Zak Burleson
Engl 1302
7 August 2003

The Real Side To Fraternities





The paper that you are about to read is about Fraternities of today and how they have a bad reputation for drinking, hazing, and other things. I chose this topic because I am involved in a fraternity and I felt that it is time that someone had a voice for these types of organizations. I defend Fraternities in this paper by showing the helpful and productive things that they are not known for doing. I hope you enjoy this paper, and also have a different outlook of fraternities once you have read it. If you would like to send me comments about this paper, email me by clicking on this link

Fraternities: What You Do Not Know


[1] What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word “Fraternity”? More than likely if you have never been involved in a Greek organization, or know little or nothing about them, than your thoughts are probably something along the lines of binge drinking, brutal hazing, and out of hand toga parties at the fraternity houses. For as long as fraternities have been around, they have had a bad reputation for all of these things, and not to say that they do not go on, but how fair is it to put a label on all of them when it is only a few of them that have caused these problems? Perhaps the reason that fraternities have been given bad reputations like this is because many people focus on the bad things, and mishaps that are involved with them, and do not spend enough time looking at the good things that are accomplished by these organizations. When someone’s or something’s flaws are constantly being over-inflated, than it is very easy to attain a bad name. Movies like Animal house, Old School, Revenge of the nerds, and The Skulls have done nothing but portrayed the fraternities of today as wild, careless, and harmful organizations that’s only purpose is to see how many beer bongs they can do before they throw up. Fraternities actually have a purpose, and contrary to popular thought, it is something much more productive and helpful than a half minute keg stand. The purpose for fraternities is to have a common ground where brothers can come together with similar interests and beliefs to accomplish personal goals, as well as give back to the community. Fraternities were made for this reason, and I believe that reason is something that should be protected. In this paper I will explore both sides of this issue, showing the things that you more than likely already know, and also showing the aspects that are not so popular to gossip about. By the time that you have read this paper I feel confident that you will understand what fraternities actually stand for.

[2] The most popular issue that is brought up about fraternities is that of underage drinking. Critics these days act as if fraternities came up with the concept of underage drinking and made it popular for everyone to do. Perry Bacon is a well known writer for a rather large newspaper. In Bacons article “Effort to Limit Fraternity Drinking Faces Complications”available here, he talks about Yale University, and how the officials there are trying to crackdown on underage drinking and ban the Fraternities from the college. The problem that is brought up in the article is that although these officials are very powerful individuals, they still were not able to get enough support to kick these organizations off of the campus. They did not receive any backing from the student body, the mayor, or the city council. (Bacon) The point is that the fraternities must be doing something right in order for these people to overlook the underage drinking and still want them on campus. Everywhere you go, whether it is in a fraternity or not, you will find underage drinking and it is not fair to dub fraternities as the ring leaders of this behavior. There is always the factor of peer pressure, and on a college campus it is understood how peer pressure could get out of hand. People argue that peer pressure has a large effect on the choices that a person makes, and that if these kids are getting pressured into drinking at college, than it must be fraternities doing it. What these people do not realize is that a fraternity is a social organization, and anywhere that you go that is social, there are usually individuals that try and get other people to do illegal things. It is then up to that person if they want to participate in those activities or not. But human nature has proven to show that when something goes wrong than someone must take the blame for it, and it looks as though fraternities are seen as the easiest scapegoats.

[3] The next issue that has become something of concern with numerous amounts of people is that of hazing. Hazing can easily be defined as anything that someone is made, or told to do that the individual giving the order does not participate in as well. The definition that was given seems very mild, but college students have been seriously injured, and even died from acts of hazing. At certain universities, pledges are forced to do pushups on broken glass until the shards are halfway inside of their palms. At other Universities it is popular to force the pledges to binge drink against their will. These acts of overdrinking are causes for many deaths throughout the colleges of America. Hank Nuwer writes many articles relating to the subjects of Fraternities and hazing. In the article “Thoughts as Alfred University Bans its Greek System”,available here Nuwer talks about a young man that was involved in a fraternity. This young man was forced to drink so much alcohol that by midnight he had died on his bed. He then goes on to say that shortly after, the college where the incident had occurred banned their entire Greek system. Nuwer made it clear that he did not agree with the fact that the college banned their entire Greek system, and that it should have evaluated each fraternity and kicked off the ones that were not up to par, or the fraternities that are well known for hazing. Not all Fraternities haze, but the ones that do haze will tell you that hazing is a way to become closer, and that it builds good brother hood. Whether they actually believe this, or they are just making excuses, I feel that hazing is wrong and that it is not a part of the traditional fraternity way. It is behavior like hazing that has given the Fraternities of America the name that they have today. Shows such as Fraternity Life on MTV have cameras follow around the members of the Sigma Chi Omega fraternity, and at some points even show the active members making their pledges do pushups and cleaning their house, otherwise known as hazing. Many members of fraternities have done what they can to put a stop to hazing, and offer other means of bonding with their brothers. Clay Gordon, who was involved in a fraternity for a very long time, wrote an article entitled “Strengthening the Bonds: A Positive Pledge Program for the Twenty First Century”available here. In this article he talks of how his fraternity helped him get through college and how a fraternity member helped him get through his divorce. He also bases the main part of his article around ideas that can be done to stop hazing people. He gives a full layout of methods that have proven to bring brothers closer together without doing any mental or physical damage. The fraternity system is an old and well developed system that is begging for guidance in this new direction.( Gordon ) Other Fraternities have adopted methods of abolishing hazing as well. Sigma Phi Epsilon, the largest fraternity in the nation, has implemented a plan known as theBalnced Man. This plan is based on the ideas of sound body, sound mind. This means that they want all of their members to be healthy both physically, and mentally, and to let it be known that there is no room for hazing at all. Almost all of the SigEp chapters have adopted this plan.

[4] It is also very popular to argue that if you become involved in a fraternity that your grades will drop horribly and that you will not want to participate academically on your campus. Greek organizations hold the highest GPA over any other organization on campus, and 85% of campus leaders are Greek. (Fraternity Statistics)available here Many campuses actually recommend going Greek to their students for the simple fact that it is a quick and easy way to get involved with the college. Not only will a person become involved on the campus, but he or she will develop a love for the organization that they have chosen to affiliate themselves with. Not only does the overall GPA of these organizations have to stay up, but they will disaffiliate any member that is not meeting the requirements for their GPA.

[5] There are many people that do not understand exactly why fraternities are something that are cherished by many brothers. There is more to it than being social and hanging out with friends. Earlier in this paper I mentioned something called brotherhood. The foundation of a fraternity is built on this idea, and sometimes it is an idea that is not easily understood. A member of the fraternityTheta Chi explained in his own words what brotherhood meant to him. He states “Brotherhood is the ties that bind the members of a fraternity together in common beliefs and ideals that make the fraternity what it is.” I feel that most members of Greek organizations would agree with that statement. In the article “What I learned From Pledging a Fraternity”available here, Doug Smith, who was also a member of a fraternity, talks about the many advantages and benefits that there are to being involved in a fraternity. In one section of his article he says that working through tough challenges builds strong memories, and that it is something that he doesn’t think that he would have made it through college without. He states “Pledging pulled twelve very different people together with a bond that isn’t easily obtained. We helped each other. We sacrificed for each other. We promised to rescue each other whenever we were in need.” I feel that statement is reason enough to believe in the purpose of a fraternity. It gives real life accounts of how people’s lives were affected in positive ways just from being involved in these organizations.

[6]As a matter of fact there are many more people involved in Greek organizations than what is publicized. Not just regular people either. There were only two presidents that were not involved in fraternities. (University of Nebraska Greek Affairs)available here Also 85% of the fortune five executives have belonged to a fraternity, and 43 out of 50 of the worlds largest leading corporations are headed by fraternity men. (University of Nebraska Greek Affairs) So the next argument that could be posed is if these organizations are so bad then why are so many important people involved in them. If these organizations are to be done away with, then why is it that the leaders of our nation have all decided to take part in them? The Greek system does not just offer individual benefits either, there are many things that fraternities and sororities do for their communities, fellow Americans, and Campuses that go unrecognized. Each Fraternity has its own philanthropy, which raises money that will in turn be donated to a charitable organization. Also every year it is mandatory that these Greek organizations meet a quota of community service hours. In fact, the Greek system is the largest network of volunteers in the US, with members donating over 10 Million hours of volunteer service each year. (University of Nebraska Greek Affairs)available here This shows that people involved in these organizations are good people, and that they care about helping those who are less fortunate than they are. Also, The Greek system is the largest non-profit student landlord in the US, with over $3 billion in assets and more than 250,000 students living in Greek housing in more than 8,000 facilities. (University of Nebraska Greek Affairs) So if the Greek organizations were just shut down, than it would mean billions of dollars being lost and I don’t think that doing that is a valid action just because certain aspects are not the best right now. These problems that are being experienced throughout the Greek community are problems that can easily be changed with a little bit of time, patience, and new plans to implement along the way.

[7]I write from experience. I am involved in a fraternity at my college, and the memories that I have already acquired are ones that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Pledging is one of the best things that I could have ever done to help me get involved on the campus, and not just with my fraternity, but with all of the other fraternities and sororities as well. Not only was I plugged into the social aspect, but my grades went up as well because there were always members that had already taken the class that would offer help. I learned that grades really are something that is taken very seriously by fraternities. If fraternities fail to keep their overall GPA up, then they do not get to stay on campus. Also the fraternity that I pledged did away with its hazing program long before I came around so I speak from experience when I say that not all fraternities haze. Just this last year we raised seven thousand dollars for the American Heart Association through our main philanthropic softball game. These are just a few of the reasons that I feel fraternities are worth fighting for.

[8]So after having read this paper, I hope that you can agree that fraternities are something that has been given a bad name for too long. They provide services to their members, and their communities, and that is a lot more than what can be said about many businesses today. Doing away with fraternities would be the same as doing away with the very thing that gives college that certain college experience, and without it I fear that potential friendships and memories will be lost forever.



Works Cited

Bacon, Perry. “Effort to limit Fraternity Drinking Faces Complications” February 7, 2000
available here.

Clay, Gordon. “Strengthening the bonds: A Positive Pledge program for the twenty first century” 2000 available here.

University of Nebraska Greek affairs. “Greek Statistics” 2002 available here.

Smith, Doug. “What I learned from Pledging A Fraternity” 2000 available here.

“Brotherhood” March 2003 available here.

Nuwer, Hank. “Thoughts as Alfred University bans its Greek system” available here.

“The balanced Man, The exceptional Man” 2002 available here.





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