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Thursday, October 1, 2020

Reader Question for the Community: Greek fraternities and sororities?


A Reader Question for the Community:

What is your opinion of Greek fraternities and sororities nowadays? Are they still worthwhile organizations for college students? Or does it depend on what school one attends? Have they become antiquated (in a bad way), or do they still have value?

32 comments:

  1. I loved being in a fraternity(Pi Kappa Phi) and learned valuable social and business etiquette skills.

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  2. I can't speak for now a days but back in the mid eighties my fraternity got me through college. It's not for everybody- but for those who it's for- invaluable. I went to a big state school- it shrunk my world and provided the support I needed.

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    1. St. A’s got me through Penn. Well, at least a few years. A wonderful experience.

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  3. Through the course of my undergraduate and graduate education, I've been to three universities and none of them have allowed fraternities/sororities. During my undergraduate, I visited friends at other schools and really didn't enjoy the "Greek Life" scene. I felt that it was more exclusionary than anything.

    I was always happy to return to my small, quiet campus after that. As always, different strokes for different folks.

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  4. Alcoholic, misogynistic boors.

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    1. Generalize much? Or are you speaking from your own experience?

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  5. I cannot speak for the current environment but for me some 40 years ago it was an outstanding experience. It made the large public university feel like a small college. It hit me a few years ago drinking beer at Oktoberfest with my two best friends from the fraternity. Life hadn't changed much.

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  6. While in New Haven, I confess I was a member of Fence Club. Fence's house looked like all of the other Neo-Gothic buildings clustered around York Street but inside presented safe haven for we few, tired and brave Preps. You see, it was the seventies and all Greek at Yale had ended save Elizabethan and Fence. Fence was the so-called last bastion of civility at that time. Alas, we could not take meals there, but that little mattered because we have a wonderful bar. I remember the upperclassman, Sporty, Westy, and Spider (I am not joking). Now, Greek is back at Yale, but is a vulgarity. At colleges that remain true to the SNE ethos, fraternities do not exist (Bowdoin, Williams, Amherst, etc.) It is true that most Greek houses in major state universities are little more than establishments for underage drinking. I long for the days when we would lie in repose at Fence, reading Sartre or other assigned text, smoking our Marlboros and planning our future of golf at Sankaty, Christmas at Radio City with out daughters dressed in velvet and skeet at our friends' homes throughout Fairfield County.

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  7. The fact that I have spoken to few if any of my fraternity brothers in the 50+ years since graduation tells it all. There was too much emphasis on hazing, partying,and drinking with not enough on scholarship and fellowship. However, there always seems to be requests coming in for donations for a new fraternity house.

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  8. To The Cirquitor - that last sentence is subline.

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  9. Fraternities and Sororities contribute in many very positive ways to the education of a young person. Having been a member of a Fraternity as have my children and grandchildren our experience has been very positive. The unfortunate nouveau view that Fraternities and Sororities are negative is a reflection of one's opinion based on personal experience, or parroting misinformation.

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  10. After serving my time in a prep school that already had a fraternity culture, a lack of fraternities was viewed positively by me in selecting my college. It didn't hurt that it was also 3000 miles away!

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  11. GDI, unclubbable when asked about my affiliations.

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  12. I pledged a fraternity at my small liberal arts college in PA for the shallowest of reasons. I looked around at the GDIs and decided I didn't want to be "in that group." It didn't take long for me to sour on the fraternity experience (my sophomore year the frat threw out our pledge-master and it divided my class). When the vote came for sororities I voted against it thinking that the women of our small college shouldn't be carved up into small groups as well. Alas the sororities thrived and 40 years later I think all of the fraternities were thrown off campus. My closest friends from college were all GDIs afterall.

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  13. Not an official Greek fraternity but one of the final clubs at college was a source of comfort, solitude and a great place to relax, study and grab a bite in a busy city. The networking' function was less of a feature for me. A visit to another college in the Deep South was kind of depressing because of its relentlessly raucous, alcoholic atmosphere, reminiscent of 'Animal House'. So they can be all over the map depending.

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  14. Although it was definitely a different atmosphere back in the 1980s, I loved sorority life. I'm still best of friends with many of my sisters, we talk regularly, and still get together for mini-reunions. I would not be opposed to my kids going Greek, as long as they found an organization that they felt represented their values and supported their academic goals.

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  15. Son graduated from a Midwestern university where fraternities had a solid presence, roughly 30% of male undergrads, and daughter, also in the Midwest, attends a university where 25% of women are in sororities. Both joined Greek/Panhellenic organizations and had (or are having) a very good experience. Their friends from these organizations are, from my interactions with them, mature, intelligent, extremely hard-working, and loyal friends.

    I spent years representing higher ed students in university disciplinary proceedings and, occasionally, parallel domestic violence and criminal matters in court. Many of those students were not in fraternities or sororities. In my opinion, these organizations can be a positive part of a student's experience and campus life. I firmly believe, however, that they need to operate within a system with clear guard rails and strict enforcement.

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  16. I went to a small private college in the 1970s, and the Greek communities on campus dominated. However, I chose to be a GDI. I went through freshman rush to see what it was all about and I was invited to join some sororities, so I'm not anti Greek. But, at the time, it just seemed their activities were a bit frivolous for my taste.

    I opted to use the money I would have spent on all the expensive social events (and necessary clothes) and go to school in England for a couple of years, and I never regretted it.

    I know this doesn't answer your question about today's college students but my knee jerk reaction is that these Greek organizations are probably outdated. I have no way of knowing this and could be way off base. I think it would depend on the school, the sororities and fraternities and the quality of the students. I would love to hear from someone with kids in college who could shed more light on this.

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  17. It was something that meant a great deal to me during college, and a great deal I took from it still stays with me now all these years later. All positive.

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  18. I attended a small public university in the south in the 80's that did not have fraternities. We did have student associations associated with the various colleges and they served to fill much of what I associate with the roles of fraternities. My own grandson attends a large public university known for its academic excellence in engineering and computer science. He visited some frats but was wholly turned off by the money commitment, hazing and raucous behavior. He is a member of the chess club, engineering club and gaming club which is functioning as an excellent source of networking and socializing for him.

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  19. A difficult question, which doesn’t lend itself to summary judgments. A few random points:

    o Regardless of “what school one attends,” the fraternities will still be arrayed on either end of the jackass spectrum with plenty in-between. So it is unwise as well as unsound to generalize.

    o That said, it does seem today that Greek life, like so many aspects of life, has gone seriously downhill. I absolutely understand why administrators believe it is a force for anti-intellectualism.

    o While this attitude is understandable, the attempt to curtail Greek life is also symptomatic of a more general desire to control campus speech, behavior, and other freedoms that we took for granted – in the name of “civility.” I would be happy if my alma mater, Cornell, spent less time worrying about the Greeks, “shaping the campus culture,” and other forms of social engineering – and more time teaching students. My hypothesis is that the schools that are most interested in shutting down Greek life are probably the most intolerant generally.

    o Another twist: At Cornell, and I suspect at other colleges and universities, fraternities and sororities were more than social clubs – they were one of the chief residential options; after your freshman year, your chances of getting on-campus housing were only one in seven. I think we had 48 fraternities and eight or 10 sororities. This meant that many people who did not conform to the Animal House stereotype still chose to live in fraternities and sororities.

    o I will say my own experience of fraternity life is that – done well – you not only forged the mystic ties of brotherhood, but you also learned skills that were well beyond your years. Our fraternity house was not owned by the university, so we were involved in every aspect of its operation: we had to hire staff, choose menus, buy supplies, maintain the house and grounds, recruit members, balance the budget, set policy, and so on.

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  20. When I was in college in the late 80s, it was much too expensive for me to join a sorority. Also, I don't drink, and there were no "dry" groups. It wasn't a good fit for me. But I understand that there are some co-ed groups now that are focused on service and community projects.

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  21. In her first year in college, just months after suddenly losing her beloved father, my niece found solace in her sorority. She was in an unspeakable situation in the dorms (roommate had her boyfriend secretly living with her) and her "sisters" gave her the confidence she needed to go to her advisors and find a solution. In her second year, she lived in the sorority house and loved every minute of it. However, expense and commitment to continued expense regardless of situation (AKA campus shutting down due to COVID) has meant that she couldn't continue living there. Expense has been the biggest hurdle for this young lady who is working towards her environmental science degree, living on scholarships and her internship pay. I truly believe the friends she has made in her sorority will continue to be her friends for life as they all have similar values, and are engaged in philanthropy. Whether or not she can continue to belong to the sorority for this year and her final year is anyone's guess. I am European and we did not have anything like this system, particularly as my University was not residential. Like all clubs, the Greek system seems to help or hinder, based on the members and the overall college culture.

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  22. I didn't even have to think about this when I was in school (1970's) because I never wanted to join a group like that--ever. It's not them; it's me. I have always been able to make friends, but I am an introvert (although not at all shy), and too much socializing sucks the life out of me. I can speak for Washington & Lee University which is where I live in Lexington, VA. It is a very Greek school, so fraternities and sororities do seem to dominate the student social scene. I've heard that it can be difficult for GDI's at W&L.

    Jacqueline

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    1. Jacqueline, you're exactly right. The fraternities and sororities at W&L have an overall slightly negative impact.

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  23. Alpha Phi Omega here. Co-ed service fraternity without a physical house. I did over 60 hours of community service as a pledge because the chapter had that many opportunities. They taught me about business etiquette, proper dressing, and how to interview.
    I’ve been a faculty advisor for two chapters over 27 years and view my role as a mentor seriously. Fraternities can be especially valuable for first gen students who don’t know the “social cues” of the middle class.
    It can also create a larger new work. My lawyer, my accountant, and my financial advisor are all brothers even though they didn’t go to my university, It can be a signal of common values when making connections.
    Short version: It depends on the institution and the chapter.

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  24. GDI = God Damn Independent? I've never heard that term before. Speaks for itself regarding fraternity and sorority culture, doesn't it?

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  25. Alpha Chi Omega here. Spent 3 of my college years in a lovely white Federal/ Colonial Revival house with black shutters. Very nice low-key women, large rooms and an intern in our kitchen from Johnson and Wales. It was like living in a four-star hotel. Had a lot of fun there and am still in touch with a few of the "sisters'.

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  26. I actually became interested in my sorority because one of my brothers was Alpha Chi Alpha at Dartmouth and really enjoyed it. My oldest brother was a "GDI" at Franklin & Marshall but that was during the height of the Vietnam War and Greek life seemed not that important to him during that period.

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  27. Fraternities are the reason that racism and misogyny have been so hard to eradicate at Dartmouth.

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    1. *Whew* Quite honestly the most offensive thing I remember there is my feet sticking to the floor from the party the night before but I don't think Dartmouth has a corner on bad Greek behavior anymore than say Indiana University. I rather liked the guys and my female cousin stayed over there on a visit from UCONN and left unscathed! I seem to remember the fraternity hosting a lot of blood drives but that was almost 50 years ago. I know he's still in touch with a few of the men.

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  28. I went to a state university that had sororities and fraternities, with all the houses up and down one street. I didn't belong to any of them. In fact, I never even lived in a dorm. I was one of those living "off campus." In a large school, there distinct segments of students based on where they live, as well as distinct segments based on their field of study. One rather cynical professor, when a new law school building was under construction, said the new one would have a place where the law students could come out and look down on the other students, just like the old law school building. Some people are probably totally unaware of students who are not part of their group, while others are acutely aware. The fraternities and sororities were highly visible.

    Be that as it may be, I'd still say that being a member was a valuable thing and probably more so after graduation than as a student, given that connections are so important in life, the same way that being a member of a country club is.

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