Fraternity & Sorority Club Life

I never pledged for a fraternity and didn’t really know or hang out with anyone affiliated with a Greek organization during college (at least that I was aware of). I’m interested in hearing from folks who have actual experience living in a fraternity or sorority house - what was it like? Are the popular perceptions of drunken debauchery, institutional cheating (e.g. maintaining file copies of all the profs previous exam questions), and humiliating pledges inaccurate or exaggerated?

I wasn’t in a fraternity but my roommate was. He didn’t live in the house nor did any of them because it was basically uninhabitable. The answer to your questions are “yes” in their case. Their house was just a place to have keg parties all day, every day and an infamous party once a year. My roommate was the treasurer and managed to bankrupt the fraternity to the tune of 100’s of thousands of dollars our sophomore year and they had to sell the house. He tried to get out of it by selling drugs as a fundraiser. He later became a corporate attorney and then died from brain cancer in his early 30’s. Ta da!

Not seeing how this constitutes cheating. I wasn’t in a frat, but when I was in college and grad school, reviewing old exams was a great way to get a grasp on the kinds of questions the instructor was likely to put on the exam - in other words, the aspects of the course material the instructor felt were most important for the students to have a grasp of. The subject material (mechanical engineer topics) was complex enough that you couldn’t memorize specific questions/answers; you were going to have to show your work no matter what, but reviewing old exams helped firm up your ideas about how to approach any given exam problem that might come up.

Institutional cheating? Because they made pledges study for two hours a night and provided study aids? They did; this was not considered a big secret.

It may technically not quite rise to the level of cheating but some profs don’t change their tests from year to year and having access to the ‘answer key’ in such instances that other students don’t possess would seem to come awfully close to meeting the intent.

But I’m willing to walk back the ‘institutional cheating’ part, for the sake of discussion let’s say that’s not an allegation - what about the other behaviors?

This would not be considered institutional cheating, no.

When I was teaching, I did have a student try to turn in a paper that was obviously from a frat file. It wasn’t from an online source - the paper kept citing an unnamed class reader that I wasn’t using and did not have knowledge of. You could make the argument that this also wasn’t institutional cheating - it certainly isn’t academic dishonesty to keep an archive of good papers to give examples of the kind of work that gets results in college. Having ready access to such an archive does create something of a perverse incentive, though.

ETA: If a professor does not change their examinations from term to term, they are an idiot and do not deserve to be in a classroom.

We had no institutional cheating. When I was there, a fraternity house amounted to an institutionalized underage drinking establishment. I remember one night we had a party so large we drained twelve kegs. We had a full bar and disco in the basement. One night we had a cash bar going on and we got busted by the dean. He told us not to do that again. This was by no means peculiar to our house. There were eight other houses on the row doing the same stuff. This was back in '78-'83. Looking back at it, moving into the house at 17 probably wasn’t such a good idea, but it sure was fun at the time!

Eventually, the university and local police had had enough and their attitudes changed. Our house eventually lost its charter in part due to not bending to the new rules.

I was not in a frat, but my old boss was heavily into the life back in the day. He told me that the social aspects of the organization - getting drunk and getting laid - were much more paramount to the experience. When I asked about the academic aspects, especially the mandatory study hours, he replied that they didn’t really study. When I asked what they did, he replied that, for the most part, they farted.

Probably not much more boozing than any other campus-proximate living quarters. The humiliating of pledges is vastly exaggerated in popular culture.

No doubt that fraternities and sororities exist like are depicted in popular media. But from what I’ve read and been told, they run the gamut from no house to dry house to A Brewery Where We Live. Hazing also runs from none at all to “carry a senior’s books for a week” to “accidental death.”

I don’t think we could paint these groups with one broad brush, other than the fact that people almost always come out of them with a sense of fellowship and a social network.

I was never into anything like that, although I did belong to a very informal women’s pharmacy sorority. We would get together once a month or so and have a little ceremony, followed by dinner courtesy of Pizza Hut.

The restaurant where I worked refused to host fraternity events because they’d had too many no-call no shows. We did a lot of sorority breakfasts, and this was the ONLY kind of event where we ever ran out of food. Yeah. They were probably binging and purging. :eek:

My sister was interested in pledging, and our parents told her that if she wanted to do that, she would have to pay for it herself; they told her the same thing about going to the (semi)tropics on Spring Break. In both cases, when she found out how much they cost, she decided not to do it.

From what I can tell, the drunken debauchery along with a huge dose of vandalism, broken glass and trash associated with frat bro’s is extremely true at the university I went to. I also lived in that town for many years as an adult. I had the misfortune of renting a house in frat-ville and it was non-stop noise, vandalism and harassment. That year made me despise everything about the greek system.

I recently was in that town and frat-row looked the same, or maybe even worse. Dead lawns with beer pong tables and red solo cups everywhere, broken glass everywhere you look, cars parked all over the place, the whole place smelling like stale beer and urine, etc. :mad:

My best friend was the president of his frat at a different college than me. Based on the half dozen or so times I visited him, I can confirm it was basically Animal House on cocaine. I don’t know about institutional cheating, but the partying was out of control. And this was a fairy small private college, not a huge state university.

My school only had two fraternities, both for engineering students. One was known as the party frat, the other academic. Some of the parties were pretty wild for engineering students but nothing like blowouts I attended at frats at other schools. Going back to campus a few years later, I was surprised to learn that what had previously been the party house had turned into the study house and vice versa.

We called these gouges. Some of the profs never or minimally changed exams and a gouge was really closer to cheating. It was mostly the older math instructors, calc & trig.

A lot of my profs teaching more practical physics and engineering courses gave us old exams to study from. They were usually pretty open about what sorts of things would and wouldn’t be on an exam so there were few surprises.

In recent years, there have been some heavily publicized cases of fraternity pledges who died from alcohol poisoning. If guys are going to do something like that to men they consider their brothers, why would they treat anyone else with any modicum of respect?

Since the SDMB is all about nitpicky details - in traditional fraternity culture pledges aren’t considered as brothers, there’s a strong divide between the initiated and the uninitiated (think of boot camp recruits vs. soldiers, or mafia wannabes vs. made men - obviously very different situations, but my point is about the dividing line that makes one part of the group.)

At least you can choose to rush for a Greek letter society, or not.

Back in the day it wasn’t uncommon to be hazed just for being a freshman.

Even further back in the day some colleges had massive battles royal between classes, with coercive peer pressure to show up and fight. This was in the early 20th century with at least one example of a school where this happened (Kansas State if memory serves).

That was how we studied in Spain as well, too, but in my American university we kind of had a problem with the mindset that “OMG reviewing old exams is cheating!” in the class I taught (Orgo Chemistry lab).

The two exams consisted of 80% repeat questions and 20% new ones, provided by the TAs and used to evaluate us TAs, not the students. The students were told to take the question lists when they left the exam. They didn’t. If those of us who were proctoring reminded them to take the lists, they would do so and then toss them away in the first trashcan they saw. In the 12 semesters I taught I only had two students who actually did what the teacher wanted: find old exams, start using them to prep and go “what the fuck? :confused:” One was a dual US-Spain citizen who’d grown up in Spain, the other one was first-generation Chinese-American. The teacher (immigrant from Poland) did this on purpose: the tests were only 10% of the total grade, and they could be a super-easy 10% so long as you were able to use the tools you were being handed. That “so long” proved almost impossible.

Talking with Americans who had already passed the course, they kept insisting that “it’s cheating even if the teacher wants you to do it”. HOW? How is it cheating to follow the teacher’s instructions? And what kind of scientist are you supposed to be when you insist that your preconceptions are more important than what’s actually in front of your nose?

I was in a professional chemistry “fraternity” in college; it was more of a social club. But, one of the things we did was collect the last semester’s tests and quizzes from the chemistry and chemical engineering professors, and offer them for sale at the beginning of each semester. We used the proceeds for a student-faculty mixer. Almost all the professors were enthusiastic about it (Dr. Yashida was hesitant, but that was his first year in the US). The ChemE professors actually recommended people work through the old tests and bring them along for tests since ChemE tests were all open book.

I’m pretty sure cocaine was a big part of the college and fraternity sorority lifestyle during the 80’s and other time frames, too.