Parent's Guide to Fraternities and Sororities

Fraternities and Sororities at a Glance:

  1. Brief History – Fraternities and sororities enjoy a long legacy, with over 200 years of growth and success. The first American College Fraternity, Phi Beta Kappa, was formed in 1776 at the College of William and Mary. This fraternity provided the young men with opportunities to discuss political, academic, and social interests outside of the classroom. A great deal of importance was placed on fellowship of the members, the rights of assembly and free speech, and independent decision making. Phi Beta Kappa maintained The Code of Silence which included: secret oaths, badges, laws, seals, grips/handshakes, an initiation ceremony, and mottos in Greek and Latin. This secrecy has become an essential characteristic of current fraternal traditions. Further, it is believed that several of the founders of the United States – including Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States – were original members.

    The first women's fraternity/sorority was founded at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. The Adelphean Society was established in 1851 and later changed it name to Alpha Delta Pi. The first women's secret fraternity/sorority was established at Monmouth College in Illinois, 1867. It later took the name Pi Beta Phi, after the initials of its secret motto. Some of the earliest sororities are called fraternities because at the time of their founding, the word sorority did not yet exist.

    The oldest National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) predominantly black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, was founded at Cornell University in 1906. The first NPHC sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, was established at Howard University in 1908.

    Today, all fraternities and sororities serve primarily as social or service clubs. Ritual secrecy is maintained by tradition, rather than for preservation of political or academic rights. The mission of each individual chapter may vary slightly, but the overarching purpose of the fraternal system promotes the same ideals.

    General Purpose – While there are many benefits to fraternities and sororities, also referred to as “Greek Life,” for both the individual student and the campus community alike, the four main areas of focus for these organizations are: Scholarship, Leadership, Service and Sisterhood/Brotherhood. While your son or daughter is a student at Barry University, their involvement in a fraternity or sorority can positively affect them in each of the above areas. Upon graduation, they will be prepared to take on the challenges of their professional and personal life as a well-rounded, balanced individual. Research has proven time and time again that members of fraternities and sororities are 28% more likely to stay in college, more likely than non-members to graduate from college, and more likely to enjoy their college experience on the whole.

Benefits of Membership:

  1. Scholarship – Academic support and the pursuit of knowledge is a top priority for fraternities and sororities. These organizations were founded on the ideals of intellectual discourse among members as a means of stimulating their minds outside the structured walls of the classroom. Today, the fraternities and sororities at Barry University and on hundreds of campuses across the country, utilize these same ideals as they provide academic support for their members through study/quiet hours, study skills workshops, tutoring groups, and other campus-wide resources. This foundation of a scholastic support network built into fraternities and sororities clearly affects their members as research has shown that fraternity and sorority members usually have higher grade point averages (GPA) as compared to the larger campus community.
  2. Leadership – fraternities and sororities offer every member many opportunities to develop their individual leadership style and skills. Whether at the top tier of the governing body of the organization, to a committee leader, to an involved member with no official title, each member contributes to the attainment of goals, and the overall success of the organization. Fraternities and sororities are essentially self-governing organizations, and self-sustaining communities, therefore affording each and every member the opportunity to see their leadership in action. Due to the excellent leadership skills that are developed during the student's college membership, professional leaders report that they are more likely to hire someone with membership in a fraternity or sorority, and members are more likely to have a higher average income upon graduation from college.
  3. Service – Community service is a wide-spread, long-lasting tradition at Barry University. Therefore, this ideal, which is so important to fraternities and sororities, fits perfectly with the cultural climate of our campus. A benefit to participating in service events through fraternities and sororities includes the sense of community developed through service with the same people time and time again. Engaging in community service with other members of a chapter will eventually be like participating in service events with a family; a fun way to spend time with the people who support you through everything, while giving back to your campus and the surrounding community.
  4. Brotherhood and Sisterhood – Each member of the fraternity or sorority in which your son or daughter chooses membership can count on their peers for support in each of the above areas. More than that however, is the sense of friendship, and even family, which comes with sharing such important developmental changes with the other members. These friendships often last far beyond graduation from Barry, making the decision to join a fraternity or sorority one that could benefit your son or daughter throughout their lifetime. Alumni directories and social events are often available in many areas of the country. The national headquarters for each fraternity and sorority often possess intricate networking abilities to help your student find internships while at Barry, and professional positions after graduation. Ultimately, the lifelong friendships that will support your son or daughter through the many phases of his or her life both during and after college are important, and worth while.

Statement of Fraternal Values and Ethics (men's fraternities) & The Panhellenic Creed (women's sororities)

See table below:

A Statement of Fraternal Values and EthicsThe Panhellenic Creed

Basic Expectations of a Fraternity Member

I. I will know and understand the ideals expressed in my fraternity Ritual and will strive to incorporate them in my daily life.

II. I will strive for academic achievement and practice academic integrity.

III. I will respect the dignity of all persons; therefore, I will not physically, mentally, psychologically, or sexually abuse or haze any human being.

IV. I will protect the health and safety of all human beings.

V. I will respect my property and the property of others; therefore, I will neither abuse nor tolerate the abuse of property.

VI. I will meet my financial obligations in a timely manner.

VII. I will neither use nor support the use of illegal drugs or alcohol.

VIII. I acknowledge that a clean and attractive environment is essential to both physical and mental health; therefore, I will do all in my power to see that the chapter property is properly cleaned and maintained.

IX. I will challenge all my fraternity members to abide by these fraternal expectations and will confront those who violate them.

We, the undergraduate members of women's fraternities, stand for good scholarship, for guarding of good health, for maintenance of fine standards and for serving, to the best of our ability, our college community. Cooperation for furthering fraternity life, in harmony with its best possibilities, is the ideal that shall guide our fraternity activities.

We, the fraternity women of America, stand for service through the development of character inspired by the close contact and deep friendship of individual fraternity and Panhellenic life. The opportunity for wide and wise human service is the tenet by which we strive to live.


Frequently Asked Questions and Concerns

What is the difference between a fraternity and sorority?

The word fraternity refers to organizations strictly for men – women are not permitted to join. Likewise, a sorority is an organization for women – no male membership. However, some sororities refer to themselves as "fraternity" because when they were founded in the mid to late 1800's, the word sorority did not exist.

Do sororities and fraternities haze their pledges?

At the start of your son or daughter's membership, there is an educational process called new member orientation. Historically, hazing was not a part of this process for these organizations until after World War II. Many men came back from their military experiences and went to college. Those who joined fraternities and athletic organizations implemented hazing as a part of the intake process. Today, these traditions are outdated and all fraternity and sorority policies strictly forbid hazing not only during the orientation period, but throughout membership. The organizations have taken on a zero tolerance stance on this issue and will continue to do so until hazing has been eradicated. Barry University also advocates and supports this zero tolerance attitude regarding hazing. Currently, the state of Florida has legislation that makes hazing a third-degree felony punishable by large fines and/or up to five years in jail.

If my son or daughter joins a Greek letter organization, should alcohol be a concern?

All sororities and fraternities have strict policies which regulate the consumption of alcohol at any chapter function. In addition to the regulatory policies, each chapter provides educational programming regarding drugs and alcohol use, abuse, and addiction, so that each individual member is able to make healthy, educated decisions if faced with these issues.

Who is in charge, or who runs a fraternity or sorority?

Each chapter has an executive board of student leaders who manage the every day operations, programming, and goal setting for the chapter. In addition to these students, each organization has a national headquarters staffed by professionals who regulate the operation of each chapter including policies, rules and regulations, fundraising, programming and individual chapter support. At Barry University, the Office of Center for Student Involvement oversees the fraternities and sororities. The office acts as an advisor for each chapter, as well as a liaison between the chapters and their national organizations.

How will my son or daughter's membership affect their grades and time management skills?

As mentioned earlier, the fraternity/sorority GPA is usually higher than the general all-women's and all-men's grade point averages. Through the academic support of the chapter, each and every member is encouraged and expected to reach their highest academic potential. As the student becomes more and more involved in their organization, time management skills are developed and strengthened allowing for success academically, as well as in all other aspects of the student's life. Educational workshops are presented which emphasize the importance of time management and offer tips on how to improve this all-important skill. In turn, as the student's time management skills are developed, their academic success is positively affected.

What is the cost of my son or daughter's membership in a fraternity or sorority?

Dues are required as a member of any fraternity and sorority and generally there is a one-time new member cost. After the first semester, the dues will decrease, and many chapters offer a payment plan with various options for number of payments per semester. While these dues are a cost of membership, the benefits as outlined in this brochure make it a worth while investment.

What is my role as a parent?

It is important for you, the parent, to learn about fraternities and sororities. Despite stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding fraternities and sororities, there are many benefits both during college and beyond. By educating yourself, you can help your son or daughter make the right decision whether to join an organization and which chapter suits them best. Ultimately, it is your son or daughter's decision, and it is important that you support that decision either way. Many students may find the transition from high school to college a challenging one, but being involved on campus through a fraternity or sorority can help make the shift easier as they are greeted with a support system and given the tools to succeed at Barry University. If your son or daughter has an interest in joining, talk with him or her about their interest and the group they are thinking about becoming a member in. Talk to them about making correct decisions for themselves versus what others may wish. Also make sure that they keep their priority – attending class and learning – a top one! Be involved with your son or daughter's decision, but remember, it is their choice!

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