Divided We Fall: Why We Fail To Impress Harvard

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At a college or university with a vibrant fraternity/sorority community there are typically three or more fraternity/sorority councils; it’s killing us. 

You will not find a complaint here about the fact that several councils exist. It is crucial that each organization develop its own identity and niche, so I am certainly comfortable with organizations being members of councils unique to their needs. But. . .

Harvard University’s thought leaders (lol) recently pinned the single gender status of fraternities and sororities as an outdated practice and one that has led to some, most or 100% of the sexual assault reports on Harvard’s campus. I’m not here to argue with Harvard; there are clearly screws loose at the University when they recently decided that any single gender group not composed of men (more specifically white men) was more relevant and appropriate than those composed of men.

I began to wonder why this is even a question. Do the great minds at our highest of higher education institutions not know that there are co-educational fraternities and sororities? Do they know that not all of us are “social” organizations? Do they know that the other fraternities and sororities have very similar problems to our own?

Perhaps understanding something before commenting on it or threatening to ban it from existence is too much to ask, but why are we, the leaders of the Fraternity & Sorority World, sitting by and not addressing what is right in front of our face?

The Inter-Fraternity Council at most schools is composed of mens organizations, the majority of which were founded for white men. The Panhellenic Council is composed entirely of historically white women’s fraternities and sororities.

The National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) is composed of 9 historically black fraternities and sororities. Schools will have one or more councils designated to “cultural” fraternities and sororities, depending on the number and variety of culturally-based fraternities and sororities.

. . . let’s stop defining “social” fraternity as something unique or more “real” than professional or service fraternities.

In many cases, these non-white, men’s organizations are folded into the IFC if there are not enough to form an effective NPHC council or Multicultural Greek Council (MGC). Which brings us to an important consideration:

I can imagine that many an individual would feel offended if I suggested the dissolution of any one of these councils, but I have to wonder if our continued segregation of ourselves is helping in any way.

Wouldn’t it be better if social, professional and interest-based fraternities would interact more often? There are benefits that one could provide to the other, but the bigger picture is that we highlight that “fraternity” goes beyond “Animal House.”

Fraternity is any unique bond of individuals who may not be related, but who adopt one another as family while away from home. Campuses devise “community values,” which are basically a useless PR stunt, but how can those values be properly maintained when men and women must attend meetings of several, independent councils to access the same message?

Keep your IFC intact, your NPHC intact, your MGC intact and your PHC intact – fine, but if we are interested in marketing ourselves as a “community” of some sort, we need to be willing to have a campus-level council that can advocate for each of the smaller councils to the college/university’s administration and to their national affiliations. Maybe it’s time to end using, “they do things differently,” as a reason to continue this “separate but equal” approach to fraternity & sorority life.

Better yet, let’s stop defining “social” fraternity as something unique or more “real” than professional or service fraternities. For the sake of the common public understanding the value of Greek Life, we must introduce them to the entirety of Greek-Letter Life.

That won’t happen until we wake up and start to support and promote the Fraternity and Sorority World in its entirety. Perhaps even wake people up to recognize the “fraternities” they are a part of without knowing it.

Each council has a unique brand and way of doing things, but if we are going the community values route then we must stop needlessly dividing the community because of our organizations’ historical hangups.

(This doesn’t mean PHC members attend an NPHC meeting and tell everyone what philanthropy events are coming up – it means a group of students focused solely on promoting the value and potential power of fraternities and sororities in America. . . All of them – black, white, latinx, lgbt, Asian-American, professional, religious, service-based, co-ed and beyond.)