Fraternities and sororities at Plattsburgh State have are beginning to start new member education programs for the semester, looking for new members to join their organizations by holding various rush events.
Greek organizations can provide their members with new friendships, memories and opportunities in career fields and networking. However, with popular Hollywood movies such as “American Pie: Beta House,” “Neighbors” and “The House Bunny,” students and members of any college campus can visualize the stereotypes these fraternities and sororities hold, causing the organizations’ achievements and contributions to be overlooked.
PSUC’s Fraternity and Sorority Life graduate intern and Pi Kappa Phi member Scott Sheehan said some common stereotypes he has heard are the misconceptions that these organizations are “superficial” and “elitist.” Sheehan also said another negative representation is that fraternities and sororities are “just drinking clubs.”
Theta Alpha Lambda President and Philanthropy Chair Ruby Lainez said movies often stereotype these organizations in such a way because fraternities and sororities used to be more party-oriented, but Lainez said the culture has changed, becoming more philanthropic and charitable over time.
She said these movies and students’ behaviors can cause non-members to develop a “prejudgment” about the fraternities’ and sororities’ values.
Philanthropic work has become the center of each fraternity and sorority at PSUC, with each organization helping to raise awareness and funds for their chosen charity.
Interfraternity Council President and Alpha Sigma Phi Parliamentarian James Kennedy said a lot of the time, people only hear of the negative events plaguing the organizations, rather than the charitable work on which they focus.
“Our causes are hidden, but our results are known,” Kennedy said.
Alpha Sigma Phi partnered with RAINN, Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network to help fundraise for the network. Last spring, the fraternity held a soccer tournament, raising about $300.
This semester, Alpha Sigma Phi plans to hold the tournament again to support RAINN. The fraternity will hold the “Party with Consent” event in coordination with Title IX, sponsoring speakers on sexual assault and consent during Sexual Assault Prevention week in April.
Kennedy said the fraternity holds these long-term campaigns to encourage cultural change and to help lower the rate of sexual assault in surrounding communities.
The fraternity also changed its recruitment and pledging policy, requiring all new brothers take part in a bystander intervention training program.
Kennedy said that the fraternity’s work is done, in part, to create “better men,” by instilling core values in the minds and actions of the fraternity brothers.
He said in order to diminish stereotypes within fraternity and sorority culture, organizations should set higher standards for themselves. He also said students, both involved and not involved in these organizations, should be open-minded when thinking about fraternities or sororities.
Theta Alpha Lambda’s philanthropy supports STOP Domestic Violence. The organization, located in Plattsburgh, serves those involved in abusive relationships by providing crisis intervention, 24-hour hotlines, safe apartments for temporary shelter and other advocacy services, with law enforcement and medical treatment facilities.
Lainez said businesses are always willing to donate because the money and donations are going back to a community charity.
The sorority will host a dance-off, as well as a volleyball tournament and various fundraisers at Applebee’s or Sweet Frog before the semester’s end.
Lainez said people sometimes subject her to negative stereotypes because of her membership in her sorority. She said when she tells people about the sorority, they often ask her if she has ever been hazed, and she doesn’t seem like “a sorority type of person.”
She said partying habits commonly attributed to fraternities and sororities should not be specific to only these organizations, as it is a part of college life in general. Lainez also said the best way for students to reduce their stereotypes is to ask questions and come to events hosted by these organizations to see what they really do.
Sheehan said Pi Kappa Phi will hold an “empathy dinner” as a part of their War of Roses event to raise awareness for those with disabilities.
Sheehan also said education is crucial to bettering the fraternity and sorority experience on campus.
”We put a lot of emphasis on educating new members but also continuing education through different programs that our office does,” he said. “We hold speakers on leaderships and talk about how to have better risk management in your chapter and how to be more inclusive.”
Sheehan said PSUC is a model of how to run these organizations.
“I’d say SUNY Plattsburgh does a pretty good job of trying to negate those stereotypes and actually have a positive experience for fraternity and sorority members here,” he said. “We have been recognized nationally and our chapters are generally seen as some of the best in the country.”
Email Marissa Russo at firstname.lastname@example.org