Fraternities and sororities

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The terms "fraternity" and "sorority" (from the Latin words frater and soror, meaning "brother" and "sister" respectively) may be used to describe many social and charitable organizations, for example the Lions Club, Epsilon Sigma Alpha, Rotary International, Optimist International, Ordo Templi Orientis or the Shriners. In the United States, the Philippines and Canada, however, fraternities and sororities are most commonly known as social organizations for higher education students.


[edit] Terminology

The term "fraternities", colloquially shortened to "frats", generally refers to all-male or mixed-sex organizations; the female-only equivalent is called a sorority, a word first used in 1874 at Gamma Phi Beta at Syracuse University. Fraternities and sororities, especially outside North America, are also referred to as student corporations, academic corporations, or simply corporations.

With few exceptions (notably "Acacia", "FarmHouse", and "Triangle"), the names of North American fraternities and sororities consist of two or three Greek letters which are usually abbreviation of their motto in Greek. For this reason, fraternities and sororities are known collectively as the Greek System and its members as Greeks. The use of Greek letters started with the first such organization, Phi Beta Kappa, which used Greek letters to hide their secret name.

Outside North America, organizations like college fraternities are rare. However, some other countries with active fraternity-like organizations are the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany (e.g. the German Student Corps).[citation needed] The Philippines is another country with a large fraternity and sorority system; see fraternities and sororities in the Philippines for more detailed information.

[edit] The purposes and types of fraternities

There is various types of fraternities: social, service, professional, and honorary. The most recognizable form of fraternity is the social fraternity. Most of these fraternities were originally founded on dedication to principles such as community service and leadership qualities, though some have become purely "social." Many fraternities and sororities are national organizations with chapters at individual schools. National organizations may impose certain requirements on individual chapters to standardize rituals and policies regarding membership, housing, or behavior. These policies are generally codified in a constitution and bylaws which may be amended at national conventions. Members of a national fraternity or sorority may enjoy certain privileges when visiting other chapters of the same national fraternity. Other fraternities and sororities are "local" and do not belong to a national organization. Local fraternities and sororities can establish their own constitution and bylaws, and do not need to contribute financially to a national organization; however, they may not have access to services that a national organization might provide, such as housing loans, insurance or leadership training.

[edit] Structure and organization

[edit] Ritual and secrecy

Most fraternities and sororities maintain a ritual system that is highly symbolic in nature and kept a closely guarded secret. Some signs point to common ancestry in both sorority and fraternity ritual, but most are likely derived from Masonic ritual.[citation needed] Other "secrets" may include secret names for each member, passwords, songs, handshakes, journals and initiation rites. Meetings of the active members are generally secret and not to be discussed without the formal approval of the chapter as a whole. There are two national fraternities which were founded as "non-secret" societies: Alpha Kappa Lambda, founded in 1914, and Delta Upsilon, founded in 1834.

The Greek letters comprising the "name" of a given fraternity or sorority can have a "secret meaning," known only to initiated members of that fraternity or sorority. In the case of fraternities and sororities that have disaffiliated from a national organization, the Greek letters chosen for the name of the organization are often a derivation of the previous name (for example, Phi Tau is the former Tau chapter of Phi Sigma Kappa) and thus, while the name may bear some secret meaning, it also bears a clear exoteric meaning.

[edit] Fraternity and sorority houses

Unique among most campus organizations, members of social fraternities and sororities often live together in a large house or apartment complex. This serves two purposes. First, it emphasizes the bonds the members share as "brothers" or "sisters". Second, the house serves as a central location for the events and administration of the fraternity or sorority. Because of this residential situation, the individual organizations themselves at their respective schools are known as "houses". Professional, academic or honorary societies rarely maintain a permanent housing location, and some may be barred from doing so by their national organization. Chi Psi Fraternity was the first fraternity to have a house, or Lodge as it is referred to by their brothers, located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Sigma Phi was the first fraternity to own a chapter house, which was previously located in Williamstown, MA.[citation needed]

A fraternity or sorority house can usually be identified by large Rich letters on the front of the house, advertising the name of the group. Depending on the size of the house, there may be anywhere from three to forty bedrooms or more. Larger houses generally have a large meeting room or dining room, commercial kitchen with chef, and study room. There is usually a lounge of some sort, access to which is often restricted to fully initiated members. Fraternities and sororities will also often maintain a chapter room, to which only initiates may ever be admitted and the existence of which may be kept secret. The walls of the house may be decorated with pictures of past chapter events, awards and trophies, decorative or historic paddles, or composite photos of members from past years.

At many large universities, it is traditional for Greek organizations to enjoy the use of large, Victorian style mansions on campus. In more modern times, some university administrations have sought to seize or buy out these houses and convert them into academic use or demolish them and convert them into additional parking. This ends the use of the house for social purposes; the university may justify such actions as a measure to curb drinking on campus.[citation needed]

For reasons of cost, liability and stability, housing is usually overseen by an alumni corporation or the national organization of the fraternity or sorority. As a result, some houses prohibit members of the opposite sex from going "upstairs" or into the individual bedrooms. However, many of these houses provide guest bedrooms in case visitors are in town. Other houses may impose a curfew or "open door" policy. Furthermore, some national organizations restrict or prohibit alcohol in the house at any time.[citation needed]

[edit] Joining a fraternity or sorority

The process of joining a fraternity or sorority is commonly referred to as "pledging", "rushing", or "recruitment." The term "rush" refers to the historical practice where students would hurry to join fraternities at the beginning of the school year in large part to find housing.

Recruitment may be done formally or informally. The traditional "formal recruitment" often consists of a period known as "Rush" or "Rush Week". Fraternities and sororities invite fellow students (often referred to as "rushees" or "potential new members") to attend events at the house (or on-campus) and meet the current members of the organization. These formal rush weeks may impose limits on contact between interested students and active members to ensure fairness, such as time requirements to visit each house. Some prospective members may also arrive at Rush Week as "legacies". This status indicates to active sorority or fraternity members that the rushee is related to an alumnus or alumna of the organization. Though being a legacy does not guarantee membership, it is seen by many as an advantage during Rush. "Informal recruitment" as the name suggests, is much less structured. New members are introduced to the fraternity's members and activities through friends and everyday behavior. Many campuses may have formal recruitment periods and also allow informal recruitment after the formal period ends. "Deferred recruitment" refers to systems where students must have at least one semester's experience on campus before joining.

Depending on the requirements of the school, prospective members may need to meet certain academic requirements, such as a minimum grade point average, or a minimum number of completed credits, to rush. At some schools, Greek organizations may be barred from recruiting new members for a year if the organization's cumulative grade point average is too low. At the end of this period, the house invites the visitors of their choice to "pledge" the fraternity or sorority. If the invitation, or "bid", is accepted, the student will be admitted to the house as a pledge, a time during which they will enjoy fewer privileges in the house until they are initiated as full members. A student may pledge only one fraternity or sorority at a time, and most often agree to never pledge a second house if they have already been initiated into another one, though this does not preclude such events from happening. In general, this restriction only applies to social fraternities and sororities, and does not bar a member from being a member or later joining professional, service, or honorary fraternities or sororities.

Pledge requirements for each house vary, and some houses have eliminated pledgeship entirely. However, common requirements usually include wearing a pledge or new member pin, learning about the history and structure of the fraternity or sorority, performing public service, or maintaining a deferential attitude toward current members. Although it has become rare, some houses still practice something like "hell week", when pledges are submitted to compounded endurances, which may still include some types of "hazing". These practices are universally prohibited by university and college rules as well as many state laws. Virtually all fraternities prohibit these practices in their own national constitutions. Upon completion of the pledgeship and all its requirements, the active members will invite the pledges to be initiated and become full members. Newly initiated members are expected to live up to the standards of their chapter. Initiation includes secret ceremonies and sacred rituals that the new members are now permitted to learn.

The pledgeship serves as a probationary period in the fraternity or sorority membership process where both the house and the pledge make sure that they have made the right choice. Almost always, after a pledge has been initiated they have a membership in the organization for life. Those pledges who demonstrate their commitment to the organization and its members are initiated, while those who demonstrate little to no effort and/or cause divisions and conflict are dismissed. Some houses will invite anyone who completes the program to become active members, either as a matter of policy, or in order to maintain a stable level of membership.

Pledge names are a tradition in American college fraternities whereby pledges are given a nickname to be referred to during their pledging period. The names are most often selected by the brotherhood just prior to the new member's pledge period. The names often reflect a trait or interest that the pledge has, often resulting in a derogatory reference, but not always. For example a pledge who plays baseball may be named “Slugger”, while another pledge with a shaved head may be referred to as “Mr. Clean”. The degree to which a pledge is associated to his name throughout his orientation period varies from chapter to chapter. Some houses will insist that a prospective member always be referred to by his pledge name; others may treat it only as a nickname which in some cases may fade from the consciousness of the brothers, leaving the pledge most often being called by his real name for the duration of pledging.

Pledge names can also be a source of tradition within the house especially within a particular line of big-little brothers or pledge fathers-pledge sons; meaning that the selection of pledge names reflects a theme or logical progression to reflect an already established tradition. A family line's name could be anything, for example all members dating back several years were named after characters in the movie Animal House.

Starting in the mid to late 1990s, the terms "Rush" and "Pledge" were generally replaced with "Recruitment" and "New Member" or "Associate Member" respectively. Change is slow in the Greek world, and the use of older terms is still fairly common among houses. Some schools and National Offices use the newer terms.

[edit] Hazing issues

Hazing is the ritualistic harassment, abuse, or persecution of prospective members of a group as a means of initiation. In such practices, pledges are required to complete often meaningless, difficult, or (physically and/or psychologically) humiliating tasks. Many activities which evolved into modern hazing originated as legitimate team-building techniques.[citation needed] In their essence, they are meant to make the individual fail as an individual, teaching them to become a valuable asset to the team and be loyal to its success.[citation needed] This philosophy of team development continued to be used in fraternal organizations as each subsequent war refreshed the pool of ex-military students.[citation needed]

Because of the association of fraternities with hazing, schools such as Bates College started banning fraternities as early as the mid-1800s. One fraternity, Sigma Nu, was founded in opposition to the hazing taking place at Virginia Military Institute after the Civil War by Alpha Tau Omega. Hazing became widespread after World War I. Soldiers returning from the war re-entered colleges, and brought with them the discipline and techniques they learned in boot camp. From the 1960s through the 1980s, however, most organizations (especially those governed by alumni at the national level) implemented clear no-hazing policies. Hazing is also against many colleges' Greek Codes and illegal in most U.S. states.[1][2] The North-American Interfraternity Conference (formerly National Interfraternity Conference) also requires anti-hazing education for members, as do most universities. Since at least the 1990s, any hazing conducted at a local chapter was done without the consent of a national organization and outside the guidelines for their initiation rituals. If discovered, hazing usually results in the revocation of the local chapter's charter and possibly expulsion of members from the national organization.

[edit] Symbols

Fraternities and sororities often have a number of symbols by which they are identified, such as colors and flowers. An Open Motto is a public motto that is used to express the unique ideals and/or standards of a fraternity or sorority. The Greek alphabet is also used to identify different "chapters" from one another.

[edit] History and development

The Phi Beta Kappa Society, founded on December 5, 1776 at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, is generally recognized to be the first Greek-letter student society in North America. By legend, it was founded by individuals rejected for membership from an older student society known as the Flat Hat Club, which counted Thomas Jefferson among its alumni. The Flat Hat Club, or FHC for short, was founded at the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg, Virginia on November 11, 1750, by six students at the College of William and Mary. FHC was the precursor to Phi Beta Kappa and thus has the distinction of being the first in line of the thousands of Greek-letter fraternities and sororities found on college campuses today. While it largely disappeared in 1776, a modern secret organization using the same name exists at the College of William and Mary.

The meaning of "FHC" is lost, but the group consisted of students who frequented the Raleigh Tavern as a social escape from academic rigors. The taverns were public crossroads where rich and poor, ship captains and sailors, farmers and merchants, Burgesses and soldiers, would eat and drink while in the colonial capital. Most of the students were around 17, and were in an urban setting for the first time. They overheard tales about sailing on the high seas, politics, business, and gambling that were not taught in the classroom. William & Mary faculty discouraged these departures from their studies. Soon the boys met upstairs in a private room. To shelter themselves from scouts sent by the faculty to rat them out, the boys invented a secret handshake, oath and password by which they could identify themselves to each other. Many of the group's members later used the trust they developed to their advantage during the American Revolution. John Page, James Innes, Dabney Carr, Peyton and Beverley Randolph, St. George Tucker and others were among the club's members, and they communicated regularly throughout their lifetimes. Although in his autobiography Jefferson wrote that the group "served no useful purpose," minimizing its significance to deflect attention would be characteristic of the FHC Society.

The Phi Beta Kappa Society was formed as a forum to discuss topics not covered in the regimented classical education of universities of the era, lending the name literary fraternity to its type. In fact, that education was responsible for the name. Most students were well-versed in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew; Phi, Beta, and Kappa were the initials of an esoteric Greek motto. In addition to its secrecy and selection of a Greek name, it also introduced a code of high ideals, secret rituals and handclasps, membership badges, and oaths that characterized later Greek letter societies.

The first social fraternity was the Chi Phi Fraternity, founded at Princeton University in 1824; however, this original group went inactive the following year and the modern organization of that name did not reform until the 1850s. The first general fraternity therefore is considered to be the Kappa Alpha Society, established at Union College in Schenectady, New York on November 26, 1825 by John Hart Hunter. By this time, the literary fraternities had become stodgy. Kappa Alpha's founders adopted many of Phi Beta Kappa's practices, but formed their organization around fellowship, making the development of friendship their primary purpose. The Sigma Phi Society formed in March 1827, followed by Delta Phi in November. These three constitute the Union Triad.

Sigma Phi became the first "national" fraternity when it opened a satellite chapter at Hamilton College in 1831. In 1831, Hamilton student Samuel Eells chose select members from the two established literary societies on campus, the Phoenix and the Philopeuthian, and formed Alpha Delta Phi in 1832. Chapters soon opened on more campuses, spawning more rivals. Beta Theta Pi was founded at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio in August, 1839, in response to the chartering of the west-most chapter of Alpha Delta Phi. Unlike its predecessors, however, it made expansion one of its key principles. Phi Delta Theta (1848) and Sigma Chi (1855), also founded at Miami University, emulated Beta Theta Pi's focus on establishing new chapters. These three constitute the Miami Triad. Zeta Psi, founded in 1847 at New York University, similarly pursued expansion. It was the first bi-coastal fraternity with its chapter at the University of California, Berkeley in 1870, and the first and only to have chapters at all Ivy League schools with its chapter at Yale University in 1889. (The latter claim lasted only a few years, owing to burgeoning faculty opposition to its chapter at Princeton.) It also became the first fraternity organized in Canada, with the chartering of its University of Toronto chapter in 1879. Growth was then stunted by the American Civil War. Following the War, however, the system as a whole underwent phenomenal 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. The rapid expansion of the country westward following the war also meant expansion of higher education and the fraternity system so that in 1897, Sigma Pi at Vincennes University, Indiana became the first fraternity founded in what was then considered the western frontier beyond the Ohio Valley and in 1914, Alpha Kappa Lambda at University of California, Berkeley became the first fraternity founded on the West Coast. Delta Sigma Phi became the first fraternity to intergrate Jewish and Christians in a fraternity on Decemer 10, 1899 at CUNY.[citation needed]

Alpha Phi Alpha became the first intercollegiate Greek letter fraternity established for people of African descent when it chartered a chapter in 1906 at Cornell University.[3] Phi Iota Alpha is the oldest intercollegiate Greek letter fraternity established for men of Latino descent when it was established in 1931 at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), in Troy, New York. [4]

Women's organizations also formed contemporaneously: the Adelphean Society was established in 1851 at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, making it the first secret society for collegiate women. The Philomathean Society (not associated with the Philomathean Society of the University of Pennsylvania) was also founded at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia in 1852, and I.C. Sorosis (later known as Pi Beta Phi in 1888) was founded in 1867 at Monmouth College, in Monmouth, Illinois. The Adelphean Soociety and the Philomathean Society did not take on Greek names (Alpha Delta Pi and Phi Mu respectively), until 1904 when they took on expansion beyond the Wesleyan campus. The second chapter of I.C. Sorosis was established at Iowa Wesleyan College in 1868.

Kappa Alpha Theta (January 1870) and Kappa Kappa Gamma (October 1870) are formally recognized as the first Greek letter fraternities for women. The term sorority was not yet in use, so the earliest houses were founded as "women's fraternities" or "fraternities for women." The first national to adopt the word sorority was Gamma Phi Beta, established in 1874 at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York. Alpha Kappa Alpha formed America's first Greek-letter sorority for black college women in 1908 at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Fraternities have long been associated with the American educational system and many of their members have gone on to be successful in the various realms of American society. Notably, Delta Kappa Epsilon, founded at Yale University in 1844, counts six members who went on to become President of the United States as well as numerous other prominent political and business figures amongst its members.

The University of Illinois is currently the largest Greek campus in the world. It boasts 46 fraternities and 23 sororities. Many of these Greek houses are on the National Register of Historic Places. Of the approximately 30,000 undergraduates, 3300 are in sororities and 3400 are members of fraternities.

In the United States, high school fraternities and sororities were initially popular as well, but were mostly banned during the early decades of the 20th century and are very rare today. Long Beach, California is one city where most high schools still have at least one fraternity or sorority. In their day, they were not only modeled after college counterparts, but also their chapters were counted with collegiate chapters in the rolls of their national organizations. There are still a few active high school fraternities and sororities in Puerto Rico its oldest being Zeta Mu Gamma Fraternity established in Mayaguez, PR.

[edit] Categories of fraternities and sororities

Fraternities and sororities may be categorized in numerous ways, and any organization may fall into multiple categories. Common types of divisions include those listed below, however a broader understanding of the shared 19th c. history of fraternal organizations and collegiate secret societies suggests that these categories are arguably arbitrary, or modern variants on a common archetype. For a further discussion of this theme, see [1], which examines examples of the architectural legacy and socio-historic context of student societies at Dartmouth and Yale.

General (social); Professional; Honor; or Service
Local or "national" organization; Ranges of size and geographic distribution among the "nationals"
Affiliated with one religion
Male-only; Female-only; or Coeducational
Houses with a special focus on one culture or ethnicity
Houses with a special focus on multiple cultures or ethnicities
The epoch in which the organization was founded

For lists of major organizations, see:

[edit] Interfraternal and professional organizations

[edit] Fraternities and sororities outside North America

[edit] Europe

  • EKV European Federation of Christian Students' Associations

[edit] Austria

[edit] Belgium

[edit] Estonia

[edit] Finland

[edit] Germany

[edit] Italy

[edit] Latvia

[edit] Lithuania

[edit] The Netherlands

[edit] Poland

Existing today (from about 150 existing before World War II):

  • K!Konwent Polonia the oldest in Poland. Founded: 1828 Dorpat, Estonia. Today: Gdansk, Poland
  • K!Arkonia the second oldest in Poland. Founded: 1879 Riga, Latvia, Today: Warsaw, Poland.
  • K!Welecja the third oldest in Poland. Founded: 1883, Riga, Latvia. Today: Warsaw, Poland.
  • K!Lechicja. Founded: 1897, Dorpat, Estonia. Today: Warsaw, Poland.
  • K!Sarmatia. Founded: 1908, St. Petersburg, Russia. Today: Warsaw, Poland.
  • K!ZAG Wisla. Founded: 1913, Gdansk, Poland. Today: Gdansk, Poland.
  • K!Aquilonia. Founded: 1915, Warsaw, Poland. Today: Warsaw, Poland.
  • K!Magna Polonia. Founded: 1920, Poznan, Poland. Today: Poznan, Poland.
  • K!Lechia. Founded: 1920, Poznan, Poland. Today: Poznan, Poland.
  • K!Chrobria. Founded: 1921, Poznan, Poland. Today: Poznan, Poland.
  • K!Baltia. Founded: 1921, Poznan, Poland. Today: Poznan, Poland.
  • K!Respublica. Founded: 1922, Warsaw, Poland. Today: Warsaw, Poland.
  • K!Konwent Batoria. Founded: 1922, Wilno, Poland. Today: Torun, Poland.
  • K!Kujawja. Founded: 1923, Cieszyn, Poland. Today: Torun, Poland.
  • K!Concordia. Founded: 1923, Lublin, Poland. Today: Lublin, Poland.
  • K!Corolla. Founded: 1924, Cracow, Poland. Today: Cracow, Poland.
  • K!Masovia. Founded: 1924, Poznan, Poland. Today: Poznan, Poland.
  • K!Magna Polonia Wratislaviensis. Founded: 1993, Wroclaw, Poland. Today: Wroclaw, Poland.
  • K!Jagiellonia Varmiensis. Founded: 2005, Olsztyn, Poland. Today: Olsztyn, Poland.

[edit] Portugal

[edit] Sweden

[edit] Switzerland

[edit] The Philippines

See List of fraternities and sororities in the Philippines.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ University of Michigan, The University Record Online, September 27, 2004, Campaign: See Through the Haze, by Laurel Thomas Gnagey (retrieved July 25, 2006)
  2. ^, State Anti-Hazing Laws (retrieved July 25, 2006)
  3. ^ Congressman Scott Honors Centennial Anniversary of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.,. Retrieved on 2006-12-01.
  4. ^ Anson, Jack L.; Robert F. Marchesani, Jr. (1991). Baird's Manual of American College Fraternities. Menasha, Wisconsin: Banta Publishing Company. ISBN 0-9637159-0-9. 
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