Before you even step on campus as a first-year student, you’ll be introduced to how to get involved in school activities.
During the first few weeks of school, you may attend campus involvement fairs or see tables set up in the student union with information about clubs and organizations. Look at what they have to offer – it’s a great way to meet new people and find ways to be active outside of your academics.
Students have been making an impact on campus and in their communities through Greek organizations for more than a century.
Historically Black Greek fraternities and sororities are governed through the National Pan-Hellenic Council. The NPHC was founded at Howard University in 1930, and its mission is: “Unanimity of thought and action as far as possible in the conduct of Greek letter collegiate fraternities and sororities, and to consider problems of mutual interest to its member organizations.”
The National Panhellenic Conference is made up of 26 member groups, which are represented on more than 670 college campuses nationwide. The Indianapolis-based NPC is the largest organization that focuses on sororities, and it was established in 1902.
The North-American Interfraternity Conference, Inc., founded in 1909, is an association representing 66 international and national fraternities that operate on about 800 campuses. The Carmel, Indiana-based group was founded in 1909.
What benefits do Greek organizations provide to the students, campus and community?
Involvement in a Greek letter organization means opportunity for leadership roles, academic aid, financial scholarships, networking and social interactions. Members are committed to raising funds to support the organization and its philanthropy projects. They work together to plan events, dances and parties – all with a fellowship component.
Takeem Dean is the dean of students at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, and the Greek Life department reports to him. All nine NPHC organizations are active on the Johnson C. Smith campus: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.; Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc.; Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.; Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.; Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.; and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
“Today, Greek organizations are community based,” he said. “They do a lot of community service projects locally and globally.” The groups at JCSU participate in community service projects with groups such as Adopt-A-Highway, soup kitchens, March of Dimes and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
Members continue to contribute to their organization even after graduating college. “It is a lifetime commitment,” Dean said.
Kevin Bailey is the vice chancellor for Student Affairs at UNC Charlotte, where there 42 fraternities and sororities, including eight NPHC groups. He’s found a connection through the Greek system’s service component and specifically to other African American males in his community.
“I absolutely love the network,” Bailey said. “I have yet to move to a city where I couldn’t join an alumni chapter and didn’t have an instant connection in a new place.”
How about hazing and all that partying?
Members of Greek-letter organizations have been represented in movies as partying all night and sleeping all day, but they face serious sanctions when campus rules and laws are broken. For example, four fraternities at East Carolina University have been closed in the past year.
In a July news release announcing a task force to examine Greek life on the Greenville campus, ECU Chancellor Cecil Stanton said, “Greek organizations on college campuses nationwide are dealing with issues such as hazing-related deaths, incidents of sexual assault and alcohol and drug related infractions. ECU is neither exempt nor immune from this.”
Dean recognizes that the social aspect of these organizations still draw people to them. “Greek Life is not all about partying,” he said. “That’s a small aspect of what they do.”
Dean also explained that hazing is illegal. Greek-letter organizations have made a serious commitment to educating members about the harsh realities of hazing, he said.
If I’m thinking about joining, what are my next steps?
The “in-take process” is how a student becomes a member of an NPHC Greek-letter organization, and it is called “recruitment” in other organizations.
Depending on the school and the organization, freshmen students may not be able to participate until they have earned a certain amount of credits. For example, a student must have 30 credits at Johnson C. Smith before participating in the in-take process.
Dean recommends students use that first year to build their academic success: “We want you to set a foundation at the University before going through in-take.”
Vanessa Infanzon is a freelance writer based in Charlotte. In her former life, she worked in Student Life at Davidson College, UNC Charlotte and Queens University of Charlotte. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @morethanVMI.