Forget the stereotypes. You’ll learn about as much about real fraternities by watching “Animal House” as you will about Yale by watching “The Skulls.” Fraternities are about more then getting drunk and throwing parties, and membership isn’t limited to mindless jocks. Fraternity life is a rewarding experience for anyone who’s willing to make the commitment.
The most important part of any fraternity is the relationships between the members. As one of my pledge brothers said, “It would have taken years in an ordinary friendship to be as close as I am with many of my brothers.”
A fraternity house is one of the few places where you can go at any time and talk to whoever’s there about problems with your girlfriend or an argument with your parents, knowing the other person genuinely cares. Brotherhood is the core of the fraternity experience.
On the other hand, nobody wants to be in an organization that doesn’t know how to have fun. Every fraternity has regular events, from renting out clubs like Toad’s or Risk each semester for a formal with one of the sororities to road trips to chapters at other schools and Thursday night poker games. Parties, however, are all that most people see of the fraternities, and many people have the misconception that all they do is throw parties.
Yale’s fraternity system has a place for anyone who would be interested. The organizations run the gamut from Delta Kappa Epsilon, which had only one pledge this year who was not on the football or baseball teams, to Sigma Chi, which explicitly desires people who would otherwise have little contact with each other.
Most of the fraternities, however, run somewhere in between. Beta Theta Pi, though often referred to as the “swimming frat,” has many members that have no connection to the swim team. Similarly, Sigma Nu, which hosts a late-night for the pre-frosh every Bulldog Days, is not simply an extension of the rugby team. Stereotypes oversimplify the nature and makeup of each fraternity, and discourage people who would otherwise find fraternity life an enriching experience from joining.
Finding the right fraternity is crucial, which is why the first few weeks of school are dedicated to rushing. Rushing consists of a series of events and parties open to anyone considering joining. Rushing involves no commitment, and it provides everyone a chance to meet and talk with the brothers while enjoying free food and drinks courtesy of the fraternity.
Everyone should take advantage of this period, even those who don’t think they’ll join a fraternity. Some of the most dedicated brothers never imagined themselves as the fraternity “type” when they entered college.
While hazing is a fact of life in many of the fraternities, it is not present in all of them. Those considering a fraternity should use the rush period to ask about each fraternity’s philosophy on the process. It is possible to enjoy fraternity life without being subjected to hazing or humiliation.
A fraternity is more than simply another undergraduate organization — it is a brotherhood. Those who make the commitment agree that the fraternity is the most meaningful thing they’ve done in their undergraduate career. The term “brother” is well chosen; the fraternity is a second family.
Steven Gilbert ’04 is a member of Sigma Chi fraternity.