GRACE’S GUIDE TO…
✧ Greek Life.
If you’ve seen any movie about college life ever created, you’ve probably come in contact with the concept of Greek Life. Unfortunately, the media grossly stereotypes Greek Life so that many people believe it’s nothing more than a bunch of college kids getting drunk and partying every night of the week. Many of these stereotypes are a fallacy, and while each Greek Life experience is different, there’s a lot more to Greek Life than you probably realize.
I’ve seen Greek Life role-plays popping up all over the place, and unfortunately, many these role-plays only serve to reflect these stereotypes and neglect a variety of very important aspects of Greek Life. This guide is to help you further understand the Greek community and dispel some of the stereotypes that role-players continue to abide by.
For the sake of making my life easier, from this point forward, I’ll be referring to both fraternities and sororities collectively as “fraternities” and brothers and sisters as “brothers”. Please note that this information can apply to both fraternities and sororities.
Finally, please note this guide reflects my personal experiences within the Greek system and that it might differ from yours. If it does, feel free to shoot me a message! I’ll be more than happy to add your advice or input into my guide.
» THE STEREOTYPES
» QUICK FACTS
» IMPORTANT TERMINOLOGY
» TYPES OF FRATERNITIES/SORORITIES
» MISSION STATEMENTS
A mission statement is technically defined as, “a formal summary of the aims and values of a company, organization, or individual”. Each fraternity has a mission statement, which usually comes in multiple parts, because each group has more than one thing they hope to accomplish, which is where my annoyance of the clique thing comes in.
For example, in most Greek Life role-plays, I see this as a summary of the fraternity (aka the mission statement):
- Kappa Beta Kappa are all a bunch of nerds. They’re the kind of guys who are into DnD and video games and don’t really get out much. A lot of the other fraternities make fun of them and push them around.
- Alpha Phi is a sorority where the girls are considered “party girls”. Most of them are really beautiful. They go out to parties and sleep with a lot of guys, meaning most other sororities view them as “sluts”. They can be pretty bitchy and are generally rude to anyone who aren’t their sisters.
Boiling these organizations down to these kinds of tropes are completely unfair and, frankly, disrespectful to what Greek Life is all about. Unless you’re basing your fraternity as a professional one, everyone in the fraternity comes from all walks of life. They’re all different people with different hobbies and tastes that come together for a single purpose. It’s totally unfair to generalize the organizations in this way.
A real fraternity mission statement looks like this:
The purpose of Pi Nu Epsilon is threefold:
It’s pretty impossible to pigeonhole the kind of person who would be interested in this kind of fraternity when you don’t dictate what the general behaviors of the brothers are. By defining the fraternity in terms of what the goal of the organization is, rather than by the people involved in it, you open the fraternities up to a broader cast of characters, rather than a bunch of stereotypes. Greek Life is about diversity and opening yourself up to meeting new people.
» FRATERNITY HIERARCHY
All right, so, like any good group or well-structured organization, there’s a hierarchy of power in place within every fraternity. Allow me to disclaim, once again, that it’s possible that each hierarchy is different for every fraternity, but this is how it was in my fraternity and I feel like it provides a pretty solid, universal base that can translate to whatever kind of Greek organization you’re looking to create.
» THE COUNCIL, aka the people in charge of the fraternity.
The president is the official leader of the chapter. He should set an example for the chapter of how things should be run and how the mission statement and motto of the fraternity will be upheld through their actions. He presides over chapter meetings and ensures that things run smoothly. He divvies up the work load and makes sure everyone is on task. He also approves any and all ideas or activities the brothers are interested in following through with. He must also sign every formal report (which he must prepare twice a year in conjunction with the secretary) sent to the national council. The president should emulate everything the fraternity stands for and have clear expectations for the chapter during his term in office.
The vice-president helps the president of the chapter in any way that’s necessary and takes the place of the president if, for any reason, the president is unable to fulfill his duties on any given day. He takes on any additional duties as necessary, though his primary focus is on the associates and helping to garner more interest and prospective members for the chapter.
The secretary’s primary duty is to keep the minutes of the chapter’s weekly meeting and send out those minutes to the brothers and nationals once the meeting is over. He also regularly checks the chapter’s e-mail account and responds to any necessary e-mails. He handles all paperwork necessary to keep the fraternity running smoothly. (He also helps the president with his formal reports.) He should be dependable and organized.
The treasurer is the one who handles all of the chapter’s money. He keeps track of the bank accounts and regularly updates the other brothers about the status of their money. He also approves any and all budgets, accepts receipts to reimburse the brothers, and issues fines to brothers who have broken the rules. He needs to be reliable, good with numbers, and organized.
The historian’s job is to document all happenings and events the chapter is involved in. This includes taking photographs, creating Facebook events, and attending those events in order to take those photographs. He must be active within the fraternity.
The chapter representative is pretty much just what the title implies: He is the one who represents the chapter of Kappa Delta Phi when it comes to interacting with other chapters and the national council. He keeps in close contact with nationals and nearby chapters, acting as the “face” of the chapter. He must be charismatic, professional, and reflect all that the fraternity stands for.
The parliamentarian is, essentially, the mediator of the chapter. He makes sure that all meetings stay on topic and that any debates remain friendly. He also assists the treasurer in issuing any necessary fines. He must be calm, fair, and able to work well in tense situations.
The alumni committee is the committee that works to keep all the alumni of the fraternity updated with any new information or important events that are happening within the fraternity, such as fundraisers, founder’s day celebrations, or community service projects. The chair of this committee is also the historian.
The associating committee focuses on helping the associates through the associating process and recruiting new members for the fraternity. They focus on organizing pledge week and keeping up with all the associates. The chair of this committee is also the vice-president.
The formal/social committee focuses on setting up events with other organizations, namely other fraternities or sororities. They look for opportunities to bond and become closer with other Greek Life organizations. The chair of this committee is usually a general member.
The fundraising committee focuses on, obviously, raising money for the fraternity through various fundraising opportunities. They also advertise for these fundraisers and make sure the word gets out about them. The chair of this committee is also the treasurer.
The public relations committee focuses on advertising for the fraternity, particularly before and during rush week, along with a preparing a newsletter for the alumni and national council once a semester. The chair of this committee is usually a general member.
The service/tutorial committee focuses on setting up community service projects for the fraternity to take part on. They call organizations, set up events, and organize which brothers can volunteer on certain days. The chair of this committee is also the secretary.
The webmaster committee runs the chapter website. They keep all the information updated. The chair of this committee is usually run by a general member.
» THE PLEDGE PROCESS
- STEP ONE: Rush the fraternity.
So you’ve heard a lot about Greek Life. Some of your friends are in a fraternity, and it makes you curious. You ask around, and one of your friends tells you that the fraternity focuses on something that really resonates with you — community service, your major, a hobby like music or theatre. Whatever it is really hits home with you, and for the first time you think that maybe, just maybe, Greek Life could be for you. So how do you get started?
The first step of getting into a fraternity is rush week. Rush week, as defined above, is when the fraternity brothers plan a whole slew of events that give you a chance to get to know them and the fraternity. There’s usually one event happening Monday - Friday, ranging anywhere from meet and greets with pizza to epic scavenger hunts all over the campus. It gives you a chance to get a better feel for the fraternity, ask any questions you may have, and get to know the brothers you haven’t met yet.
- STEP TWO: Accept your bid.
Once rush week is over and the brothers have your name down on a list, it’s time for that agonizing wait. Days will pass until you finally get your bid. This is your formal invitation to get inducted into the fraternity. Bids are often delivered in different ways, but the way we did it was, we’d slide the bids under the doors of each potential member, knock, and then run away really fast. (Trust me, it was a lot of fun!) Inside envelope, the bid itself will tell you that you’ve been chosen, and it will then tell you what you need to do in order to make sure the fraternity knows you want to be initiated into the brotherhood. This is usually done by e-mailing the secretary of the chapter before a certain deadline.
PLEASE NOTE that not responding to the bid is considered extremely taboo, or at least it was in my fraternity. Not responding to a bid is so, so rude; after all, the brotherhood chose you. The least you can do is respond to the bid, regardless of if you still want to join or not. Even if you don’t want to go through the associating process, thank the fraternity for choosing you and let them know you’ve changed your mind. The only way there will be hard feelings is if you don’t respond at all.
- STEP THREE: Initiation.
After you’ve accepted your bid, the fraternity will set up a date that works with everyone’s schedules for the initiation. At this ceremony, the pledges are formally initiated into the fraternity as associates, where they will begin to undergo the official process to becoming brothers. It is also at this ceremony that associates learn who their Bigs are.
- STEP FOUR: Associating.
Associating was defined above for you, but as a quick refresher, it’s basically what all the associates go through in order to make sure they’re prepared to be inducted as brothers. It’s usually a semester-long process (though I’ve heard some fraternities or sororities take an entire school year). Again, I don’t know what other fraternities or sororities require during this process, but this is what my fraternity required:
- We had to memorize the Greek alphabet and take a written test on it.
- We were given binders with worksheets in them. (That sounds juvenile, but that’s basically what they were.) The worksheets were missing vital information about the fraternity’s history. The VP would meet with us once a week every week and give us the information we needed for the worksheets and teach us about the fraternity.
- Also in our binders were blank interview sheets. We had to interview all of our brothers in order to get to know them better.
- We were eventually tested on all of that information from the binder in a final exam, including a second Greek alphabet test.
- Additionally, we had to get together and paint paddles for our bigs.
- We had to help out with any and all events our fraternity was helping out with while we were associating.
- We had to wear a pin given to us during initiation every week day during our associating process.
- And now, for a true hazing story: My associating class was relatively large, at least for my fraternity, with ten people. We took our final exam together. We were all relatively nervous because, let’s be real, none of us studied at all. A couple of days later, on the day of our spaghetti dinner, the president of the fraternity cornered us all in the library and told us that national council was pissed with us because we’d all done so terribly on our tests. It was the lowest scores Pi Nu had ever seen, they said, and now nationals wanted to come to our university to berate us personally. Needless to say, we were all crapping our pants with fear. However, as the days wore on after the spaghetti dinner, we began to realize that the brothers were just screwing with us. First of all, we kept getting mixed signals from some of them; one minute, they’d be chewing us out, but the next, they’d be offering to buy us Starbucks, like they forgot or something. Then, another brother pulled a bunch of the more anxious ones of us (including myself) aside and told us that we were being messed with, that this was a tradition. So we got cocky, blew off studying for our re-test, and kept calling out the brothers’ bluffs. Eventually, on the day of our “re-test”, everyone knew the cover had been blown and that were really getting inducted into the brotherhood, which leads me to…
- STEP FIVE: Induction.
You did it! A whole semester’s worth of work and effort finally paid off, and you’re finally being inducted into the brotherhood. Induction is a formal event that takes place in a secluded place on campus. Everyone dresses up for it, and once the formal ceremony is over, everyone hangs out and eats whatever food has been provided while the Littles give their Bigs their paddles and the Bigs give the new brothers gifts (which usually include a pair of “family letters” or T-shirts with matching letter designs).
» SOME MYTHS YOU STILL MIGHT BE QUESTIONING
- "These ‘events’ you keep referring to are probably giant keggers. You just don’t want to admit it."
Nope. I think in all my time in my fraternity, I went to one legitimate party where there was alcohol, and it was my going away party because I was transferring schools, and I told my brothers I wanted to drink. The events I keep talking about are the things your fraternities could get involved in. For example, Pi Nu is a music fraternity, and we’d always get roped into helping out all the music events on campus, so if there was a choir concert or a band showcase or a recital or theater production on campus, we’d go there and help usher by handing out programs and stuff. These events could apply to anything, no matter what your fraternity is geared toward; if it’s a business fraternity, it could be a job fair, or if it’s a community service sorority, it could be a trip to the soup kitchen.
As for “events” with other Greek Life organizations, the biggest one our fraternity talked about was a music showcase with the marching band fraternity on campus. I cannot stress enough that Greek Life isn’t about partying.
- "Hazing exists! You said so yourself!"
Yeah. It does. But it was just the brothers screwing with us. No one was hurt, and we were all eventually inducted. What’s the harm?
- "I heard you’re not allowed to sleep in your letters!"
This is actually one-hundred percent true. We, as brothers, are forbidden from doing a lot of things in our letters, but the best way to remember it is by remembering the five S’s: Never wear your letters while Sleeping, Sweating (working out), Swimming (aka showering), Sexy (aka having sex), or Sloppy (drinking).
- "I heard that if you’re in a sorority with someone, you can’t date their sibling!"
That could very well be true. I don’t know. I was never in a sorority, and like I said, everything varies from group to group. Some groups are a lot crazier than others, though it’s rarer than the media leads you to believe.
- "Isn’t giving away your letters bad juju?"
That’s the rumor, but it was never really an issue in my fraternity. I’ve heard arguments for both sides, that giving away letters is more than fine, or that giving away letters is completely against the rules. I guess this also varies from group to group.
- "What’s a Chapter Sweetheart?"
I don’t know! We never had one, and I know there are a lot of fraternities and sororities who had never had one, but from my understanding, they’re basically girls who aren’t in the fraternity, but hang around the house a lot anyway because they’re dating one of the brothers. (It usually applies for very committed relationships.)
Well, this guide got insanely long, so I’m going to end it there. If you guys have anymore questions, please don’t hesitate to ask me! If you have something to add, let me know, and I’ll try to fit it into the guide. Please like or reblog this post if you found it helpful in any way. Thanks for reading!