The truth about frats and sororities
Everyone has seen or heard of the movie Animal House; if not, they’ve at least seen one movie about crazy college kids partying out of control and failing classes as a result. And when most hear the word “fraternity,” they probably think of wild parties, trashed houses and hazing – that is, forcing a new recruit to do embarrassing and sometimes painful things.
But here at Wake Forest, I’ve found that these negative stereotypes could not be further from the truth. The majority of universities in the US have some form of Greek life – whether it be a fraternity, sorority or service group. The names of these groups are made up of two or three Greek letters (e.g. Phi, Alpha, Beta) and are often national groups with chapters represented at a university. They are brotherhoods, sisterhoods and societies that have initiation processes, requirements and traditions.
The initiation process differs from organization to organization and university to university, but hazing – contrary to what people might think – is prohibited nearly everywhere. Potential new members, or PNMs, go through a process called “rush,” which typically lasts about a week. During this week, they go around to each of the organizations that are represented on campus and choose which they like the best, narrowing down their choices each day.
The organizations, likewise, choose the PNMs they like best, and if these match up, the PNM can continue going to that organization. At the end of the week, the PNM is offered a “bid” to the organization that wants to initiate him or her, and if they accept the bid, they become a “pledge.” Pledges are assigned a big brother or sister within the organization, who serves as their mentor.
Greek organizations are great if someone is looking for a group of people to become very close to. A lot of fraternities and sororities think of themselves as families with both big and little brothers and sisters, and every Greek organization shares in a few philanthropies, such as helping to fundraise for causes or charities. Members are also required to maintain a certain grade point average and hold study hours to ensure their members do equally well academically.
It can’t be denied, however, that Greek people also know how to have fun. They are well-known for social events – themed parties (e.g. togas, luaus, ‘80s flashbacks, etc), date functions, mixers, and mountain weekends, to name a few. In some universities, particularly ones with large student populations, these events can be exclusive – that is, only members and invited guests are welcome. Luckily, at Wake Forest we have something called an open Greek system, which means that most of the time anyone can participate in the events.
Not everyone chooses to join a fraternity or sorority, but at a university with an open Greek system, that is perfectly acceptable. I decided not to pledge with a sorority because I felt that I needed some more time to figure out what I wanted. But if I do decide to, I’ll have another opportunity come fall. Until then, it’s good to know I can still enjoy the events that go on and learn more about each sorority from all of my friends that did decide to “go Greek.”