Fraternities Essay, Research Paper

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


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,

Massachusetts 1982

Nykolaiszyn, John P. “Hazing: Greeks get a bad rap.”

The Beacon Feb. 13th 1996: 12.

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