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GREEK 101: What Parents Should Know

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Monday, February 6, 2017
By: 
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What Parents Should Know About Fraternity and Sorority New Member Education at the University of Maryland

By Matt Supple, Director 
Department of Fraternity and Sorority Life

The University of Maryland has had a long and rich relationship with its collegiate fraternities and sororities stretching back more than 100 years.  As an important component of the co-curricular programs for undergraduate students, fraternities and sororities have supported the central mission of the University by providing an enriched out-of-class living/learning experience since they were first founded here on campus back in 1913. These groups are characterized by a tradition of involvement and leadership in campus life.

The University is extremely supportive of the ideals and goals of these organizations and, collectively, the fraternity and sorority community.  The organizational ideals and goals promote personal development and a strong sense of identity with the institution as well as post-graduate association.  These ideals and goals include scholarship, leadership, community service, individual and group initiative, self-governance, and an array of interpersonal and social skills development..

What should go into the decision to join a fraternity or sorority?
Approximately 16% of the undergraduate population at the University of Maryland belongs to a fraternity or sorority.  Although the majority of students who join a fraternity or sorority are second semester freshmen, making the decision to “Go Greek” does not have to happen in the first or second semester a student is on campus.  In fact, many sophomores and juniors choose to join a fraternity or sorority after establishing themselves academically on campus.  If your son or daughter is thinking of joining a fraternity or sorority, we suggest he/she ask each chapter under consideration the following questions:

  1. What are the founding values of your organization?
  2. How do the actions of the members reflect these values?
  3. What is the chapter grade point average for the past four semesters?
  4. How many members of your chapter are active in other student organizations on campus, and what are some examples of the groups with which they are involved?
  5. What leadership opportunities will be available to me through membership?
  6. What community service activities does your chapter sponsor?
  7. How does your chapter membership reflect a commitment to diversity and inclusion?
  8. What are the financial obligations of joining your chapter?
  9. Does your chapter have a house and if so, is there an obligation to live there?
  10. Are there any disciplinary measures that I should know about before I join?
  11. How much time will the new member education program take?
  12. What are the expectations of membership?
  13. Have there been any incidents of hazing in the chapter in the last five years?

What about fraternities and sororities that aren't recognized by the University?
Some organizations that were once recognized fraternities or sororities on campus continue to operate underground despite having lost recognition from the University. These organizations have had their recognition revoked by the institution for various reasons, including such things as hazing, alcohol and drug abuse, risk management violations, and failure to comply with University policies and expectations. These organizations have in almost all cases also had their charter suspended by their international organization because they were not upholding fraternal values and were engaging in risky behaviors that endangered the members and other students. We strongly discourage your son or daughter from joining one of these underground groups. Click here for a current list of groups that have lost recognition.

What can my son or daughter expect from the new member education period?
The new member education period is the length of time a prospective new member spends becoming oriented to a specific fraternity or sorority.  During the new member education period, potential new members learn about the values and purpose of the chapter, the national and local history of the chapter, and the names of the members.  The University dictates that no new member education period can last longer than six weeks, as measured from the time a student is offered a bid to join the chapter to the date upon which s/he is initiated into full membership in the organization.  Some chapters have shorter programs.  Typically, each chapter will have one or more persons responsible for coordinating the new member education period.  Depending on the chapter, it is possible for there to be more than one new member class in one semester.

How is new member education different from pledging?

For nearly two decades, the national fraternity and sorority movement has been working to eliminate the word “pledge” – as well as the concept of “pledging” – from its vocabulary and from practice.  Believed to invoke allusions to a negative and destructive period of time when students seeking membership were treated as second-class citizens and forced to “prove themselves” to the chapter, this concept of pledging is in direct opposition to the fundamental purposes of fraternities and sororities. 

Greek organizations have, in the past, focused their efforts almost exclusively on educating new members rather than on creating programs that effectively and continually contribute to the development of all members of the fraternity or sorority.  It is our hope chapters have made significant strides to replace "pledge education" with "member education," an on-going development program lasting the entire length of an individual's active fraternal involvement.  Further, it is expected that all new members, as a part of their orientation program, will be made aware of the University Policy on Hazing, contained in the Code of Student Conduct, as well as the Maryland State Law that makes hazing a crime.  These efforts are taken to help eliminate any chance of hazing during the orientation period.

What is hazing and how do I know if my son or daughter is being hazed?
Hazing is a fundamental violation of human dignity. It is strictly prohibited at the University of
Maryland. The following conduct is defined as hazing when engaged in, whether on or off University premises, for the purpose of admission, initiation, or continued association with a group or organization:

Recklessly or intentionally:
1) engaging in or enabling an act or situation that subjects another person to the risk of
     a) physical harm
     b) emotional distress, humiliation, degradation;
     c) harm from unreasonable requirements which interfere with a student’s ability to function as a student, including financial requirements outside of membership dues;
     d) diminished physical or mental capacity, or

2) causing or encouraging another person to violate any law or University regulation.

The implied or express consent of another person is not a defense under this section. The full Policy and Procedures on Hazing can be viewed here.

Hazing typically takes one of two forms: physical or psychological. Physical hazing includes, but is not limited to, such things as forced consumption of alcohol or other substances, forced tattooing or branding, paddling, and calisthenics. Psychological hazing includes, but it not limited to, such things as sleep deprivation, creation of excessive fatigue, compulsory servitude, restrictions on personal hygiene, yelling, swearing and insulting new members, being forced to wear embarrassing or humiliating attire in public, and severe psychological shock or humiliation.

Are fraternities and sororities the only organizations that haze?
Today we know that hazing extends far beyond college fraternities and is experienced by boys/men and girls/women in school groups, university organizations, athletic teams, the military, and other social and professional organizations. Hazing is a complex social problem that is shaped by power dynamics operating in a group and/or organization and within a particular cultural context. 

What should I do if I suspect something inappropriate is going on in the new member education program?
Although there is a great deal of debate about what is and is not considered hazing among students and scholars alike, the University suggests that if you or your son/daughter have any doubt about the appropriateness of an activity or aspect of the new member program, you should contact one or more of the following departments:

Hazing Hotline: 240.432.6053
Fraternity and Sorority Life: 301.314.7172 http://www.greek.umd.edu  
Office of Student Conduct: (301) 314-8204 http://osc.umd.edu/
Department of Public Safety: (301) 405-3333 or 911 http://www.umpd.umd.edu/
University Counseling Center: (301) 314-7651 http://www.counseling.umd.edu/
University Health Center: (301) 314-8106 http://www.health.umd.edu/

So what should the purpose of a new member education program be? 

Although each chapter has its own intended outcomes for the new member education period, some commonalities include:

  1. FOSTER UNITY among all members of the chapter, not just among individuals in the new member class.
  2. DEVELOP LEADERSHIP SKILLS among the new members by encouraging participation in school/campus activities outside of the organization. 
  3. PROMOTE SCHOLARSHIP.
  4. BUILD AWARENESS OF CHAPTER HISTORY, including a chapter’s founding date locally and nationally, special chapter traditions, and prominent former members.
  5. ENHANCE THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE FRATERNITY/SORORITY COMMUNITY, including the governing councils, campus and chapter advisors, and the expectations of the fraternity and sorority community.
  6. AID CAREER GOALS by exposing new members to college resources for seminars on resume writing, job interview skills, and various career options.

Who should I contact if I have other questions about fraternity and sorority life?
The Department of Fraternity and Sorority Life has 23 staff members, all of whom can help you answer any questions you may have. For more information about the fraternities and sororities at the University of Maryland, please visit our website at Greek.umd.edu. For specific questions about chapters within the Panhellenic Association, please contact Kahlin McKeown at 301.314.7161 or via email at kmckeown@umd.edu. For specific questions about chapters within the Interfraternity Council, please contact Christine Licata at 301.314.6781 or via email at calicata@umd.edu. For specific questions about chapters within the Pan-Hellenic Council or the Multicultural Greek Council, please contact Nathan Bunch at 301.314.7313 or via email at nbunch@umd.edu. For all other questions, please feel free to contact the office at 301.314.7172.

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