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...
Cited: 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
Klepper, Irving The portals of Tau Epsilon Phi Tau Epsilon Phi Fraternity, Inc.
Atlanta, Georgia 1937
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:
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