Greek life has long been a part of the college experience and fraternities are still a popular prospect for many new students. However, fraternities often make headlines one or more of their members commit crimes. While all fraternities can't be lumped into one category or stereotyped as bad, some general similarities exist that have given fraternities a negative reputation. If you're concerned about joining a fraternity, make sure you understand the history, traditions and reputation of its members before pledging.
The ritual most people connect with negative outcomes in fraternities is hazing. Hazing refers to the initiation rituals, customs or traditions new pledges must be a part of in order to join. Hazing practices have caused deaths and injuries after fraternity leaders subjected pledges to dangerous tasks like binge drinking, locking them in enclosed spaces or asking them to perform risky physical stunts. Hazing practices are not only dangerous to the individuals who must perform them, but they also compromise the reputation and integrity of the fraternity as a whole.
Most college fraternities are also known for being gatekeepers of the alcohol supply on campus. Underage students know they can drink at fraternity parties, which are usually hosted at fraternity housing. By offering underage students access to alcohol, fraternities promote illegal drinking, which often leads to hospitalizations for alcohol poisoning or alcohol-induced injuries. While some fraternities try to keep underage students out of their parties, many don't check ID's and will allow even high school students to attend -- especially underage girls.
Another negative effect of fraternities is the social exclusivity factor. Fraternities promote an environment where nonmembers are considered outsiders. Often times, students are encouraged not to associate with other students who are not brothers or will be punished for being seen at social events outside of the fraternity. This kind of exclusivity is counterproductive to what a college social environment should be: tolerant, diverse and dynamic.
Fraternities can also have a negative effect when it comes to an member's academic standing. Most fraternities require a significant time commitment in terms of helping with fundraisers, parties or other social events. There are usually weekly meetings to attend and other responsibilities a student must shoulder in addition to his academic course load. Some college students can find it hard to juggle classes and fraternity responsibilities. The pressure from his fraternity will often cause him to sacrifice his grades in order to put the fraternity first.
Mara Tyler is a writer and public relations consultant based in the San Francisco Bay Area. With more than eight years of experience, she specializes in health, nutrition, women's lifestyle and marketing. Tyler holds a Bachelor of Science in public relations.