- What is a fraternity and sorority?
- How does a student join a fraternity or sorority?
- Can anybody join a fraternity or sorority?
- Am I limited to what chapter/system I may join?
- If I join a fraternity or sorority, do I have to live in the chapter house?
- How much does it cost to be in a fraternity or sorority?
- If I join a chapter, am I going to be hazed?
- Who oversees the fraternity and sorority system?
Fraternities (men) and sororities (women) are student associations – often referred to as secret, Greek-lettered societies. Fraternities and sororities have been part of the higher education landscape for almost two centuries. The first fraternity at the university (then Massachusetts Agricultural College) was founded in 1869, and the first sorority was founded in 1916. Most fraternities and sororities are affiliated with a national organization, although our campus hosts three UMass Amherst only chapters-often called "locals." Social fraternities and sororities should not be confused with the many academic and honor societies that operate on campus. Both share the Greek-letter name and have some other similarities, but each serves a different function. It is possible for a student to be a member of a social fraternity/sorority and an academic or honor society.
Each fraternity or sorority has some type of recruitment process. The Panhellenic sororities conduct a formal recruitment at the beginning of the fall semester and informal recruitment in the spring semester. The IFC fraternities, the NPHC and multicultural fraternities and sororities will do recruitment or intake throughout the year. Most chapters or the governing councils will post flyers in the residence halls, sponsor information sessions on campus, have information on the web site, and promote events in The Daily Collegian, Campus Pulse and social media.
Fraternity membership is open to all full-time undergraduate students; although some chapters are open to students from the Five Colleges. However, fraternities and sororities do have a selection process, so it is best to check out every chapter to find the best match. Some chapters have requirements that must be met before one may be considered for membership: grade point averages, semester hours completed, an intake process, etc. Before joining, one should learn everything possible about the fraternity or sorority chapter. Most national fraternities and sororities have information sites on the internet and social media. An internet search will give one information about the national organization as well as links to a specific campus' chapter.
Other than gender identity (fraternities are for students who identify as men/male and sororities are for students who identify as women/female), a chapter is open to membership of any interested university student (and in some cases, a Five College or greater Springfield college student) who is in good standing and meets all the academic requirements. Interested students are encouraged to investigate as many chapters as possible in order to make a well-informed decision. The decision is for a lifetime, so it should be done with all seriousness.
Not every chapter on campus has a facility/house. For those with facilities, each one has its own housing requirements and processes. First year students are not allowed to move into a chapter facility (university policy). Only initiated members who at least have a second year or higher status may move into an approved facility.
Each chapter sets its own fees for joining and for housing. There are usually national dues, an initiation fee, and local costs when one joins a chapter. Housing costs are comparable to on-campus costs but do vary from chapter to chapter. Most chapters will provide this information during the recruitment process.
Hazing is a violation of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts laws and university policies (see the Code of Student Conduct). Every national fraternity or sorority has banned hazing, and each chapter is obligated to comply with these regulations. Most chapters have a new member program (a.k.a. a pledge program) where new members learn what it means to be a member of the chapter. This is usually a 4-6 week program. Once the program is completed, new members are initiated into membership. In addition to the hazing policy, all university policies apply to the fraternity and sorority community.
The Office of Fraternities and Sororities, a part of the Student Engagement and Leadership department, oversees the fraternity and sorority system. The office has advisors who work with the chapters and the governing councils. Most chapters also have their own volunteers that assist and advise them. National offices have staff and volunteers that visit the chapters at least once a year.