude of the negative influence tended to be smaller for women than for men.
A follow-up study in 2006 by the same researchers and using similar sampling techniques and controls showed that negative effects of fraternity/sorority affiliation were much less pronounced during the second and third year of college than during the first year of college. On objective, standardized measures of cognitive skills, the effects of Greek affiliation continued to be negative for both men and women, but they were substantially smaller in magnitude and only one could be considered statistically significant (a negative effect for fraternity membership on end-of-third-year reading comprehension). The study also included self-reported measures of students’ cognitive growth. For men, fraternity membership continued to exert small negative effects in the second and third years of college, but only one[clarification needed] was statistically significant. For women the impacts of sorority membership on self-reported gains were just the opposite. In both the second and third years of college, sorority membership exerted small positive effects on all self-reported gains measures, several of which reached statistical significance.
George D. Kuh, Ernest T. Pascarella, and Henry Wechsler used research from the National Study of Student Learning (NSSL) and concluded that “fraternities are indifferent to academic values and seem to short-change the education of many members.”
A 2006 study which was published in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology found that fraternity and sorority members suffered from 1 to 10 percent lower cumulative GPAs (Grade Point Average) than non-affiliated students. This negative effect was most pronounced for small fraternities and weakest for sororities. Further impact was demonstrated by a study in the Journal of College Student Development, which surveyed college men, both fraternity/sorority-affiliated and non-affiliated, from freshman year to senior year and tested their scores on the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. The study shows that affiliated men have significantly higher self-esteem than their non-affiliated counterparts.
According to the The National Collaborative for Hazing Research and Prevention at the University of Maine, hazing is defined as "any activity expected of someone joining or participating in a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses or endangers them, regardless of a person's willingness to participate." Traditionally, hazing has been prevalent in fraternities and sororities as well as numerous other organizations, such as military units, high school and college bands, gangs, and other clubs, as well as class hazing of incoming freshmen, however, in recent years, many universities and collegiate fraternities and sororities have made progressive changes to eliminate hazing on college campuses. To prevent the practice, some organizations have stopped the process of pledging as a means of entry into the chapter. The University of Florida changed its policies following numerous hazing allegations on their campus. Limits were set on the pledging time and it is now required that alumni or chapter advisers be present for initiation rituals.
Some colleges and universities have banned Greek letter organizations with the justification that they are, by their very structure, set up to be elitist and exclusionary. The most famous, and oldest ban was at Princeton (Leitch 1978), though Princeton has now had fraternities since the 1980s. Oberlin College banned "secret societies" (fraternities and sororities) in 1847, and the prohibition continues to the present. Quaker universities such as Guilford College and Earlham College often ban fraternities and sororities because they are seen as a violation of the Quaker principle of equality. Brandeis University has never permitted fraternities or sororities as it maintains a policy that all student organizations have membership open to all.
Fraternities have been banned in recent times from Williams College, Bowdoin College, Middlebury College, and Amherst College. Stanford University banned sororities in 1944, but not fraternities, even though sororities were restored in 1977 under Title IX. The Yeshiva University administration enforce a strict ban, and non-recognition of fraternities citing their exclusionary nature. The University of Victoria also held a ban until a controversial repeal in 2010, which has paved the way for the university's first fraternity (Delta Kappa Epsilon) and sorority (Kappa Beta Gamma). Fraternities do not require recognition by a university. For instance, the University of Mary Washington does not recognize fraternities or sororities, but several national Greek organizations have unrecognized chapters of Mary Washington students.
North American Greek letter organizations in other regions
North American Greek letter organizations (NAGLO) are present almost exclusively in the United States and the English-speaking universities of Canada, with a minority of organizations having chapters elsewhere, such as the Caribbean, Africa, and some in France there have also been temporary accommodations. Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, a prominent historically African-American Sorority, currently has chapters in the Virgin Islands and Bermuda. There was a brief chapter of Chi Phi at Edinburgh, Scotland during the American Civil War to accommodate Southern students studying abroad, and another for American servicemen who were still college students during World War II, but there has been no real export of the system to Europe.
Greek organizations pride themselves in participating in a variety of philanthropic events. Philanthropy and volunteer work hold a very high importance within every Greek chapter, and can oftentimes be forgotten as a large part of many people’s decisions to join a chapter. Social fraternities and sororities emphasize their community involvement during stages of formal/informal recruitment to potential members, in hopes of standing out from other chapters. There are numerous ways fraternities and sororities go about raising money for charities and organizations. Many fraternities host competitive athletic events. Pi Kappa Alpha, a men’s fraternity, has a nationally known philanthropy called the Fireman’s Challenge. This philanthropy raises over $25,000 a year for local firefighter foundations. Sororities also partake in entertaining ways to fundraise and volunteer for their philanthropies. Hosting pageant-like events where other fraternity members compete in dance competitions in order to raise money is a common trend amongst many sorority chapters at universities. Tri Delta, a women’s sorority, has a nationally distinguished philanthropy, which supports Children’s Cancer Charities since the 1970s. These two sororities and fraternities are just two examples out of the hundreds of Greek organizations that support philanthropic causes and charities.
There have been an increasing number of professional fraternities on college campuses within the past 10 years. Many of these fraternities have also adapted a section for philanthropy in their responsibilities as a chapter. Business fraternities, specifically, have become popular and been established longer than most other professional fraternities. This longer duration led to a more organized and structured system in terms of roles and responsibilities within the fraternity. There are specific positions assigned for philanthropy/community service within the five business fraternities, PGN, PCT, PSE, AKPsi, and DSP. Although the charity may differ across chapters and throughout the nation, the level of importance for the role remains the same. Many people may be under the assumption that professional fraternities solely focus on business or medical components, however, surprisingly, almost a majority of them operate like a social fraternity or sorority in terms of service and events.
There is normally a fee to participate for many of the events put on by Greek chapters. By charging a small entrance fee to participate in most of the events, the Greek organizations are able to raise tremendous amount of money each year to support their charity. Additionally, some philanthropy efforts raise even more money by selling food, clothing, or accessories during the events. According to The Fraternity Advisor  Greeks raise over $7 million a year. In addition, the Greek system is the largest network of volunteers in the US, with members donating over 10 million hours of volunteer service each year.
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, also known as the three link fraternity, was the first organization to form a woman's auxiliary when it formed the Daughters of Rebekah in 1851 but the term sorority was not yet coined during that time. However, many of the first societies for women were not modeled as fraternities, but were woman's versions of the common Latin literary societies. The Adelphean Society (now Alpha Delta Pi) was established in 1851 at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. The Philomathean Society (now Phi Mu) was founded at Wesleyan College a year later in 1852. The Adelphean Society and the Philomathean Society did not take on their modern Greek names (Alpha Delta Pi and Phi Mu, respectively) until 1904 when they expanded beyond the Wesleyan campus.They are now often referred to as the Macon Magnolias. Many aspects of Alpha Delta Pi and Phi Mu (such as the stars and hands on their badges and the mascot of the lion) are similar due to the fact that while at Wesleyan a founder of Alpha Delta Pi, Eugenia Tucker Fitzgerald, and Phi Mu's Mary Ann DuPont (Lines) were roommates.
On April 28, 1867, I.C. Sorosis (later known by its original Greek motto Pi Beta Phi) was founded at Monmouth College, in Monmouth, Illinois.This was the first all female, secret society patterned after the men's organizations. A year later it established a second chapter at Iowa Wesleyan College. Three years later on October 13, 1870, Kappa Kappa Gamma was founded. These two fraternities were later known as the Monmouth Duo.
On January 27, 1870, Kappa Alpha Theta was formed at Indiana Asbury University (now DePauw University) as the first Greek-lettered fraternity known among women. The Adelphean society and I.C. Sorosis were already in existence, but Kappa Alpha Theta is notable for being originally founded with Greek letters (as many male fraternities were at the time), whereas Phi Mu and Pi Beta Phi changed their names to Greek names later.
In the mid-19th century, previously all-male universities began to admit women, and many women students felt it was in their best interest to band together. The first collegiate women formed woman's fraternities in an effort to counteract the widespread opposition to their presence (Turk 2004). Others[who?] disagree with this agonistic historical view.
The earliest organizations were founded as "women's fraternities" or "fraternities for women;" the term sorority was coined by professor Frank Smalley in 1874, in reference to the Greek organization, Gamma Phi Beta being established at Syracuse University. In 1872, Alpha Phi was founded at Syracuse University. In 1873, Delta Gamma was founded at the Lewis School for Girls in Oxford, Mississippi. In 1874, Sigma Kappa was also founded in Waterville, Maine at Colby College. Also founded at DePauw University, was Alpha Chi Omega in 1885. Delta Delta Delta was founded at Boston University in 1888. Like Pi Beta Phi, Tri Delta was modeled after the men's fraternity. In 1893, Alpha Xi Delta was founded at Lombard College in Galesburg, Illinois. Just a few years later, Chi Omega Fraternity was founded April 5, 1895 at the University of Arkansas. January 2, 1897, Alpha Omicron Pi was founded at Barnard College of Columbia University. Later in 1897 Kappa Delta was founded in Farmville, Virginia at Longwood University. A year later, Sigma Sigma Sigma, Zeta Tau Alpha followed by Alpha Sigma Alpha were founded, also at Longwood and are called the Farmville Four. After, Alpha Sigma Tau was founded in 1899. After that in 1902 Delta Zeta was founded at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
Most of these sororities are now ranked top 10 in the nation by the amount of initiated members they have. Largest to smallest: 1. Chi Omega 310,000 2. Alpha Delta Pi 280,000 3. Delta Zeta 244,400 4. Kappa Kappa Gamma 240,000 5. Kappa Delta 230,500 6. Pi Beta Phi 230,000 7. Zeta Tau Alpha 228,000 8. Alpha Chi Omega 200,000 9. Delta Delta Delta 200,000 10. Delta Gamma 200,000
Alpha Kappa Alpha, Lambda Theta Alpha, Alpha Pi Omega were founded as the first sororities by and for African-American, Latina-American, and Native American members respectively. Alpha Epsilon Phi was established at Barnard College in October, 1909 as the first Jewish sorority in response to women at Barnard not being able to join other sororities because of their Jewish faith. Alpha Epsilon Phi is home to women of all religions who respect and honor the Jewish culture and heritage the sorority was founded upon. Theta Phi Alpha fraternity was founded in 1912 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for women of the Catholic faith. Theta Phi is now open to members of all race and religion. In 1913, at Hunter College, New York, Phi Sigma Sigma became the first non-denominational sorority, allowing any woman, regardless of race, religion, or economic background into membership.
A number of sororities have been founded at the graduate school level. In 1917, at New York University School of Law five female law students founded Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority. Currently active collegiate membership is only open to undergraduates. Although, this year a colony was started by the name of Alpha Sigma Alpha. This year's members and new recruits will be named founding members when the colony becomes initiated into a "Chapter" later this year.
High school fraternities and sororities
High school fraternities and sororities (or secondary school fraternities and sororities), are social organizations for high school-aged students.
Torch and Dagger (later Omega Eta Tau) was the first such organization and was established in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1859. The movement more generally developed in the 1870s with Gamma Sigma, Alpha Zeta and Alpha Phi, all closely modeled on college fraternities in their areas. Some of these early groups were discussed in the early editions of Baird's Manual of American College Fraternities under the heading "Academic Societies". In 1913, American Secondary School Fraternities by J. Ward Brown, provided a detailed history of these organizations. By that time there were at least 57 national fraternities and 21 national sororities. Some like Gamma Delta Psi, Gamma Eta Kappa, Delta Sigma, Delta Sigma Nu, Lambda Sigma, Sigma Phi Upsilon and Phi Sigma Chi were spread broadly across the entire country, but most were regional in nature given the difficulty for high school students to travel. Typical of those that survive are Phi Kappa, limited to around 50 chapters in the deep south (with five still active) and Omega Gamma Delta with more than 100 chapters in the northeast (two still active) and a couple of chapters further afield. In addition there were an enormous number of local fraternities scattered around the country.
Another 15 nationals were founded after this period including several that still exist. But starting around 1910, a strong anti-fraternity movement among high school administrators took a heavy toll on such organizations in many parts of the country. A reduced level of interest by high school students themselves since 1970, has brought the number down even further.
The largest such organizations are Aleph Zadik Aleph with around 250 chapters and Sigma Alpha Rho (SAR) with more than 100. Both of these have the advantage of being sponsored by Jewish community groups and are more than simple fraternities. Beyond that, Gamma Eta Kappa, Delta Sigma, Phi Lambda Epsilon and Theta Phi all had more than 75 chapters over the years, with Omega Gamma Delta and Phi Sigma Kappa having more than 100 each.
Several nationals also had chapters in Canada and, in recent years, a whole class of similar fraternities has emerged in the Philippines, many of them outgrowths of sponsoring college organizations.
The fraternity tradition still has pockets of interest. Beyond Aleph Zadik Aleph, Sigma Alpha Rho, Omega Gamma Delta and Phi Kappa, there are similar groups such as the Order of DeMolay sponsored by the Masons. Alpha Omega Theta of New York still exists, though not in high schools, ΕΣAΔΕ is in Barcelona, The Lounge operates in Saginaw, Michigan; Phi Eta Sigma and Zeta Mu Gamma are located in Puerto Rico; Sigma Nu Xi is on the mainland United States. Sigma Delta Chi is an active sorority that was established in Alabama and continues today with several different chapters throughout Alabama, Tennessee and Florida. Although these are analogous societies, they are considered wholly different and unrelated societies. Deb Clubs or local chapters can be found in neighboring towns such as Decatur, Hunstville, Florence, Sheffield, Russellville, and Pulaski, Tennessee. Theta Phi Delta was the second high school sorority founded in Durham, North Carolina in 1996 and was incorporated in 2004. Fox Theta Delta, is a Philippines fraternity, founded in Butuan City in 1977, and claiming a somewhat tenuous connection with an American organization in Michigan.
In popular culture
- The 1978 comedy movie National Lampoon's Animal House portrayed members of a fictitious fraternity (Delta Tau Chi) at a fictitious college.
- The 1984 comedy movie Revenge of the Nerds portrayed 'rejected' fraternity members taking revenge on popular fraternities (in part, by setting up their own chapter of the fictional black fraternity Lambda Lambda Lambda) and the change in power from the jocks and cheerleaders to the nerds. The co-ed fraternity Lambda Lambda Lambda takes their name from the fraternity in this movie.
- The 1994 comedy movie PCU also portrays members of a student group at a fictitious college where fraternities have been prohibited.
- The 2006 film Stomp the Yard depicts African American Greek life centered around the tradition of stepping, made popular by Black Greek Letter Organizations.
- The 2006 film Accepted includes a fictional fraternity (Beta Kappa Epsilon) which Sherman Schrader attempts to become a part of because his father is a member.
- The 2007–2011 ABC Family television series Greek depicts students of the fictional Cyprus-Rhodes University (CRU) who participate in the school's Greek system.
- The 2007 film American Pie Presents: Beta House where new college freshman try to gain eligibility to the Beta House fraternity.
- The 2007 film Sydney White uses the sorority system and how it affects social dynamics to tell the classic fairy tale of Snow White in the modern day.
- The 2009 slasher film Sorority Row features the sorority 'Theta Pi' in which Audrina Patridge's character was one of their members.
- The 2009 movie Sorority Wars revolves around sorority experience in college.
- The 2010 television series Glory Daze depicts students of the fictional Hayes University who participate in the school's Greek system.
- The 2010 film Brotherhood directed by Will Canon depicts hazing which gets out of hand.
- The main plot point of the 2013 movie Monsters University is a competition between fictitious fraternities and sororities to determine the best scarers.
- The 2014 film Neighbors pitches a fraternity house against a young family in a battle of hearts and minds.
Other countries have similar institutions; in German-speaking countries (including the non-German linguistic regions of Switzerland) these are significantly older, and fall under the umbrella term of Studentenverbindung, including the Burschenschaften, Landsmannschaften, Corps, Turnerschaften, Sängerschaften, Catholic Corporations (such as the German CV), Wingolf, Christian Corporations (such as the Schweizerischer Studentenverein) and Ferialverbindungen.
In Belgium and The Netherlands there are student clubs similar to the German Studentenverbindungen, however they are not the same. The main differences being that clubs do not own a clubhouse with dorms but rather have a bar where they regularly meet and there is no fencing[clarification needed]. The largest clubs are based around a specific academic course or a collection of them, the others usually are based on regional origins of the students and the others are simply a group of friends or patrons of the same bar.
In the United Kingdom, there are a limited number of student dining clubs, which are similar to American eating clubs which were later eclipsed by Greek societies. Some, such as the well-known Bullingdon Club at Oxford University, are socially exclusive due to being prohibitively expensive. Several secret societies exist, the most famous being the Cambridge Apostles, also known as the Cambridge Conversazione Society.
In Portugal, there are also fraternities, especially in Coimbra, the city with the oldest university in the country and one of the oldest in Europe. These houses, called "Repúblicas", are independent, protected by law, and run by students. They first appeared in 1309 when King D. Dinis first ordered to build student housing for the recently founded University of Coimbra, in 1290. The name, translating to "Republic", represents the house spirit: every member of the house participates in the household tasks and decisions are made unanimously. There are 27 Republics in Coimbra, 3 in Lisbon and 1 in Oporto. Republicas are also found in Brazil, like at the Federal University of Ouro Preto in Ouro Preto, in the state of Minas Gerais, and at the Federal University of Lavras (UFLA) in Lavras' City, also in the state of Minas Gerais.
In Sweden and Finland, there are similar student institutions called Nations. At the oldest Nordic universities, the Nations have existed since the late 16th and early 17th centuries, inspired by the German Landsmannschaften. The universities in Uppsala, Lund, and Helsinki have the oldest Nations. Since the beginning, the Nations have been social gatherings for students that came from the same parts of the country, and they are also named after parts of Sweden and Finland. Their main purpose has always been to provide support to out-of-town students in various ways, even financial help. Nations have also been founded at younger universities like the ones in Umeå and Linköping. It has been mandatory for students attending the universities of Uppsala and Lund to be members of nations until the autumn of 2010. After the mandatory membership was abolished by the parliament the Nations of Sweden are now contemplating founding a League of Nations to help further connections between Nations and universities.
In France there are no such exclusive student organizations. In most schools and universities there is a Student office (BDE, Bureau des Élèves) that is elected each year by students to organize student life and activities. It often organizes bonding activities for the newcomers of the school called integration. A few fraternities mimicking the US ones have been created in recent years, but all have very small membership.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fraternities and sororities in the United States.|
- Some organizations, such as Phi Kappa Tau and Alpha Xi Delta, have provisions in their Constitutions that they can accept graduate students as well as undergraduates. Sources for Phi Kappa Tau, http://www.phikappatau.org/learning/chapter-management/constitution-and-bylaws.html, and Alpha Xi Delta, http://www.alphaxidelta.org/clientuploads/Academic/2012%20Academic%20Achievement%20Chair%20Breakout%20Workbook.pdf.
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This was, of course, all very collegiate for that long-ago time, and—with the exception of the "red-hot iron" and "boiling oil" references, if taken too literally—quite typical.
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- Earlham College - A national liberal arts college in the Midwest
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