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Non-Greek Greeks: Service, Academic, and Professional Fraternities

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When the word “Greek” is mentioned on a college campus, social fraternities and sororities come to mind. They are also service, academic, and professional fraternities on campus.

Service fraternities provide service to the collegiate community and to people burdened by hardship in surrounding areas. These organizations select their membership without regard to academic major, gender, ethnicity, or religious affiliation. Pledges are not expected to sell themselves to the organization; instead, the pledge leaders instill faith in the organization in the pledges. The largest service fraternity is Alpha Phi Omega, which derives its principles from the Boy Scouts of America.

Academic or honorary fraternities recognize and encourage superior academic performance and leadership achievement. They are open to both men and women. There are approximately 110 different fraternities of this type. Some are open to students from all fields of study, while others restrict their membership to certain fields. Still others recognize excellence in overall achievement. The largest academic fraternities include Phi Kappa Phi, which limits membership to college juniors and seniors who have excelled academically; Phi Eta Sigma, a national honor society for college freshmen; and Phi Beta Kappa, which honors students graduating at the top of their college class. Academic fraternities are sometimes quite restricted in membership, but they always refer to the profession of the members.

Professional fraternities generally limit their membership to students pursuing a particular field of study. Membership in any of the more than 80 professional fraternities is open to both men and women. These fraternities promote a field of study, support the education and professional development of members, and honor their achievements. The largest professional fraternities include Beta Alpha Psi (accounting), Delta Sigma Pi (business), and Phi Delta Phi (law). Professional fraternities are often confused with honor societies because of their focus on a specific disciple. Professional fraternities are significantly different from honor societies in that honor societies are associations designed to provide recognition of the past achievement of those who are invited to membership. Professional fraternities, on the other hand, work to build brotherhood among members and cultivate the strengths of members in order to serve the community and provide assistance to one another in their mutual areas of professional study. Membership in a professional fraternity is generally the result of lengthy pledge process, much like any other social fraternity. Members are expected to remain loyal and active in the organization for life.

These fraternal organizations provide informational resources such as guest speakers and a social network that allows any student to seek help and make contacts with others in their area of interest. Members also relate to each another on a new level as they undergo the same rigors toward a certain field. Social relationships do form, but due to the sheer size of organizations with open membership, it’s more difficult to get to know everyone as much as you would like.

Most members of the “non-Greek” Greek organizations will tell you that the pledging process is not as demanding. An example of the pledge requirements for Alpha Epsilon Delta are four hours of community service, the accumulation of pledge points, and CPR certification. These requirements may not be as tough on a student’s schedule as those required for a social fraternity or sorority.

There are many types of service, academic, and professional fraternities. Besides those that are based on academics or a specific field of study, there are Greek organizations based on race and ethnicity, sexual persuasion, and religion. As you can see, there are Greek organizations for many different groups of people.

The Professional Fraternity Association was formed in 1978. It supports professional fraternities and sororities with the goal of preserving high standards on campus and in professional practice. The association is the result of a merger of the Professional Interfraternity Conference (for men’s groups) and the Professional Panhellenic Association (for women’s groups). The merger of the two original groups resulted from the passage of Title IX by Congress in the early 1970s, effectively ending gender distinctions for most fraternal groups with professional affiliations.

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