It’s no surprise that fraternities and sororities are coming under scrutiny. With hazing deaths and lawsuits piling up, these organizations seem to be losing the honor and prestige they once held. In media, films like ‘Animal House’ and news reports, the overall image of fraternities and sororities is not a very pleasant one even though not all partake in the disastrous actions that often hit screens. But still, regardless of all the negative publicity, countless young men and women still go through with the initiation processes of joining one of these organizations. What could be the allure? To begin to understand that we have to examine society, it’s need for leaders, and the human condition.
It’s common knowledge that humans are social creatures. We all long to be part of community. For many students, college is the first time that they are truly on their own. Alone in what at first can seem as a hostile environment, we immediately gravitate towards like-minded individuals in search of camaraderie . Some of these individuals just so happen to be members of a fraternity or a sorority. In searching for our ‘clan’, we subconsciously evaluate many social cues that help us determine if we want to associate with a specific group. Sadly, attempting to find their herd by joining a fraternity or sorority is what led many students to death.
The first recorded hazing death, according to Hank Nuwer, was that of John Butler Groves of Kentucky in 1838. Since then, there have been over 200 hazing-related deaths to date, with nearly 70 of those occurring in the last 16 years alone. Then you have other nonviolent acts that are deplorable in their own light, such as building a mock wall in honor of republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump. But there is a side fraternities and sororities that we don’t often highlight.
Leadership, community service, and philanthropy are some of the core tenets of many fraternities. According to section 2b-3 of the constitution and bylaws of the North-American Interfraternity Conference, also known as NIC, the following data regarding “leadership, service and philanthropic activities” must be submitted by each fraternity they oversee:
- Total number of undergraduate members involved in campus leadership positions during the academic year.
- Total number of community service hours completed by all undergraduate chapters during the academic year.
- Total number of philanthropic dollars raised for charitable causes by all undergraduate chapters during the academic year.
- Percent of undergraduate chapters completing 20 hours of community service per man or more during the academic year.
Something to be noted is that to be able to join fraternities, often students must maintain a certain grade-point average, just like they would if they wanted to hold any position of leadership on campus or to remain in good academic standing. In regards to leadership, as pointed out by NIC, to this day ’44% of U.S. Presidents have held fraternity membership.’ Joining them are countless men and women to have held office in the United States Congress. Other members of fraternities and sororities include the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Lena Horne, Zora Neale Hurston.
With so many great people being bred throughout fraternities and sororities, some things need to change in order for them to continue existing? Most, if not all of fraternities and sororities have anti-hazing policies. But hazing happens in some places and it needs to stop. As time passes, organizations as well as people, and things adapt and change in order to survive. As it gets colder, birds fly south, as laws change corporations adjust their practices, etc. If fraternities and sororities want to survive, they need to follow suit. If deaths and any form of hazing continues, it won’t be long before these organizations are banned from campuses. They will need to learn to continue to groom and breed leaders without possibly killing and abusing people in the process.