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Articles / Campus Life / Thinking about Fraternities or Sororities?

May 8, 2018

Thinking about Fraternities or Sororities?

Here's some late-breaking news you may have missed:

Florida State suspends fraternities, sororities in wake of pledge's death.


Here's what happened, in part, according to the Washington Post:

All fraternities and sororities at Florida State University have been suspended indefinitely, the school's president announced Monday.

The interim suspension was effective immediately, according to a news release on the school's website. The decision comes after the death of a pledge and, separately, the drug-related criminal charge of a fraternity member.

“For this suspension to end, there will need to be a new normal for Greek life at the university," Florida State University president John Thrasher said in the release. “There must be a new culture, and our students must be full participants in creating it."

The release notes that the decision came just days the death of Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge. The Tallahassee Democrat has reported that Coffey died Friday after an off-campus party.

The news release from the school in Tallahassee, Fla., also cited the arrest of Garrett John Marcy, a 20-year-old member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. Marcy has been charged with the sale and trafficking of cocaine, according to the release. He was arrested Monday, and his case is unrelated to Coffey's death. ...

... Coffey's death comes not long after the death of Maxwell Gruver, a Louisiana State University freshman. The 18-year-old died in September after a gathering at a school fraternity. And in February, a Penn State University fraternity pledge, Timothy Piazza, died after a party for students who had accepted bids to join the chapter. ...

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The comments following the article are revealing. Here are three:

- "Prediction: By sometime next semester at the latest, the suspension will be lifted and the "students" will be back to binge drinking and plotting how to brutalize next year's incoming pledges. As with gun murders, America is not capable of changing or of solving its myriad problems, especially those associated with violence -- always a cherished part of American life."

- "I had no use for the greek societies when I was in school, and I am terribly glad that all of my kids have been equally uninterested in having anything to do with them. I would have seen a desire to pledge as a sign that there was a problem I needed to worry about. If students are socially confident and don't think "partying" is how to have fun, they aren't going to join the greeks. It's a system for indoctrinating kids to conform to destructive ideas about society and what matters in life."

- "While these events are very tragic, I don't understand why the sororities are suspended. Sororities and Fraternities are not even governed by the same governing bodies or the same rules. Why punish the women for the bad behavior of some of the men?"

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The death of pledges has justifiably cast an ominous shadow across the Greek landscape. If you are a parent reading this, you may have already faced the reality of one or more of your children pledging a fraternity or sorority. That's a significant choice for a young person, one that can bring stress and concern for parents.

Greek life hasn't changed all that much since I went to college. I remember one event, a "Back to The Womb" party, held at the fraternity house next to my dorm. Arriving guests had to crawl through a long, pink tube (made from a huge leftover air-handling hose). You can imagine how much fun that was.

For the information of any of you college frosh reading this, please know that I wasn't a frat boy. I was a so-called "GDI" "Gosh Darn" [edited for terminology content] Independent. However, I was constantly getting an eye and ear full of amazing (and, yes, sometimes disgusting) goings on across the way.

When I think about fraternity life (and, I guess, to some extent, sorority life), I often recall Master at Arms Doug Neidermeyer's opening statement at the Delta House disciplinary hearing in the movie Animal House. He said, regarding a recent Delta party: "And most recently of all, a "Roman Toga Party" was held from which we have received more than two dozen reports of individual acts of perversion SO profound and disgusting that decorum prohibits listing them here. " That must have been some party!

Anyway, the point of my post here is to present some food for thought. When you finally arrive on campus, should you consider joining a fraternity or sorority to enhance your social life?

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Petersons.com has an excellent article about making that decision. I'd like to share some highlights from that to perhaps help you with your college social life decision down the road.

Should Your College Life Include Greek Life?

By Howard and Matthew Greene

Many students are predisposed either for or against not only joining a Greek organization, but even attending a college at which Greeks have a presence. Many stereotypes and mythologies abound, most having to do with the "Animal House" image of frats or the "Southern Belle" reputation of sororities.

Some of you might be sure that you want to join a house in order to find social bonding, parties, post-college networking opportunities, and a nice campus housing option. Others might be certain that Greeks are all bad and don't want to go near a campus that sponsors them ...

Stereotypes about Greek life

First of all, most stereotypes are only partially true. Yes, Greek houses (and fraternities in particular) are often a place for big-time partying on campuses that have at least moderately sized systems. That's where a lot of the drinking takes place, where bands play, and where pre- and post-game parties happen.

However, most Greek organizations also contribute to college life in other ways ...

Greek influence on college life

There are a few factors that determine the relevance and influence of Greeks on any campus. One is the overall percentage of students that join. Twenty to thirty percent of the student body represents a moderate level of Greek involvement. Fifty percent is a much more dominant and significant proportion.

Another issue is the size of the college's student body overall. In a small college of 2,000 students, a 40-percent Greek population makes for a very strong impact on student life and campus culture. There will likely be very few other social outlets on campus beyond Greek life. At a university of 20,000 students, 40-percent Greek participation still leaves 12,000 individuals who are not affiliated with a fraternity or sorority ...

Greek life and rush

The timing of fraternity and sorority rush (when students campaign to join a house) can strongly affect the influence of the system on residential and social life. We are still amazed by the many colleges and universities that allow rush during freshman fall, or even before classes start.

Greek houses are exclusive by nature, even though some colleges have houses that maintain open enrollment or guarantee that all students who rush will be offered at least one bid ...

Campus housing and Greek life

For those of you leaning toward joining, you should note that some colleges have only non-residential Greek organizations. Either the college banned residential houses, or the houses developed at a later stage and did not play a strong role historically in providing campus housing. In any case, non-residential houses tend to have less of a social impact on student life because members continue to live in college housing, especially during their first two years of college ...

You make the decision about your college life

Ultimately, only you can decide if a fraternity or sorority is right for you. The best opinion, however, is an informed opinion. Before you begin to lean in one direction or the other, look into what the Greek system is like at the schools you are considering. From there, you can figure out if you want to rush . . .

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This should be enough quality information to get you started thinking about how to manage your campus social life, once you get to college or during the coming weeks or months on campus, as you make your decision. I know that I have used the movie Animal House in the past here for college "fun" comparisons. If you think the goings on at Delta House are extreme, you may care to think again. Just do an Web search for college fraternity stunts and check out some of the hits you get. They range from parking a Volkswagen on top of the big MIT "dome" building to, well, returning to the womb.

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Be sure to check out all my articles at College Confidential.

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Greek Life

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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