Ask the Straight Dope Frat Boy! (TM)

I’m always thinking about what, exactly, I know well enough to answer questions about. Today it occurred to me that I’d not seen any dopers mentioning being members of Greek organizations, so the little light bulb clicked on- ask the “Frat Boy!”

So, here’s your chance, Dopers- I will answer any and all questions related to the subject of college fraternities (and famous alumni, if you like)… a couple of things you might wish to know in advance…
-I am an (active) member of Phi Delta Theta at a large Florida university (see my other posts if you must know which one)
-I am a senior
-No, I’m not telling you anything about rituals, beyond general questions
-Yes, I’m regularly drunk. No, I’m not a rapist/pothead/'roid freak/walking syphilis culture

Beyond this stuff, you may ask what you wish.

Hmm. . .

What motivated you to go Greek, and why did you choose that frat as opposed to another one?

Just how long did you have to bend over during the rush period, and how long until your asshole fully recovers?

*Your greek system might be different than the one at my alma matter (Univ of AZ) but this is a common theme amongst frats and it begs the questoin as to why anyone would put up with hazing rituals just to feel included in a group of people that are mocked by the majority anyways.

Foreigner here.
Whats the deal with the greek symbols? What is Phi Delta Theta? PDT? Golden mean changes with angle? Random? Any reason behind the selection of the characters? Do you spell them out as words or write them as the original characters?

So…do you and your fellows actually have souls?

No, really

:wink: :stuck_out_tongue:

What advantage is there to joining a fraternity? Are the parties better than random ones thrown in the dorms? Does it give you better job networking opportunities? My own school, Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, doesn’t have any frats, so I’d really like to know.

Do you just have parties, or are there other activities as well?

Maybe you can answer this question. I know that each chapter of a given fraternity usually has its own additional greek letter or letters to identify it among all the chapters. As far as I can tell they usually go through the Greek alphabet as more chapters are founded, then start doubling up on the letters if need be.

But I’ve seen “San” used in this context, as "Phi Delta Tau–San chapter. What is “San”? Or is it just Sigma Alpha Nu?

We didn’t have Greek letter societies at my college, but I did belong to a club that was by invitation only and used many of the same sorts of rituals as Greek societies. There was little hazing as such; pledges merely had to address active brothers as “Future brother, sir!” and do the actives’ bidding, but nothing unreasonable was ever demanded. Nor did pledges have to do stupid things like shaving eyebrows or wearing dresses.

On the whole it was a worthwhile experience.

When I came to my college, my only idea about fraternities was “drinking clubs for rich kids?”

My suitemate at my first apartment was a “legacy”-direct relative of a member of a fraternity- so he was going to rush (legacies are generally given bids (invitations to pledge) automatically, although it is equally hard for them to actually get initiated) and asked me to accompany him. I met a group of guys that were friendly and actually cared about who was stopping by their rush location (most groups generally just go for the biggest numbers during formal rush… some are selective) and felt comfortable, and decided to pledge. So I decided to go greek, and to join Phi Delt for the same reasons- curiousity, and comfort level.

I didn’t. To be honest, every chapter of every fraternity claims not to haze, but most have some level of hazing. A good rule of thumb is to look at how long the chapter has been around- old chapter of an old fraternity = old hazing traditions which are much harder to eradicate.

Newer chapters don’t have the old traditions associated with old chapters; mine was founded in '81, so there is no ingrained association with hazing.

I’ve heard anything from 2 to 6 days though.

Usually, the letters spell out initials, either of founders or a secret motto. In most cases, the deeper meaning of the letters is a secret, and it is so in our case.

The letters can be spelled out as words or written as the greek characters; in some cases, such as FIJI (Phi Gamma Delta) the greek characters in that particular order are “sacred” to them, and they only print the characters on official fraternity documents (charters, initiation certificates, etc.)

The others do (mostly)… I sold mine freshman year for 25 dollars and free food at Bennigan’s.

If I could ask a second question. . . ^_~

What exactly are you pledging or promising when you commit yourself to a Greek chapter? Lifelong allegiance to everyone in the frat, even the assholes? A commitment to. . . something? If something happened and you wanted out, what would happen and how hard would that be?

The more I learn about the Greek system, the less I understand.

Advantages… well, it looks good on a resume; not because the guy reading it might be a fellow greek, but because you tend to end up holding offices of some sort during your tenure in a fraternity or sorority, and leadership training is a big part of what modern greek organizations do.

Parties depend on which group is throwing them. I happen to throw some pretty damn good ones for my brothers (upwards of 100 people in my apartment with a 60/40 girl/guy mix, which is good for me, because I’m a guy…) but I’ve also been to random apartment parties which ended up taking up whole apartment buildings.

Better job networking is a great advantage, at least in a national fraternity. MBAs, lawyers, accountants, and usually other professionals will generally find someone from their fraternity who can help them find a job, although the “you’re in my fraternity? You’re hired!” story is pretty much an urban legend these days.
There are no parties in the dorms here, really… campus PD and the RAs are pretty tough on that.

Some fraternities will use the state and then a letter to designate a chapter- FL I being Florida Iota, for example. However, I don’t think there is an SA, or an AN in the US (someone correct me if I’m wrong). On the other hand, unless they’ve been skipping letters, Sigma Alpha Nu chapter would imply that Phi Delta Tau has several thousand chapters, so I think you must have misread this one (or just used it as an example?)

First off, excuse my use of the word “frat.” No, I do not call my country a … well, you know.

During my undergrad years in the late 1980s, at a school I attended for a little while, fraternities catered to very specific cliques or social groups. There was the smart kid’s frat, the jock frat, the redneck frat, the rich frat, the druggie frat, the geek/RPGer frat, the average frat, and so on. Meanwhile, there was the blode sorority, the brunette sorority, the smart girls’ sorority, the perky girls’ sorority, the slut sorority, the fat girls’ sorority, and so on. Is the Greek system at all schools this comparementalized? Is is still this way, or are things getting more diverse?

At the school I transferred to (my major was dropped at the first college, and I wasn’t allowed to complete study there), there were a few black and Jewish fraternities and sororities. I hated the idea of a segregated Greek system. Are things more integrated now?

Also, the black fraternities and soririties had extremely harsh and demeaning hazing compared to the other Greek organizations. January in Buffalo, and a group of black girls lind up in their underwear, outside, in front of my dorm, stepping and singing. Guys with their arms branded, or marching single-file in their udnerwear through the Student Union. However, the school let this go, despite anti-hazing laws. Why do black fraternities and soririties have such harsh hazing rituals, and why is it tolerated while a “white” fraternity will have their charter revoked if pledges do pushups?

Fraternities and sororities at most campi (I know, usually campuses is pluralized normally, but Latin pluralization is much more elegant) are still rather compartmentalized; every campus has a “steroid fraternity”, and usually its the same group, which is unusual (I will not mention which group). Today, there tends to be a fraternity on each campus which has a large number of openly gay members, although the majority of the group may not be gay. This is in addition to the growing number of openly gay fraternities (before you ask, they generally have a “brothers may not date brothers” rule) especially at southern colleges. Jewish fraternities and black fraternities are slightly different in that Jewish fraternities are usually NIFC (national interfraternal council) members, whereas black fraternities are generally NPHC (national pan-Hellenic council). Also, Jewish fraternities usually have a number of non-Jewish members, whereas I have yet to see a black fraternity with a white member. Many “white” fraternities aggressively recruit black members today, but black fraternity members are rare for two reasons: they are more likely than white (or other minority) students to be in football or basketball programs, and modern college athletes don’t really have time for Greek life along with their sport(s). Also, at a campus with black fraternities, many who would otherwise join a “white” group will go to a black group instead simply because they are more comfortable there. Success in recruiting minority members generally begets more success- I was a little more comfortable joining my chapter because there happened to be another Asian member already, and several minority alumni. I don’t know much about compartmentalization at northern schools, so if anyone else wishes to contribute on this point, feel free.

NPHC (African-American) Greeks DO tend to have harsher hazing rituals; I’ve met several dozen members with their letters branded into their arms, and such- a white fraternity condoning this kind of treatment would certainly have lost its charter. White groups tend to attract more hazing attention because they often have clearly delineated “houses”, though. Greek Park on our campus is more aggressively patrolled by the campus PD than any other area, and thus illegal activities are more likely to be spotted.

There are a number of legal issues relating to Greek life that are ignored for tradition’s sake, though. The idea that a college can recognize an organization which is selective (and thus, quite possibly, discriminatory) in its recruitment practices is not seen in any other type of college organization, to the best of my knowledge (beyond sports).

This is a controversial issue at several colleges because Interfratenity Councils and Panhellenic Councils (fraternity and sorority local governing bodies) often recieve funding from student governments.

Colleges in general like Greek organizations for one specific reason, however- Greek graduates are much more (23% more in 1999) to donate to their alma mater. I don’t know if the same holds true for black organizations, but it would be tricky to appeal a hazing penalty to one’s college or national headquarters on the grounds that “black fraternities do worse”.

There is still usually a “geek frat”, a “rich frat”, and a “jock frat” too, although most groups are now a fairly even mix.

For those of you who aren’t greek, fraternities frown on the term “frat”. My use of the term “frat boy” in the original post was somewhat tongue-in-cheek… I’m offended by the term and the connotations it implies.

I apologize for using it, then–I didn’t know.

Thanks for answering questions for confuzzled non-Greeks!

I should have mentioned that this was a high school fraternity over a hundred years ago, but they still seemed to be connected with a national organization that included collegiate chapters. Here’s a picture (scroll right to see the list of chapters for this Fraternity). Now that I look at it, the full chapter designation is “Iota Alpha San” and the fraternity itself is Phi Sigma.

Iota Alpha San? That really makes no sense!

Sorry, I just found that the link doesn’t work very well because it takes you to the front page of a high school yearbook. But if you scroll down on the left side about 2/3 of the way you’ll see a few pages of groups of stiffly dressed club members. The first one is what I’m referring to.