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
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
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
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.
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
Morris, William, ed. The American Heritage Dictionary of the
English Language. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston,
Nykolaiszyn, John P. "Hazing: Greeks get a bad rap."
The Beacon Feb. 13th 1996: 12.