History and Related Study of Fraternity

Topics: Fraternities and sororities, Fraternal and service organizations, Fraternity Pages: 8 (2503 words) Published: August 19, 2012



Social Fraternities and Sororities - History, Characteristics of Fraternities and Sororities, Reforms and Renewal Tweet

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The American college Greek-letter societies, consisting of fraternities and sororities, remain a popular form of association for students on college campuses in the early twenty-first century. Known as the oldest form of student self-governance in the American system of higher education and called perhaps the clearest example of a student subculture, fraternities and sororities have been a force on college campuses since 1825. The fraternity or sorority ideal cherishes and embraces all of the characteristics of a campus subculture: residential proximity through the chapter house, transmission of norms and values to the membership in a concrete and systematic way, a history of longevity, and social control for conformity. Artifacts, symbols, rituals, and shared assumptions and beliefs add significantly to the shared initiatives of scholarship, leadership development, service to others, and fellowship among members. History

The American fraternity traces its genesis to the emergence of literary societies in the late eighteenth century. Debating and literary societies, whose names evoked memories of ancient Greece, emerged as purveyors of forensics, but their main contribution was that they were primary social clubs contrasting with the bleak campus dormitories. The elaborate lounges and private libraries they maintained outstripped those operated by colleges. As quickly as the literary societies filled the curriculum vacuum of the early college student, the fraternity emerged to fill the social needs of the more independent college students. The need for a distinct counterpart for women became evident early on college campuses, especially in women's colleges. For many years, societies for young women bearing Greek and classical names were common at women's colleges and academies and were organized similar to fraternities. The first fraternity for women was Alpha Delta Pi, founded as the Adelphean Society in 1851. Sororities were chartered as women's fraternities because no better word existed. In 1882 Gamma Phi Beta was the first to be named a sorority. From the beginning, the norms and values of fraternities were independent of the college environment. Since the founding of Kappa Alpha at Union College (in Schenectady, New York) in 1825 as the oldest secret brotherhood of a social nature, fraternities developed with different personalities and histories on each campus. The trappings of an idealized ancient Greece were added to those of Freemasonry to create secret societies dedicated to bringing together young men who were seeking conviviality. Members historically met weekly in a student dormitory room or rented facility for social and intellectual fellowship. To fight the monotony of mid-nineteenth-century colleges, fraternities institutionalized various escapes of a social nature. In the 1890s the chapter-owned house became a reality and gave a physical presence to the fraternity movement. Supported by prosperous and influential fraternity alumni, the chapter house relieved the need for housing on many campuses. The popular German university model of detachment from the student replaced the English model of providing room and board. Colleges and universities began to shape college life rather than oppose it, and the institutions reluctantly began accepting the fraternity system. As more and more fraternities occupied their own houses, their interest shifted from intellectual issues to that of running and sustaining a chapter house. The chapter house had great influence upon fraternity chapters. The increasing prominence of the chapter house in the 1920s...
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