For some the word “fraternity” conjures up images of tipsy college students with one hand clutching a bottle and the other fist pumping in the air.
But now picture this: a bunch of frat boys playing wheelchair basketball and performing puppet shows to raise money and awareness for people with disabilities, which is exactly what 34 members of national fraternity Phi Kappa Phi did this summer (www.pushamerica.org/journeyofhope).
While the first scenario represents the more common, stereotypical view of Greek life, the latter is much closer to the truth. Most chapters these days seem to be focusing on helping rather than hazing.
What good is Greek Life?
College Greek organizations participate in a variety of philanthropic activities, which support both national and international charities and the individual communities in which a chapter is located.
Michelle Plotzker, a history major at Stevens Institute of Technology (www.stevens.edu) in Hoboken, N.J., is a sister and the current vice president of Membership Development of her school’s chapter of Delta Phi Epsilon (D Phi E) sorority. D Phi E officially supports three philanthropies: Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Delta Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation. Hers and other D Phi E chapters fundraise for these causes through various events.
Fraternities and sororities at Penn State University (www.psu.edu) often team up to fundraise for various
philanthropies including THON (www.thon.org), a two-day dance marathon that in February 2011 raised more than $9.5 million for children battling cancer. With 15,000 student volunteers and 700 dancers, it is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.
Besides serving the community, Greek life organizations can provide an instant support system and group of friends, which can be especially comforting to new students.
“I decided to join the sorority because I wanted to have a close group of girls to hang out with,” Plotzker says.
Greek life can also improve students’ networking opportunities and potential for finding a job after graduation.
Florencio says he joined his fraternity partly because he wanted to gain a competitive edge in the job market. As far as initiation goes, Florencio says that every fraternity or sorority has some rituals, but it is a positive experience that emphasizes the values of the group.
“The values are really what bring us together and keep us together,” he said.
85 percent of Fortune 500 executives are fraternity or sorority members.
Only two U.S. presidents and two vice presidents since 1825 have not been fraternity members.
Fraternity and sorority alumni are much more likely than non-Greeks to participate in community service activities after graduation.
More than 70 percent of students who join a fraternity or sorority graduate, while fewer than 50 percent of all non-fraternity/sorority students graduate.
71 percent of those listed in “Who’s Who in America” belong to a fraternity or sorority.
Katie Steelman is a senior at St. John Fisher College (www.sjfc.edu).