Do Sororities “Do Things The Right Way”?

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You may hear it as a student fraternity member. You’re more likely to hear it if you are a student fraternity leader. You are destined to hear it if you work within Fraternity & Sorority Life on a campus, at a headquarters, or among the many vendors and special interests related to Greek Life.

“Sororities do things the right way”

Or some quote like it. Why do we say it? The right way according to whom?

In most cases, people say that sororities are more put together because one is less likely to hear of a death from hazing at a sorority house or function. We rarely, if ever, hear of a party going out of control at a sorority house. Their chapters often double the size of the largest fraternity chapters at the same institution.

I wouldn’t suggest that the National Panhellenic Council (NPC), the umbrella group presiding over 26 historically white sororities, hasn’t done a good job of building a positive public relations machine around the sorority experience. Still, just because fewer incidents are reported, doesn’t mean an organization has all of its stuff put together.

Let’s compare the NPC to the North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), the umbrella group presiding over mostly historically white fraternities as well as some culturally-based and historically black fraternities.

The NPC is composed of 26 members – the NIC of 66. The NPC manages the growth of its member organizations and the growth of their individual chapters, while the NIC typically promotes a “free market” for the growth of its member organizations and their respective chapters.

Essentially, the NPC is far more “hands-on” than the NIC, and its sorority groups tend to follow suit. It’s not that sororities are without problems, just that they are either well hidden or easily dismissed as less serious than their all-male counterparts.

 

The true interests of sorority women are demonstrated not during their intensely formal recruitment process, but in their rush videos, which are regularly panned within and outside of our Greek Life community.

 

“Double Secret Probation” is not really a thing among most men’s fraternities. Some of the sororities at my college of choice remained on some form of probation throughout my undergraduate career. Most of us never knew.

Written within the guiding principles of sorority organizations (which includes “women’s fraternities”) are strict policies and standards regarding the use of alcohol in chapter facilities. Those rules are still violated – I know from experience – but as a result most sorority members simply venture to a fraternity house to drink when underage or if they prefer a house party format.

We know that prohibition of alcohol does not work among fraternity chapters. I know it does not work among sorority chapters.

We also  report that sexual assaults are more likely to happen at fraternity houses. Many sorority policies require that sororities bring “food and non-alcohol beverages” to “mixers” with fraternity chapters, while the fraternity chapters provide alcohol.

NPC sororities have passively written into their rules that their members should seek out fraternity men for alcoholic beverages. That is certainly not the intent of the organizations’ alcohol policies, but it is the result of them.

Let’s not forget that we have seen our fair share of issues within the sorority community. Some I can rattle off:

The standards and model by which the NPC operate effectively monopolizes the sorority market to the extent that any “new sorority” would have a terribly difficult time growing to prominent universities. Diehard NPC sorority fans may say that NPC sororities fit the needs of college women, but that’s what the beneficiaries of any monopoly would say.

The trivia supports my point.

Just look at this image comparing the NPC members to NIC members and National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC – historically black fraternities/sororities) members.

No NPC sorority was founded after 1917. None have joined the NPC since 1951 (after a period of mergers). Think of all that has happened since then? The Korean War, The Civil Rights Act, Vietnam War, Moonlanding, the creation of MTV and cell phones (not smartphones, cell phones).

The average “founding year” for NPC sororities was 1889 – before women had the right to vote.

Compare that to the NIC, whose most recently founded member was established just before the turn of the millennium, and the NPHC, whose most recently founded member was established during the Civil Rights movement.

When we say that “sororities do things the right way,” do we mean that issues are kept secret, that undergraduate chapters are micro-managed, that it’s written into a sorority’s alcohol policy to seek booze from fraternity men, or that we maintain a monopolistic grip on the sorority experience and prevent any modernized organizations from growth?

Perhaps their success lies in that last bit. According to several studies, homogeneous groups tend to believe that they perform better. 

Personally, I’ve noticed many people critique the NIC or NIC fraternities in favor of our historically white and female counterparts. So yes, I’ll accept that NPC women have established a strong organization, which has limited its risk well and which is immaculately organized.

But it’s also comprised entirely of organizations from a Jim Crow era. It enforces policies which inadvertently hurt its members. It prevents entrepreneurial women from building something for newer generations.

That may trigger some sorority women (update: it has), but looking in the mirror is difficult. Don’t blame the mirror.

Updated 3/2018: I’ve gone through many posts this month to reduce the word counts & unecessary fluff. Same thing here, enjoy & thanks for reading!