In the early 1990s, colleges and universities still offered a more traditional experience for students.
Now that the internet is widespread and saturated, you have so many more options. You can attend an established university and join a fraternity or sorority, or you can choose a totally different approach and apply to an online university. Because of these alternatives, the Greek system and the schools that support them are having to change to remain competitive in college life.
Twenty years ago, fraternities and sororities were well-known for hazing rituals and mass alcohol consumption. Unfortunately, you may have noticed that not much has changed. Last year, a pledge to the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at Northern Illinois University died after he drank enough to put his blood alcohol level at four times the legal limit for adults. Local authorities, upon discovering that this was part of a hazing ritual, issued arrest warrants for 22 suspects. Fourteen of them turned themselves in immediately.
This reflects a change in the local and state level toward enforcement of anti-hazing laws. Laws exist on the books to punish these sorts of activities in 44 states. More recently, national administration of fraternities and sororities is creating policies that discourage hazing and encourage witnesses to report it. For example, Sigma Nu fraternity has begun a poster campaign, at the top of which states, “Sigma Nu is a fraternity of men, not boys.”
Alcohol consumption and binge drinking
You can see that hazing is headed downward from its prominent figure in Greek life, but alcohol consumption is just as strong as ever. Former fraternity and sorority members write about their experience and how it prepared them for the heady 20s activity of bar-hopping.
The National Institutes of Health reports that colleges and universities with strong Greek systems have more students who are more likely to binge-drink. Alcohol consumption is far higher at schools where students live on campus or just off-campus. Many students can avoid this temptation by attending a commuter college campus or an online university. Fraternities and sororities sometimes exist in these alternative college formats, but the focus is more on leadership and acts of service in the community.
All of the drawbacks aside, there have always been good reasons to participate in a fraternity or sorority. Many are based on a common experience or heritage and seek to be more inclusive than the clique-ish groups of the past. At the University of North Carolina, members of the sorority Alpha Pi Omega, a Native American sorority, granted honorary membership to a student who had died last year. Since she had expressed interest in joining the sorority and had participated in a number of sorority activities, they felt it was a kind gesture of inclusion to put her name along with other former members.
Proponents of sororities and fraternities would like you to know that it’s not just about partying and making friends. The Greek experience is also about teaching young people to become responsible adult leaders. These years can teach:
- Organizational Skills
- Risk Management
And those are just a number among its many other qualities. Twenty years ago, this may have been the only way students could practice and develop these skills, outside of participating student government. These days, with a variety of traditional college and online university choices, schools have placed a focus on practical lessons and experiences that will teach students how to live and work in a world that may not have that much to do with the subjects of their college study.
These days, you have so many choices for your college experience than you did in the 1990s. It’s not as important that you join a fraternity or sorority to have a great time. Your college, university, commuter campus or online university has you covered.