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Fraternities in College
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Fraternities in College
My 18 years old son just went to his first year of college
last month. He called me and said he wants to join the
fraternity. He knows I don't like the idea, but was hoping
I will change my mind and support him instead. He is very
outgoing and easy to make friends, but not very mature. I
have heard so much negative things about fraternities and
am now worried he will expose himself to more risks as well
as not focusing on studying. What shall I do? Is there any
positive side of fraternity? Please advise. Thanks.
A lot depends on what the specific college is--what is
fraternity life like there, what percentage of students
join, is this a party school. Ask him to tell you about
the fraternity--why does he want to join, what are the
different fraternities like, etc. Talk to him about the
downsides of fraternities. Be firm about grades. Tell
him that if he really wants to join, he could, but he
can't live there for the first two years until he has
shown that his grades have remained strong. And if his
grades show a sharp decline at any time, he will have to
quit. And most important: He must pay for the cost of
If he's aware of all the issues and is using his own money
to pay the fraternity dues and promises to keep his grades
up, then it should be his decision. However, thinking
about all the issues may cause him to reconsider. That's
all you can hope for.
My college boyfriend (UC Davis) was in a fraternity. He
and most every one of his fraternity brothers has turned
out to be great men. I believe that if your son is going
to 'get in trouble' in college, the fraternity would not
be the only place to do so. Dorms are full of drinking
etc. College campuses are much more proactive about anti-
hazing etc these days. Just warn him that if the group of
young men ask him to do something he knows is wrong,
perhaps they are not the group with whom he wants to be
associated. Lasting friendships are often formed out o
fraternities and sororities. good luck..
Obviously our media plays to the purient side of frat
life, because that is (somewhat) fantasy and what sells.
That said, some pretty purient stuff happened at parties
at a friend's frat at UCLA. I was in a sorority because my
family wanted me to be. I didn't drink or use drugs and
avoided functions that featured that sort of stuff. I had
lots of friends and activities outside the sorority house.
The good parts of sorority life were that I roomed with
girls I would never have chosen to be with off-campus. I
learned tolerance and formed some lifelong friendships.
They rewarded us for good grades. There was a lot of
goofiness (panty raids, guys waking you up at night to
come downstairs for hot chocolate), but in general, it was
pretty harmless. And, if you met someone you were
interested in, and they were in the Greek system, someone
in your house would be able to give you the inside scoop.
At a really big college, like a UC, a frat or sorority
gives you a group of people to hang with and to have
things in common with. A lot of similar drinking/drugs/sex
goes on in the dorms, and perhaps more anonymously, so
don't think you will be protecting him by keeping him out
of the frats. Once you send him off to college, it is
largely out of your hands. You just have to hope you have
good communication now and keep it open.
former Sorority Girl
My brothers were both in fraternities at Cal. Their closest friends, even
today, are their fraternity brothers. Despite the bad reputation that
fraternities have, and I expect a lot might be true, there are still a lot
guys in fraternities. Both the best men in my brothers' weddings were
fraternity brothers. They network together after college and find each
jobs. There seems to be a real closeness that develops in the different
fraternities. There was a lot of drinking that went on, mostly with the
freshmen and it was mostly beer. I'm not sure what that's like now. The
houses at Cal look pretty gross and run down, I'm not sure what they're like
inside. I think both of my brothers' grades would have been better if they
had not been in fraternities, but they gained lifelong friendships. Maybe
could have done the same thing in a dorm, I don't know. Most of the
fraternity guys from my brothers' fraternities at Cal have gone on to become
stable and successful professionals.
You are quite right to feel concern. Last year a student
engaged in a hazing ritual in order to join one of Cal's
fraternities arrived in my teaching assistant's class very
drunk and proceeded to throw up and pass out in class.
She couldn't rouse him and had to call the campus police.
I know of kids who have died by drinking too much in
hazing rituals, and I have talked to others who have
engaged in racial slurs, vandalism, etc. But not all
fraternities are like this. I would tell your son
explicitly what your worries are and then I would tell him
that you are going to research the fraternities at his
school. You can do this on-line by searching for the
names of the fraternities to see if there are any negative
articles about their activities, whether on your son's
campus or elsewhere (many fraternities are national). But
an even better, more direct way is to contact the campus
police (if there is a campus police force) or the local
police and ask about the fraternity. If your son
understands that you take very seriously the dangers of
fraternity life, perhaps he will police a bit on his own.
But do by all means try to guide him. There are some very
bad apples out there.
We went through exactly the same thing when our son wanted to join a
fraternity. I was horrified at the prospect of ''hazing'', his living in a
party house, etc. First I went to his university's web site and read the
for the fraternity and sorority houses there. It stated that there was a
clear ''no hazing'' mandate. That assured me some, as I felt there was some
leverage if I found out about any hazing. Next, my husband called on an
acquaintance in the campus police department at our son's university and
asked what she knew about the particular fraternity. She had nothing
negative to report, so we hesitantly allowed him to rush. He is in his third
year now and I have to admit that overall it has been a positive experience.
The ''men'' in his frat all have similar majors so are taking or have taken
same classes. That helps with textbook sharing and study groups. Our son
has held several different responsibilities in the house and is currently
president of his chapter! We have had large groups of his ''brothers'' stay
our house when they've come to football games at CAL and I must say they
are just great!
this page was last updated: Dec 9, 2008
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