Fraternity and Sorority Language

I wanted to go over some language ideas that have been and at times continue to be issues in Fraternity and Sorority Life for those interested.

*disclaimer, this post does express my personal views on these terms. You are welcome to disagree. This is just meant to encourage thinking*

Frat v Fraternity – (you could also make similar cases as stated here for Sororities) These are fun terms that people use interchangeably. Here is how it was expressed to me when I first entered the Fraternal world: “You wouldn’t call your Country a C&%^, would you?” I know that I prefer the term Fraternity because it is a sign of respect for my organization. Here is another difference I see, a frat is made of frat boys who are the epitome of trouble you see in the media where parties, alcohol, and hazing are all the rage. These organizations are a strong force behind popular beliefs that fraternity and sorority life no longer serves a purpose. These stand in opposition to Fraternities where men are raised. These organizations focus on developing men (or women) of character. They focus on changing the world for the better and improving the life and culture around them. They have a positive impact not only on their members but on the community they function in. A Fraternity develops leaders and lives by its values or principals (and that can be easily recognized).

Recruitment v Intake – These are terms rather specific to different councils. There are a number of councils throughout North America (for a full list, click here), but there are a few that many universities recognize and can be simply stated: IFC, Panhellenic, National Pan-Hellenic Council, and Multicultural Greek Council. Recruitment is the process that IFC and Panhellenic generally go through. This is a process where potential new members (PNMs) have a chance to meet a few, sometimes all chapters on campus through events specifically termed recruitment events. These range from service to social and a number of things between. After attending these, PNMs can decide if there are chapters they are interested in and Chapters can decide if they would like to offer bids to PNMs. It is a rather open and upfront process. This is compared to Intake which is more of an underground process. It is called that because you generally will not know who the new members are of an organization until their probate (there are a list of terms to refer to a new member crossing into brother/sisterhood). This is a far more discrete process where interested members are encouraged to do their research (there is a lot of info online and in books) before approaching a member. Also, showing your interest is done through action and conversation, not upfront statements.

Greek v Fraternity and Sorority – This one is an interesting one. Greek Life became a term as student organizations utilized Greek Letters for their organizations, but this can be a misnomer (at a organization fair the other day, I had a student who seemed really interested and thought we were all about Greek mythology). Fraternity and Sorority Life is a much more upfront statement of the groups we work with.

Pledge v Associate Member – These are two terms. Again, it depends on your organizations, but I do not like the term pledge. It has a negative connotation and my organizations prefers the term Associate Member. Pledges are associated with pledgeship (a term that did not become big until the anti-hazing movement of the 20s where most forms of freshman hazing were socially outcast). As such, associate member connects one to another sooner. A pledge is something you take, an associate member is someone you are.

Hazing v Education – A long and difficult history is associated with fraternities and sororities when it comes to these. People, due to media, are well aware of overt forms of hazing, but rarely take notice of the more subtle things that often times are far more damaging. People consider physical violence inappropriate, but don’t consider forcing “pledges” to drink an issue. What if sitting in that circle, you have a pledge who told himself he would never drink because he lost a family member to drunk driving or alcoholism? I was told by a guy in a fraternity one time that they didn’t have, but in the next 5 minutes, that same guy made one pledge stand still and demanded another pledge smack him as hard as possible. Is that really not hazing? This is in comparison to education, where you require your members to learn your history and tradition. Education is not about embarrassment and tearing down like hazing, but about bringing a brother in. Education is about meeting a member where they is (if you deem them good enough to join your organization, why does hazing and tearing a person down have a place?) and bringing them into your organization.

Pin v Badge – This is another interesting term. For a lot of organizations, they have Pledge or associate member pins and brother or sister badges. This is not a sign of disrespect, but of organization and pride. Associate members bear a pin as a sign that they have been offered a chance for membership and are learning what being a brother or sister means. After being educated, they take an oath where they become a defender of those letters, the chapter, the principals, and the organization, so they are given a badge. This is similar to a police officer for example who wear a badge to show their oath to protect the law.

Just a few thoughts everyone. This is such a large and diverse area with many differing opinions, but there are certain thingas to be aware of if you are interested or are currently a member even. What matters to you.


About rigsurfer

A Brother of Delta Upsilon International Fraternity, Inc., Joined in Fall 2010. Completed a B.A. in English at North Carolina State University in 2013 and received a M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration at Texas Tech University in 2015. Passionate about Leadership and Diversity as well as Ducks, Scooby Doo, and reading.
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