Fraternity Life: Its Myths and Truths

Fraternities have been a part of the American college landscape since before the Civil War. Originally founded as sources of mutual friendship, brotherhood, and often protection – for better or worse, this isn’t exactly the case anymore. These days, fraternities have grown into militia-sized bands of 18 to 22-year olds hell-bent on outdoing the night before who occasionally have flashes of humanity and goodwill.

I suppose I should offer some background information on what qualifies me to comment on this topic. I attended Ole Miss (The University of Mississippi) and served as president of one of the larger chapters on campus. I should go ahead and clear up that I wouldn’t trade those four years of my life for anything, Those days were the best days of my life where I would buy dissertation, pick a fight, drink beer with friends all night and many other things. This article is decidedly pro-fraternity, while understanding that some – if not most – of the stereotypes surrounding these organizations are in fact true. But aren’t most stereotypes true? However, the networking connections and true companions one gains from his years as an undergraduate fraternity man are unrivaled by any other student group. This is to say that the men who don’t spend their four… err, six… years as a torture artist or booze hound can really gain some valuable insight into the keys to a successful life.

So let’s get to the meat of the topic. Let’s discuss the traits that most people associate with the common fraternity man…

Do fraternity men drink too much? Absolutely. But then again, doesn’t your Uncle Bob and for that matter, your dad, every Saturday and Sunday in the fall when their favorite teams play? I would say roughly 95% of fraternity men drink, regardless of age. I think that statistic is probably pretty standard for the college-aged group regardless of Greek affiliation, however. Don’t buy the hype teenagers. Your peers do drink. You may say this is a cold assessment on my part but I’ve been there and I’ve seen it first-hand. This is not to say that all fraternity men binge drink. They just drink to get drunk. Which in my humble opinion is the typical goal of most all bar-faring patrons with a cold Budweiser in their hand. But I digress, yes we drink. Are we responsible? Yeah, for the most part. A sober ride is almost always available and proper precautions are usually taken to avoid lawsuits.

Do fraternities haze? Most all do to some extent. The vast majority of chapters do not engage in physical hazing actually. Mental and verbal hazing is typically much more prevalent. To be honest, it’s not typically much worse than one would expect to get from their mom or an employer if they were to fall down on the job. This is to say that pledges are not typically “hazed” for the fun of it. In most cases, it occurs because the pledge(s) have brought shame to the fraternity’s name by disrespecting a girl, the chapter house, etc. As for the chapters that implement physical hazing programs, they are only doing themselves a disservice. Would you like to call someone your friend after he punched you in the face once a week for twelve weeks? Like I said, this is increasingly rare in the fraternity system.

Do fraternities take advantage of girls? The short answer is no. To view a sexual offense as anything more than a personal issue is naive. The vast majority of fraternity men I know would relish the opportunity to kick the crap out of a guy who “roofied” an unsuspecting girl in order to take advantage of her. If someone gets too drunk to control their decision-making ability, it really is a personal problem. Just because someone is of college age does not mean they shouldn’t have to take responsibility for their own actions. College is, after all, a preparation for the real world. I don’t mean to offend or objectify women in any sense, but there comes a point in one’s life when they must learn the value of self-control. No one would feel bad for a male who did the same. I am not a believer in double standards of any sort.

I hope this has helped. I must admit that I have seen many crazy and unbelievable things happen at the chapter house over the years. But for the most part, no one was hurt and the cops didn’t have to be called. The positive aspects of fraternity life should not be ignored. The larger chapters on campus routinely gave in excess of $50,000 to philanthropic causes every year. My chapter donated 8,000 hours of community service in a single year. The relationships and opportunities available to undergraduates through positive relationships with alumni are invaluable.

To those sixteen and seventeen-year olds reading this article, I strongly encourage you to join a fraternity if you choose to attend college. You will have a much better shot at a successful life. Look up the numbers. Most every U.S. President was a member of a fraternity. I hope to follow this article with more on specific college issues. Please let me know if there is anything in particular you would like to hear about.

For those that found this informative, thanks and you’re welcome. For those I offended, you probably spent too much time studying anyway. Thanks for your time and I’ll see you out there.