Greek Life (from the parent's perspective)





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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Greek Life (from the parent's perspective)
By Kjofkw (Kjofkw) on Thursday, September 16, 2004 - 09:41 pm: Edit

My son is seriously considering joining a frat. This has come totally out of left field! He was originally very anti-Greek. I was also a GDI in college. (# # independent).

Things have been a little tough for him starting out at college – primarily socially, but also in other areas as well. He has also had a more difficult time than expected getting involved, and his spirits have not been particularly soaring. Then come the “brothers”. I can’t help but think they are swooping in to fill a void. He tells me they are a good bunch of guys…no hazing…etc. He did not rush other groups. They just happened to be located near his dorm, and he started hanging out with them.

In my stereotypical image, Greek life equates to “buying” friendships. Membership is expensive. They demand a lot of time for primarily social functions. I’m not thinking “Animal House”. I basically question the purpose of such groups in general. But I will readily admit I have a narrow and biased view with no personal experience. To my son’s credit, he is more open minded than I!

But I can’t get the “swooping” image out of my mind!

If he were to tell me he were interested after a year at school, I would be less hesitant. I know some schools do not allow rushing until spring for this very reason. I just think it is too soon, and he has not had enough time to seek out other opportunities.

I questioned his motives (explaining my above preconceptions), but told him it was ultimately his decision of course.

I wanted input from your experiences (either “waaay” back when you were in college or from your sons and daughters). How do you feel about fall pledging? What advantages does Greek life have? Any words of wisdom I can share with my son?

By Dstark (Dstark) on Thursday, September 16, 2004 - 09:59 pm: Edit

One third of top businessmen and politicians were Greek.
My daughter was totally against joining a sorority a year ago. Now as a freshman, she wants to join.
I was never a member of a frat, and never wanted to be one.
I say if the kids want to join, they should join.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, September 16, 2004 - 10:33 pm: Edit

>> I say if the kids want to join, they should join.

That would be my approach as well. Although my relationship with my daughter is such that she would probably expect, and I would deliver, a little good natured ribbing.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Thursday, September 16, 2004 - 10:42 pm: Edit

"Any words of wisdom I can share with my son?"

Mine heard frat horror stories from earliest childhood and one still joined up.. they aren't necessarily ALL bad but imho (male relatives up, down, and sideways all frat members) young males, a herd mentality & alcohol equals very bad judgement. Hazing is real, dangerous and potentially life threatening. Disrespect and mistreatment of young women is almost a given among many groups. Not all groups but MANY groups.

"He tells me they are a good bunch of guys…no hazing…etc. "

Mine says the same thing; I think my son is a young man of excellent character but I am extremely skeptical as to what the reality of the situation will turn out to be. I am counting on him showing the good judgement I have come to expect and rely on from him. On the plus side it does give the student an instant social group, of course it is a private exclusionary social group and regardless how innocuous the local chpt may be, it is still supporting the national group. Fall pledging will take up a WHOLE lot of your son's time but if he wants this spring may not necessarily be an option. Different campuses have different rules about pledging times.

By Dadx (Dadx) on Thursday, September 16, 2004 - 10:42 pm: Edit

I didn't join the rough equivalent of those organizations when I was in school, for some financial and other fairly good reasons at the time. However, if I had it to do over again, I think I would do it, instead of being an independent. I didn't mind being an independent, but it seems to me in hindsight that perhaps something was missing that would have been worthwhile. Not a big regret, but a small one.

OTOH, could be the grass is greener in hindsight syndrome.

I never understood hazing, and the place I was didn't have it. Concocting an excuse to demean, whip up on, or otherwise torture people who aren't capable of responding never appealed to me. Of course, it could give you some keen insights into personality types that could be useful to you later, I suppose. Perhaps it functions as a naievitee eradicator.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Thursday, September 16, 2004 - 11:19 pm: Edit

I would let your son make his decisions and support him. Maybe you can add some conditions like keeping grades up.

By Fireflyscout (Fireflyscout) on Thursday, September 16, 2004 - 11:25 pm: Edit

I'm a sorority member, just got back from my annual reunion (been doing it for 24 years now) with my pledge sisters. That said, there are a lot of pros and cons to joining a fraternity. It can ease people into a social scene; there can be an institutional predisposition to hazing. However, several fraternities are adopting stricter guidelines on behavior (due in large part to insurance coverage and risk management). Many fraternity chapters are alcohol-free. Some have programs to develop leadership. I would advise that your son (and you, too) investigate the chapters on your campus. Check the local chapter websites; check the websites of the national organizations.

By Originaloog (Originaloog) on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 01:23 am: Edit

My son too is participating in fraternity rush, to the surprise of my wife and I. He has always been very sociable but was not the least bit interested in Greek life when I asked about it.

I was in a fraternity and it added another dimension to my college experience. I suggested that he take in a few bbq's if for no other reason than to get a break from the dining hall.

Well he seems to have hit it off with the brothers of one fraternity and is having a blast. He went mini-golfing, got a bit queezy on a few too many atomic wings, took in NFL football on their 50" plasma TV, had a few good bbq's, participated in Casino Nite, when to the football home opener with a few brothers, and revelled in the "Roof Toss"(not students but tv's, monitors, melons, etc.). He is eagerly awaiting Bid Nite next week. He assured us that all activities have been alcohol free ad that he is keeping up with his school work.

Regarding hazing, I think that is a shadow of what it used to be, which is a very good thing. However,looking back, I think that it played a role in the tradition of the chapter and as rite of passage into Greek life.

I have told him that he needs to give some serious thought before he decides to pledge a fraternity. It is a signifiant time, social and emotional committment that one pledges to fulfill.

By Momsdream (Momsdream) on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 09:36 am: Edit

My son has stated that he intends to pledge (he's a senior is HS now). For him, it's a more of a family tradition than a social need/desire. I worry about the hazing because I know it exists. But, my son is African American, so I think the hazing might be a little more severe.....I'm not certain. I've seen young men come home after fall pledge and they've lost 20 lbs just from the exhaustion of it. Many of them never told their parents they were doing it, unless they were legacy. So, the hazing is a serious concern for me.

I'm also concerned about the limitations it might place on his social life. Although my son is African American, and has many African American friends, he has always been closer to his white friends. I've been very pleased with the cultural/racial balance he's achieved across his groups of friends. I never know if the sounds blasting form his car will be heavy metal or hip hop. So, I wonder if his "brothers" will be tolerant about him wanting to spend a significant amount of time with his "other" friends. But, that's for him to work out...as he always has.

I say to let your son go for it. I don't think the fact that it's early in the year will make a difference in his feelings about it later on. I think it's great that the members learn to work as a team and understand a commitment to an organization and each other. And for some, an organizied/defined social life might be comforting.

By Alwaysamom (Alwaysamom) on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 09:42 am: Edit

I think it's a personal decision, one of many that students have to make, although I agree that it's one that's better made in the spring and not when the student is new to campus.

"One third of top businessmen and politicians were Greek."
Dstark, I've heard that figure so many times and I'm not sure why that should influence ANYone. After all, TWO thirds of top businessmen and politicians weren't! (if that figure is, in fact, accurate) :)

By Jnm123 (Jnm123) on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 10:10 am: Edit

When I attended Iowa 29 years ago, I had not intended on going Greek, and hadn't gone through freshman Rush. But when my dorm roommate, a high school pal, and I weren't getting along and I befriended a couple fraternity guys in my freshman English class, one thing led to another and I ended up moving into the house at winter break.

In spite of the hazing upon our pledge class (our class toned it down almost to nothing over the next 3 years) and unfettered alcohol consumption, it was undoubtedly the best part of my college life. Certainly there are strong bonds of friendship within the dorms, but at least for me, the fraternity life was what I needed at that time.

My wife, who I met in Iowa City and later married, had no use for Greek life but tolerated it. Now my daughter, who will be a freshman next fall, possibly at a university with a Greek presence, says she wants to pledge to a sorority. I have no problem with it as long as it's not discriminatory by race or creed and that the house GPA is high. Wife is not thrilled with the prospect, obviously. But just like the college selection process, it will be D's choice.

Just my perspective...

By Lizschup (Lizschup) on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 11:24 am: Edit

I was in a sorority 30 years ago and it was absolutely the best thing I ever did. I was a shy reserved kid so it gave me an immediate group of women to bond with. I never saw it as an exclusive group of people that would not approve if I hung out with other people. I think in general, fraternities and sororities have become much more inclusive over the past 20 years. They have to because this generation of kids is much more independent and less compliant so they have to adjust. I do think there is still a danger of hazing but it is something the national chapters are very aware of and truly try to discourage. It probably depends on the particular campus. I never experienced hazing nor heard talk of it from my fraternity friends. I dated several fraternity guys and was part of a fraternity little sisters group (Sigma Chi) and they were nothing like the stereotypical frat boys. And recently I heard of this very same fraternity (on a different campus) losing it's charter for violating some rule-don't remember the details, so it really depends on the particular campus.There were some fraternities that fit that "frat boy" stereotype but if your son feels like they are a "nice bunch of guys" then they probably are. I was always treated with the utmost respect in all the fraternities I went to, even when drinking.

I do think it's better to wait till spring or sophomore year but it's tempting to join when you've found a group of kids you connect with. I think your perception that it is "like buying friendship" is truly a misperception. While fraternities do have a quota to fill they are also usually looking for kids they think will add to their fraternity in some way-leadership, good academics, or just an all around fun person. They really do look for people they think will fit into their house. Kind of like the elite college admissions. And pledging if I recall correctly is a one year commitment. You don't actually join till later so he could change his mind. It is expensive-in addition to dues, there are parties and formals and pictures and assorted activities. There is usually a required GPA that they have to maintain but there are also required meetings and usually volunteer service projects that you are required to take part in. It's very busy but can be very fun. And it truly does not mean you will lose a sense of independence. If anything, for me the friendships and leadership opportunities allowed me to develop a great sense of independence. It gave me a home away from home.

By Lizschup (Lizschup) on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 11:30 am: Edit

Jnm123, We were in Iowa at the same time- I was at Iowa State.

By Momstheword (Momstheword) on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 11:58 am: Edit

My S just graduated from a top 10 school and was in a fraternity. I was skeptical at first when he mentioned joining one. I've always had extremely high expectations for his conduct, am squeamish about college drinking, and was worried that too much socializing would cut into his studies. As it turned out, it was a great experience for him and I was pleased with the outcome. He was in a good group of guys and he had lots of leadership opportunities. He went to several leadership retreats over the years, dealt with university and community higher-ups for event planning, etc., and as president dealt with management issues in the house and learned a lot about organizational behavior. He met some good friends, all of whom I'd have hand-picked for him myself. He made deans list often over the course of the years. I know the Greek culture is different at different schools so I wouldn't make sweeping generalizations, but in S's case, I felt joining was a good thing. S had a full range of experiences at college that he can take with him into the world, and the frat was part of that.

By Jnm123 (Jnm123) on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 01:34 pm: Edit

Liz---

A 'Clone? I feel your pain...:)

Actually, UIowa is one of the schools in D's sights (Duke, Saint Louis U., Illinois, UMiami & BU are the others) and she could do far worse than being in the state of Iowa for her college career. I probably had more fun than I should have, but coming from Chicago it was a totally different experience. The fraternity (Phi Delt)was just part of it.

By Lizschup (Lizschup) on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 02:52 pm: Edit

Jnm123,
What is your daughter interested in studying in college?

By Jnm123 (Jnm123) on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 03:04 pm: Edit

Liz---

My daughter has decided on physical therapy, preferably in a freshman direct-entry DPT program, which is when the student is admitted 1st year and, as long as the grades are maintained, he/she graduates in 6 to 7 years with a clinical doctorate. No need to apply to grad school after 4 years as an undergraduate. SLU, BU and UMiami all have this type of program. It is pretty rigorous, however, which is why the option of a general undergrad education is available at those schools as well as the others she's investigating.

She's also thinking about nutrition/dietetics as a minor. However, she is only 17, which means absolutely nothing is etched in stone.

By Nitebirdmom (Nitebirdmom) on Saturday, September 18, 2004 - 03:05 am: Edit

My son just graduated from Union College (NY) and was in a fraternity. Since he was adamantly against them when he went to college, and went to Union in spite of the fact that it is known as a big Greek school (getting smaller by the minute, as the administration is hell-bent on limiting frats), we were more than a bit surprised that he decided to join one. It turned out to be a wonderful, positive experience for him. I've met most of his friends, and they are intelligent young men of whom any parent would be proud (I've had many of them sleep over my house several times). BTW, my son graduated Magna Cum Laude and is going into the Peace Corps in the spring, and plans to go to graduate school in international relations after that.

Frats are variable and there are good ones and bad ones, so if your son says this is a good one and you trust his judgement, give it a chance. I will say that Union doesn't allow rush until sophomore year so he did have the opportunity to make other friends, but he became friendly with the fraternity brothers as a freshman. Fraternities are not all the "animal house" stereotype we fear (although it seems that all fraternity rooms seem to have an "animal house" poster...)

By Kissy (Kissy) on Saturday, September 18, 2004 - 10:35 am: Edit

My H and his frat brothers still have an annual golf outing every year and remain close friends. They're scattered all over the country now but they keep in close touch and visit one another as time and schedules allow. If anyone is ever in need of help or support, the others are on a plane in a NY minute. Truly strong ties that bind.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Saturday, September 18, 2004 - 11:02 am: Edit

Went to a friend's daughter's wedding. Friend is in his early 60s. Friend's frat brothers -- a very interesting mix of careers, so interesting a mix I don't want to name them here -- were all at one table. Quite a moment when they toasted the bride.

My s is in a frat. Hazing is prohibited, though pledges do run a lot of errands for the older "brothers." Overall I consider his membership a positive. His frat brothers are a wonderful group of young men. However, at his school frats are nonresidential, which means they are not drinking 24/7, which does happen, I am told, at some other schools.

By Cheers (Cheers) on Saturday, September 18, 2004 - 07:07 pm: Edit

My H was in a wild and crazy fraternity where he earned the nickname: 'Wildman'. A smarter, nicer, gentler, more egalitarian man you could not meet in your whole life. So, trust your son's instincts and forget the stereotypes!

By Bookiemom (Bookiemom) on Sunday, September 19, 2004 - 01:35 am: Edit

I would be very worried about alcohol if I had a son who wanted to join a fraternity. Of course, this is a concern for every parent.

Two college students in Colorado have been found dead in fraternities in the last two weeks, a male freshman at the University of Colorado in Boulder and a female sophomore at Colorado State in Ft. Collins. CU has suspended all social activities within its Greek system. These may be isolated tragedies, but more controls appear to be needed over some fraternities.

http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36~53~2410315,00.html

By Aim78 (Aim78) on Sunday, September 19, 2004 - 03:10 am: Edit

I can't wait to get whipped sore on my hands and knees with an apple tied to my mouth. It will be grand.

By Jnm123 (Jnm123) on Sunday, September 19, 2004 - 09:38 am: Edit

Must take exception to that comment. It's typical for someone who hasn't experienced the bonds of friendship & teamwork that fraternity/sorority life brings. And besides, it wasn't an apple, it was an onion...:)

Looking back, I think more than anything else, when I made the decision to pledge my fraternity, initially it was because of the basic setup of the living quarters. Dorm life was OK & I had quite a few friends, but in spite of the planned social & athletic activities, there didn't seem to be any 'connection'. Those antiseptic hallways in the dorms didn't exactly lend to much interaction. Maybe I was just on a bad floor (or in a bad dorm) but when I moved into the fraternity house, it was a HOUSE! Open doors, a cozy TV room, fireplaces (and we didn't have by any means the nicest house on campus). Totally different dynamic than the dorms, though, and it just seemed to fit in with the 'college experience'.

I've visited a few dorms recently on campus tours with D, and I'll tell you, some of these 'sardine cans' bring back bad, claustrophobic memories from almost 30 years ago.

By Anonymom7 (Anonymom7) on Sunday, September 19, 2004 - 10:59 am: Edit

D did not pledge freshman year, but did pledge second semester of sophomore year. Really wanted to have more contact with women, campus is 65% male. I was a bit reluctant but it turned out to be a great choice for her. She spent Friday evening serving food/drinks for a silent auction for the Little Sisters of the Poor as she needed to get in her sorority service hours. Is getting more involved with other volunteer oppurtunities
too!

S is a freshman and had a hard time deciding but also decided to pledge, no hazing in his fraternity. In fact I was surprised on the frat web site they had links for parents to contact current parents of brothers to make contact about frat life.

Neighbor son attend Vandy, heavy greek life, her son had several summer job offers once employees found out he was member of their fraternity.

D & S are elgible for scholarships now by being members of the greek life too! Trust your son, he lives on campus and understands more than us parents who live afar.. good luck

By Farawayplaces (Farawayplaces) on Sunday, September 19, 2004 - 01:22 pm: Edit

Another vote for trusting your son's instincts. We were surprised when our son, now a soph, expressed interest in a frat. I hated frats when I went to college--party, party, party.

But he's at a more serious college. I am still not fond of the "exclusive" frat atmosphere, but I admit it has been good for my socially challenged son. It's forced him to learn some people skills.

I have learned to trust my kid's judgment.

On my son's campus, after a freshman student died in a frat, things changed. Now, a frat will be suspended if alcohol is served during rush. One frat was shut down last year, and this year there were no violations. I don't understand why the Colorado schools can't crack down on all the drinking.

By Idiias (Idiias) on Sunday, September 19, 2004 - 02:56 pm: Edit

Hey, John F. Kennedy, George HW Bush, George W Bush, Dan Quayle, Ted Roosevelt, Brad Pitt, Ronald Regan, Robert Frost, and Donald Trump were all in frats.

You make them sound so bad.

By Mini (Mini) on Sunday, September 19, 2004 - 03:26 pm: Edit

And almost all of the schools attended by the above abolished or put very heavy restrictions on their frats after these folks attended them.

I think if you go to a school which is heavy in frats, you should probably join them. The school has made a decision that this is the way campus life is to be organized where they are, and you've made a decision to go to the school, of which frats are a big part. Personally, I think frats are a bad idea generally speaking, and there are plenty of campuses that do just fine or better without them. (Statistically, binge drinking is associated with frats, but I don't think that is their biggest problem.) But if you decide to go to a frat school, cutting yourself off from this part of the school's social fabric would seem strange to me.

By Mini (Mini) on Sunday, September 19, 2004 - 08:24 pm: Edit

'"On my son's campus, after a freshman student died in a frat, things changed. Now, a frat will be suspended if alcohol is served during rush. One frat was shut down last year, and this year there were no violations. I don't understand why the Colorado schools can't crack down on all the drinking."

So this means students can aid and abet in the committing of a felony if the student is already a member of the frat, but not while he is trying to become a member. Did I get that right?

By Thumper1 (Thumper1) on Sunday, September 19, 2004 - 08:53 pm: Edit

I hope some of the hurtful things that the Greek system did back in the "dark ages" (when I was in college) have been changed. As a freshman, I went through rush and received second invites to two sororities....even though I had NO interest in joining whatsoever (better than 90% of the students at this very small school went Greek). My roommate on the other hand REALLY wanted to be in a sorority. She thought she had a good chance in at least one of the houses. She didn't even receive a second invite, never mind a bid. She was heartbroken. I went to the Dean of Women Students and asked if it was possible to give my roommate MY invites...of course the answer was "no". I just felt so badly for my roommate. I dropped the invites onto the dean's desk, and filled out my transfer applications the following week. Having said all that....the decision I made was MINE....and I would urge you to allow your college student to make their own decision. And like I said...maybe times have changed.

By Baltodad (Baltodad) on Monday, September 20, 2004 - 01:00 pm: Edit

My freshman son decided not to do rush, and I'm pleased at his decision. Back when I was in college (early 70s), it was as though the Greek kids were from a different planet ... or at least a completely different era... than the rest of us (a substantial majority of the student body) who weren't in frats and sororities. Seemed as though the Greeks completely missed the extraordinary political and social movement that marked that era.

The whole hazing thing puzzled me then and puzzles me still... the S&M implications are just a bit too creepy. I've heard from the administration at my son's school that the abuses don't happen any more, which I hope is true.

By Fredo (Fredo) on Monday, September 20, 2004 - 01:16 pm: Edit

I went back and read your original post. Once I did that it seems like a frat might be just the thing to help your son get more comfortable. He's struggling some - primarily socially - and a frat would provide a great support system for someone like that. Frats and sororities nowadays are very concerned with GPA's and so there is a definite emphasis on academics, sometimes complete with assistance to help a member with poor grades. Community service is another area they've upped their committment to - and yes, some of it may be just lip service, but it's definitely a component.

If this is a campus where the Greek presence is big, joining a frat just helps him fit in more. On those type campuses, it can be okay to remain independent but it definitely takes more initiative to find your place and seek out those other opportunities.

He sounds like he's weighing the decision well and the worst thing that might happen is that he tries and decides not to initiate at the end of the pledge period. It's not an absolute decision. In the meantime, it sounds like it gives him a sense of belonging and comfort.

By 3togo (3togo) on Monday, September 20, 2004 - 04:29 pm: Edit

The greek life never appealed to me and started school dead set against joining a frat. However looking at the frats with open eyes helped my understand the draw for other people. I went to a school with 40-50 frats and they were all unique. There were
* "classic" frats full of preppies who basically hung with their brothers
* jock frats
* music frats
* party frats (booze)
* party frats (drugs)
* anti-frat frats (basically a shared house)
* etc

There was a frat for everyone if you gave them a chance ...

By Sgiovinc (Sgiovinc) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 03:35 pm: Edit

My son joined a frat at UPENN, became the President and it took him six years to graduate college! He spent so much time on the plight of his frat brothers and the fact the university was going to condemn the house because of its lack of structural integrity, he couldn't manage his classes. Now that every one has graduated and he still lives in west philly, he doesn't have a good job and nowhere are his frat brothers or the alumni to give him any job leads. If I was to recommend a frat to someone else's child, i would have to offer a resounding "NOOOOO!"


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