The Future of Fraternities and Sororities
By Natasha Cooper
“Greek life” on college and university campuses has a long history in North America. In the United States, the first Fraternity was founded in 1776, and in Canada, 1869. Fraternities, or “frats” and sororities are social organizations often associated with their tight knit nature, extreme party culture, and exclusive allure. When young people are away from home for the first time, and hit with the stressful pressure of post-secondary academia, it only makes sense for some to seek out clubs or communities. With frats and sororities promising a certain status, and brotherly or sisterly like bonds, it is understandable why so many students join them every year.
Additionally, it seems that being involved in these social clubs can have enduring benefits well after graduation and into their members careers. While only roughly 2% of Americans are involved in “Greek life,” 76% of US senators, 85% of Supreme Court Justices and almost all U.S. Presidents except for two were at one point in a fraternity or sorority. Yet, there is a certain elitism that accompanies these entities, as it is estimated that roughly 70% of students involved in them come from wealthy backgrounds, perhaps giving them an economic advantage to both getting into said frats, and within their studies and careers. Exclusion tied to elitism in Greek life has been increasingly criticized, along with their initiation and hazing rituals, and extreme party life, which can foster both alcohol abuse and situations involving harassment and overall inappropriate behaviour. Factors like social media and society’s growing intolerance of various forms of harassment and discriminatory behaviour has shed light on the centuries of misconduct in fraternities and sororities.
While some call for an outright end to these student associations many others say it is about time for serious change. In Canada, a variety of measures have been taken to change the toxic culture of “Greek life.” Universities like Queens and University of Toronto have distanced themselves from these student organizations since the 1930s on the basis that they are exclusionary. While they are officially not affiliated with any frat or sorority group, these organizations do however still run, and recruit new members. British Columbia seems to have the most prominent “Greek life” in their provinces universities, and in recent years have begun implementing new policies and training programs where members must learn about matters of consent, or even considering making frats coed.
The North American Interfraternity Conference came out with a list of new suggestions and measures to implement that ensures that fraternities and sororities can continue in a safe and progressive manner. The necessity for more adult leadership within frats was one of the main goals outlined. The NIC also stated that adapting to cultural and campus shifts will be integral to ensuring fraternities’ survival. In terms of recruitment, fraternities and sororities will also try to focus more on accepting new members based on shared values, rather than social factors. Holding students accountable for their actions and educating them on leadership through different training programs is another change that the NIC says can be expected.
Whether or not these goals come to fruition is still up for debate, however in the meantime frats and sororities will continue to run while hopefully keeping these new methods in mind.