What is a Fraternity? Webster defines a Fraternity as “a group of people associated or formally organized for a common purpose, interest, or pleasure” and “the quality or state of being brothers”.
The first American society considered a “Fraternity” was Phi Beta Kappa Society founded in 1776 at William and Mary. As stated by Phi Beta Kappa “The organization was created as a secret society so that its founders would have the freedom to discuss any topic they chose.”
It would take another 50 years before the founding of Kappa Alpha Society, cited as the first “secret Brotherhood” or “Literary Society” in the American collegiate world. Kappa Alpha Society states “the term ‘literary’ was far broader in scope than it is today: literary studies covered any academic discipline not defined as practical in nature. It was an opportunity for students of a broad and liberal train of thought to gather and present ideas which were to shake the entire college world.”
We can go on with the history lesson, but these two founding Societies laid the blueprint for all other Fraternities and Sororities to follow, the formation of a secret organization for the betterment of it’s members. Yes, they better the community around them. Yes, they typically have common traits or the belief in a common principle. That principle can take many forms. Today we commonly refer to them as “ideals” or “pillars”.
So, I find it fascinating that Urban Dictionary has it’s the second definition of a Fraternity as: “A male organization known for their childish exclusion of others, excessive alcohol consumption, a false sense of accomplishment and, of course, small genitals. Members of such an organization tend to travel in packs and develop a feeling of inadequacy and malaise if a brother is not around to have his back (or give him oral sex). Furthermore, brothers are often stricken with low grades, wide assholes and several sexual diseases. Is that guy in a fraternity? -Yeah, the popped collar, croakies and hangover are a dead giveaway. #dickheads #frats #fraternities #pussies #dumbasses”
I have to ask myself, where did we go wrong? Did we pass the golden age of Fraternal Societies already? It doesn’t seem long enough considering most Greek Letter institutions are less than 150 years old. For others, like the individual that penned the Urban Dictionaries definition, it’s been 150 years too long.
So what would happen if Fraternities and Sororities never existed? Would “Childish exclusion of others” not materialize? Would college students not drink? Would the cumulative grade point average on 900+ campuses across North America alone automatically rise? I highly doubt it. But we all do a crappy job of selling that concept.
If you’re in a Greek lettered organization, how much money have you donated in your lifetime to philanthropic causes? Forget your own organization’s cause, how about all the other organizations you have donated to. How many homeless shelters, soup kitchens, nursing homes have you visited? Would you have cleaned the side of a road, the campus, the beach, an elderly neighbor’s yard if you were not Greek? How many of your non-Greek fellow students contribute in this manner on a regular basis for the remained of their life?
I’m not excusing our faults. We have many and we need to address them. Again, we were founded for the betterment of one’s self, and part of that is an acknowledgment of one’s shortcomings in order to address them. We must also acknowledge there are many students and adults that are not Greek and contribute to their communities. Anyone and everyone that contributes to the welfare of the world should be commended. The troubling issue is our faults are always on display rather than our triumphs.
It’s our own fault. Our sales pitch is all wrong. Prospective new member approaches and we talk about how great we are. How we’re so much better than the other Chapters on campus. How much fun they’ll have. Who the iconic people are that have been initiated into the Order. The networking afforded to them after graduation.
Why are we so apprehensive to state how the Greek World will benefit someone? How did we come to such a point in our history that we rather turn an individual off from Greek Societies as a whole, rather than helping them find the right home for them? Why is one organization’s networking any less relevant than another?
The time to alter the pitch is now.
I propose we all make a conscious effort to not bad-mouth each other during next recruitment season. Let’s see if we can’t all agree we’re stronger as a single advocate rather than individual entities. If you think I mean we should all hold hands and singing “Kumbaya”, you’ve missed the point. How about we simply all strive to be civil. It might not get your Chapter the largest quantity of new members, but they will be the right ones and you’ll be staying true to principle. That’s something all of our Founders can agree upon.