Frequently Asked Questions
What is a fraternity or a sorority?
A fraternity is a group of men or women bound together by friendship, brotherhood or sisterhood, and common goals and aspirations. Women's fraternities are most often referred to as sororities. The members that form the fraternity share their friendship, efforts, and knowledge. Together these members learn and grow and make the fraternity strong. Their common experience builds ties that last a lifetime. This forms a brotherhood or sisterhood among the members, which helps to develop strong and creative leadership that leads to success.
Though there are many different fraternities, they all share common founding principles that are of interest to any college man or woman. Fraternities endeavor to enhance your educational experience by emphasizing intellectual, interpersonal, and social development. The ideals of lifelong friendship, sound education, campus and community service, and social interaction are what fraternity members strive to live by every day.
Why do people join fraternities and sororities?
Social opportunities, philanthropic projects, community service, tradition, career networking, and becoming part of an international organization are all reasons mentioned for becoming part of the Fraternal community, but the one cited most often by members is the sense of brotherhood/sisterhood. After all, you don't have to join a fraternity or sorority to have a great social life in the University. You don't have to pay dues to a Greek letter organization to volunteer or raise money for a cause. You don't have to belong to the Fraternal community to acquire the personal development and study skills to succeed at the University. The element of brotherhood/sisterhood is nonetheless a difficult attribute to convey to men and women interested in joining the Fraternal system. It is a feeling of togetherness, support, and teamwork. It is companionship, personal discovery, challenge, and awareness.
Joining a Fraternal organization is one way to make the University of West Florida seem smaller, friendlier, and easier to handle — it gives you a place and people to count on. Fraternities and sororities endeavor to enhance your educational experience by emphasizing intellectual, interpersonal, and social development. The ideals of lifelong friendship, sound education, campus and community service, and social interaction are what FSL members strive to live by every day.
What is it like to be involved in a fraternity or sorority?
The Fraternal community is a diverse group of men and women belonging to a variety of different fraternities and sororities on campuses across North America. The first Fraternal organization was founded in 1776, when students realized a need to discuss current events outside the classroom. Fraternal societies have since taken on a broader role to develop the moral, mental, and social skills of their members. Each individual fraternity and sorority possesses a set of principles that guide the actions of its members.
The University of West Florida’s Fraternal community, founded in 1967, provides members with academic, leadership, social, and educational opportunities that contribute to a well-rounded university experience. It comprises slightly over 5 percent of the student population. There are currently 8 national fraternities and 6 national sororities. Comprising of 7 National Interfraternity Conference (NIC) fraternities, 1 National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) fraternity, 4 National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) sororities, 1 Asian Interest Sorority (NAPA) and 1 National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) sorority. Many members of Fraternal chapters are also leaders on campus in a wide range of student organizations and on athletic teams. Fraternities and sororities contribute significant amounts of time working with, and raising funds for, local and national community service organizations and agencies.
Aren't fraternities and sororities just like the ones in the movies and on TV?
The image of Fraternal life is often defined by individuals without complete or dated information. Fictional accounts from Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, Road Trip, or even Greek as well as the news media tends to focus on, and exaggerate, the social aspect of Fraternal Life, rather than all the impressive, multi-dimensional benefits of Fraternal membership.
While it's clear that the Fraternal community on some campuses clearly needs revamping, the University of West Florida has a strong, vibrant system free of the problems of alcoholism, hazing, and elitism found at some American schools. The University of West Florida’s Fraternal organizations do hold social events where alcohol is present; however, non-alcohol alternatives are always available at these events and the events are tightly controlled. Further the fraternities and sororities also host hundreds of charity events and other activities entirely without alcohol, and all fraternities and sororities oppose hazing because it has no place in organizations based on mutual respect and shared values.
What do I need to do to join?
There are a few things to consider before joining a sorority or fraternity:
1. Determine your eligibility. Students interested in joining a fraternity or sorority at UWF must meet eligibility requirements. All interested students must be degree-seeking and registered for a minimum of 6 credit hours at the University of West Florida’s Pensacola Campus in good standing with the University. In addition, Fraternal organizations also have grade point average requirements (most organization’s GPA requirement is between a 2.5 and 3.0.)
2. Ask questions of members. Here are a few questions for you to ask current members of Fraternal organizations to help you determine which chapter is best for you:
- Why did you join a Fraternal organization?
- How did you choose this chapter?
- In which philanthropic and community service projects does your chapter participate?
- What are the financial obligations of membership?
- How will Fraternal life benefit me now and in the future?
- What is the time commitment involved?
- How has your life changed as a member of a Fraternal organization?
How do I know if I am the fraternity or sorority type?
There is no fraternity or sorority "type". Most of the stereotypes about Fraternal membership are myths. One of the strengths of the University of West Florida’s Fraternal system is the diversity of the individuals who are associated with it. Each fraternity and sorority, no matter how large or small in number, consists of members who have varied interests and backgrounds.
How do I know which is the best fraternity or sorority for me?
Each organization is founded on different beliefs and values. Whether to join a large or small chapter; a newly-formed or old chapter; a chapter geared mainly toward athletics, academics, campus involvement, or a more diverse, well-rounded chapter; is simply a matter of personal preference. Each organization has its own advantages. Selecting a fraternity or sorority is like choosing friends — pick the group with which you feel most comfortable.
During recruitment, the fraternities or sororities you visit should be informing you of the benefits of their particular organization. As you attend the various Recruitment events, it is important that you ask the questions that are important to you: costs, activities, scholarship, philanthropy, etc. If a group talks more about the other groups than itself, be aggressive and ask about that group. But, perhaps most importantly, make the decision on your own. Even though your roommate, best friend, or the group you attended Recruitment events with has decided on a particular fraternity or sorority, you do not have to. Your friends should always be your friends, the choice of fraternity or sorority is completely yours. It is a decision you will have made for a lifetime.
What is a fraternity/sorority initiation like? Why is it so significant for members?
Initiation into a Greek letter organization is by a secret ceremony where a new or associate member becomes a fully initiated, life-member of the organization. During this ceremony you will learn the deeper meanings of the fraternity or sorority and the reasons why they exist. Each member’s initiation is the same, and because of this, the ceremony becomes the binding force that interlocks each member to the whole body. The secrecy involved with the initiation process teaches respect and trust. There are no offensive or hazing practices involved in a fraternal initiation. A fraternal organization that engaged in hazing activities would not be allowed to exist at the University of West Florida.
How much time does fraternity or sorority membership require?
Like most other worthwhile extra-curricular activities, how much you get out of your Fraternal membership is directly related to how much you put in. On average, expect to contribute two to four hours per week for meetings and mandatory activities. Optional activities such as holding an office, attending social events, playing on an intramural sports team, or helping out with various projects will of course take additional time. Some organizations require more time than others. Be sure to ask questions regarding time commitments during recruitment.
Whether it is planning a party, a community service project, or regular weekly meetings, fraternity members have learned to manage their time wisely with other commitments like homework, relationships, and jobs. Commuting students specifically gain a home-away-from-home that enables them to be a part of the University of West Florida life. Through Fraternal involvement, you will meet diverse friends and be linked to an international network of more than 4.5 million members providing continual contact and activities wherever they go in life. Perhaps this is also why so many Fraternal members have found great success in life.
What do fraternal members actually do?
Members participate in many activities on campus and in the community. For many students, the Fraternal social life helps to make attending the university a more fulfilling experience. Fraternal organizations provide a calendar of social activities including formals, homecoming, mixers, athletic activities, retreats, informal get-togethers, and other special events. In addition to social activities fraternity and sorority members are the leaders in many campus clubs and groups and are especially active in the student government association.
Finally, community service is an important aspect of fraternity life. Every Fraternal organization has an official charity to raise funds and awareness for. It is safe to say that no other segment of the student population has dedicated more time and resources, or has raised more money for charity than the members of our Fraternal community. From volunteering in regional hospitals and food banks, to giving blood, to raising money for charities such as Big Brothers Program or the Children's Miracle Network, the University of West Florida’s fraternities and sororities are lending a helping hand.
Is there a lot of alcohol or substance abuse association with fraternities and sororities?
The social aspect of Fraternal life is one of the many reasons that students get involved in fraternities and sororities; however, alcohol and substance abuse is not tolerated. Most organizations have mandatory educational sessions on the dangers of alcohol and substance abuse, and precautions are taken at events to ensure a safe environment.
Will fraternal membership affect my grades?
Academic achievement is a priority for all Fraternal organizations. Many organizations enforce grade point average requirements and offer study sessions, tutoring, and other programs to assist members in achieving their potential. Since the Fraternal chapters are composed of men or women from different years, with many different majors, and diverse interests, you can always find someone in your field of study that can offer advice and support.
Students who take advantage of the academic opportunities available and properly balance their time between academic and extra-curricular pursuits will find that membership will enhance their academic performance. Several studies have consistently found that fraternity and sorority members tend to be significantly more likely to graduate from their program and report more satisfaction with their university experience than for unaffiliated students.
What sort of leadership opportunities does fraternal life provide?
Fraternities and sororities exemplify democracy in action. They are families, communities, and some are legal corporations with annual operating budgets of over $50,000. Many members live and learn to work within this environment. Officers within each chapter are elected to manage the day-to-day operations of the organization. These officers are assisted by members serving on committees and by alumni who act as advisors. Additionally, many organizations have regional and international leadership conferences where students learn a variety of leadership skills. Finally, members can serve on a variety of university and Fraternal Council governance, judicial, and other Fraternal life sub-committees. Fraternities and sororities provide a solid foundation in leadership training that prepares students for the demands and responsibilities needed for the future.
What sort of alumni connections can I make?
The role of the alumni as advisors or International Fraternal officers and consultants is substantial. Lifetime friendships expand beyond individual chapters to include all members of the national and international Fraternal life community. Alumni organizations help students network for potential employment opportunities after graduation, and keep in touch through newsletters, correspondence, meetings, and special alumni events.
What is the normal size of a chapter?
There has been constant growth in fraternities and sororities in the past few years. The sizes of chapters vary from one to another and from university to university. In smaller schools a chapter may have 25 to 30 members while at large universities the membership may be close to 150. At the University of West Florida, Fraternal organization's membership ranges from around 8 to 110.
What's the difference between a "sorority" and a "women's fraternity"?
The words fraternity and sorority are used interchangeably for women's Fraternal-letter groups. Fraternity is derived from the Greek word "phrater," meaning brother, sister, or clan. "Soror," the source word for sorority, is Latin and means sister. The word "sorority" did not come into usage until the late 1800s and groups founded prior to then are officially incorporated as women's fraternities. Today the term "sorority" is used to distinguish women's groups from men's groups.
What is hazing and is it permitted at UWF?
"In accordance with Section 1006.63, Florida Statutes, "Hazing" is defined as any action or situation that recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student for purposes including, but not limited to, initiation or admission into or affiliation with any organization operating under the sanction of a postsecondary institution. "Hazing" includes, but is not limited to, pressuring or coercing the student into violating state or federal law, any brutality of a physical nature, such as whipping, beating, branding, exposure to the elements, forced consumption of any food, liquor, drug, or other substance, or other forced physical activity that could adversely affect the physical health or safety of the student, and also includes any activity that would subject the student to extreme mental stress, such as sleep deprivation, forced exclusion from social contact, forced conduct that could result in extreme embarrassment, or other forced activity that could adversely affect the mental health or dignity of the student." (UWF/REG-3.018 Prohibition of Hazing – Definition of Hazing)
Hazing is not tolerated at the University of West Florida or within Fraternal Organizations.
What is the recruitment process and how do I join?
"Recruitment" is a period when fraternities and sororities on campus organize a new member selection period. It is a time for students to ask questions of members, define financial obligations, time commitments, and membership requirements. Recruitment is year-round, but the formal recruitment period is at the beginning of the fall academic term.
Recruitment is a two-way process when fraternities and sororities are looking at you, and you are looking at fraternities and sororities. You are deciding which organization most interests you, which has the members you relate to the most, and where you feel the most comfortable. At the same time, members of the chapter are meeting you and others going through recruitment. Chapters are looking at individuals who can contribute to their membership in terms of grades, activities, talents, and interests. It isn't a hard process and once you're involved, you'll find you like it.
What is membership intake?
The membership intake process is the process for which prospective members are educated about a chapter's history, organization, and community service. It is the initial procedure for some historically African-American and culturally-based fraternities and sororities.
What is the new member process?
Most organizations require their members to complete a educational period, called “new member education" prior to initiation for the purpose of orientation and member development. During this time you'll learn the history, traditions, and operating procedures of the organization and participate in activities to get to know the members better. Organizations use various terms to refer to their pre-initiates, including "new member", "associate member", and "candidate". The duration of the new member period varies from group to group but is no more than an academic semester. Some organizations require new members to achieve a certain grade point average during their new member semester in order to qualify for initiation into the organization.
Is there a cost to join a fraternity or sorority?
Given the benefits provided, Fraternal membership is a bargain. However, students should consider the costs in planning their personal budgets. Dues vary from chapter to chapter because of size, insurance and tax assessments, national fee structures, etc. Most chapters offer a variety of payment plan options. Students should be aware that there may be one-time costs established by the international headquarters (if applicable) for initiation and pledging during the first semester of membership. It is best to contact the individual chapters to determine the actual cost of membership.
The demographics of Fraternal membership are similar to that of other UWF students. Many members hold a part-time job, collect financial aid and grants, and pay their dues by installments. It is important to ask the question about finances before making the commitment and make a plan that works best for you.
Can I live in a sorority residence hall or fraternity house this fall or should I reserve a room on campus?
The University of West Florida does have residence halls on campus for some of our sororities. These halls are managed through Housing and Residential Life like other residence halls on our campus. Some fraternities also have houses off campus that are managed by the national headquarters. When you go through the Recruitment process it is important to ask each organization how they determine who moves into the residence halls/houses in order to receive the best answer. Because Recruitment does not begin until after the Fall semester starts it is important to secure a place to live whether on campus or off before you come to UWF.
How much does it cost to live in a sorority residence hall or fraternity house?
The fees for the sorority residence halls are determined by Housing and Residential Life. To receive the most up to date costs check their website yearly. The fraternity houses are managed by their national headquarters and varies based on the organization. It is important to ask each organization about the costs associated.
Do all fraternities and sororities have chapter houses/residence halls?
No, the on campus residence halls and fraternity houses are limited based on resources and only a few sororities or fraternities are able to have one.
Do I have to live in the chapter house if I join?
It depends on the fraternity and sorority, but many fraternities and sororities require chapter officers to live in their chapter house during their term of office. Living in a fraternity/sorority house offers a "home away from home," furthers academic and social growth and development, and provides much of the comfort and support of a family environment.
Why are fraternities and sororities referred to as "Greek" organizations?
Sororities and fraternities are commonly known as Greek organizations and their members as "Greeks" because a majority of them use Greek letters to distinguish themselves. It is not a reflection of the ancestry of the individual members. Greek letters were chosen during the 1800s for a variety of reasons including: a tribute to the first true democracies in the Western World; the fact that many of the organizations used Greek (and sometimes Latin) words for their secret and public mottoes, officers etc; and because many of the organizations grew from literary societies that were dedicated to the discussion of classical literature as was popular among the educated classes of the time. This term is further solidified today by the use of Greek architectural elements including pediments and columns commonly adorning fraternity and sorority houses.
My parents do not like the idea of fraternities and sororities. How can I offer them reassurance?
At some point, most of our chapter members also had to have “the talk” with their families. We encourage you to tell them to visit our website. If your parents have specific questions or concerns, we can help you answer them. There are numerous undergraduate leaders, alumni, fraternity/sorority inter/national headquarters staff, University administrators and even other parents who are more than willing to share their personal insights and experiences.
Who is in charge of each organization?
In business terms, think about each chapter as a local franchise of an inter/national corporation. Undergraduate members are elected to officer positions and manage the day-to-day operations of the organization. These officers are assisted by members serving on committees and by alumni serving as advisors. The inter/national headquarters provides each chapter with oversight, support, and guidance through paid professional staff and regional volunteers. Professional college staff members are also employed to assist, educate, and monitor the activities of Fraternal organizations at the University of West Florida.