Once known as “women’s fraternities” sororities took shape in 1851 with the formation of the Adelphean Society Alpha Delta Pi, about 75 years after the first fraternity was formed. If you have never been part of a sorority or a fraternity, most of what you know about them is likely a product of what you see in movies and television. The media represents sororities as wild and exclusive clubs whose membership often comes with dangerous consequences. Sororities are depicted as being led by fashionable “mean girls” who bully and intimidate to get their way and to keep order in the house. To be part of these groups, members often have to undergo intense hazing rituals to secure their spot, and both in movies and in real life, these rituals can prove fatal. Of course, not all sororities are bad, and they are typically far more dramatized in the media than they really are. Many members of sororities both past and present recount the sisterhood that came with the sorority to be one of the most enriching experiences of their lives that they wouldn’t trade for a thing. So, if the media says one thing and actual sorority members say another, how will we ever know the truth about sororities without ever being in one? Well, with their secretive nature, we will likely never know every last detail from inside a sorority, but looking back at their history and relying on testimonies from past members, we get a pretty good idea of what goes on behind closed doors. Here are 15 things you didn’t know about sororities.
15 Sororities by the Numbers
Sororities and Fraternities are a huge part of the college life for many Americans. In North America alone, there are over 800 campuses with more than 12,000 chapters that utilize sororities and fraternities with more than 9 million members and these numbers will continue to rise. These numbers shocked us too! There are 123 sorority and fraternity organizations, and as of right now, 43 of the 50 largest Greek organizations are headed by men, but sorority members are pushing for equal representation in Greek organizations and more and more sororities are being founded. We can expect to see a few more in the upcoming years. And many sororities have been given fame and notoriety for appearing on shows such as The Ellen Show, going on to raise money and explaining what they do to give back to their community and their members.
14 Issues With Alcohol
While most college students enjoy and attend a plethora of parties during their education, sororities are known for their wild parties, as most of you can imagine. One study suggests that while 40.9% of female college students NOT involved in a sorority have abused alcohol, 62.4% of females in a Greek organization admit to abusing alcohol. These numbers result in a higher rate of alcohol-related injuries in sororities as well, as you can imagine the lifestyle there to be when one drinks, everyone drinks. 18.6% of sorority leaders have suffered an alcohol-related injury. Luckily, stats also show that while members are more likely to abuse alcohol during college, it is not linked to alcohol abuse later in life. Many Greek organizations have introduced alcohol safety awareness initiatives to prevent such injury and abuse, but the stereotype of sororities being filled with drunk college girls lives on.
13 Sororities are Generous
One of the little-known facts about Greek life is how philanthropic the organizations are. Many of them do raise money to give back to those in need. Many of the members come from affluence and use their status for good.
Fraternities and sororities hold regular charity events to raise money for different causes. While some claim these efforts are to counteract any negative news from other facts about sororities, which is very likely possible, there’s no doubt they are doing good. One of the most charitable sororities in America is Zeta Tau Alpha, founded in 1898 in Virginia. In 2011 alone, they raised $384,039 for charity. Interestingly, ESPN football host report for FOX News Erin Andrews is a member of Zeta Tau Alpha, as once you are a member, you are considered one for life.
12 Hazing History
This is a topic that interests most people. One of the darkest sides of the history (and present) or sororities and fraternities alike is the hazing rituals that often come with it. Most of us are so curious about this aspect as it has been brought to light a lot in recent years with women explaining the horrifying things they have endured. A 2007 study showed 68% of more than 11,000 students from 53 different campuses in the United States had experienced hazing in order to be inducted as a member of a sorority. This is disturbing news considering most sororities have anti-hazing rules in effect, although they apparently aren’t being followed by the majority of members. After women come forward with incidences of hazing, schools were quick to say they have a no tolerance policy for these events, yet they continue to happen. We wonder if this will ever stop or if it will continue to be done discretely.
11 Scary Consequences
While some hazing can be harmless fun, it is best avoided altogether because it can quickly go wrong and become emotionally or physically painful or dangerous for those at the receiving end of it. As we've seen in movies, even a seemingly harmless hazing situation can take a dark turn quickly.
In 2010, an aspiring member of the Sigma Gamma Rho chapter at Rutgers University came forward to authorities after being hospitalized and alleging she had been beaten on her bare bottom with a paddle 201 times over a seven-day period. Six sorority members were charged with the beating, although charges were eventually dropped. Each of the accused name’s was released to the public, however, so each student will face consequences for years to come. Many other women have come forward to share their horrific memories of being hazed, most of which exposing the people that were involved.
10 Solving the Hazing Problem
Because hazing is a practice used to weed out pledges to sororities, many people assert that to rid of hazing, Greek organizations to need to get rid of pledging in the first place. It seems as though the want to be in a sorority is as high as ever. Of course, due to the long history behind many of these practices, some people are reluctant to do away with any of the practices they are accustomed to, even if it means demeaning people or taking things a little too far. By declaring that hazing is “banned,” it is only forcing members to haze more privately, rather than stopping it altogether, which can obviously make their tactics a little worse. This topic is of hot debate as individual sororities who say their hazing is harmless and fun claim it is unfair to be punished for the actions of more extreme sororities.
9 Miss America
Miss America 2015, Kira Kazantsev, seems to be the picture-perfect beauty queen with a squeaky clean history and many admirable accomplishments. It turns out, Kazantsev was part of the Alpha Phi sorority at Hofstra University and even served as the head of recruitment for the sorority. The story took a darker turn when it was revealed she was kicked out of her sorority in 2013 for hazing. This case was investigated for months before Kazantsev and another member were expelled from the sorority. While the Miss America Organization claimed they knew of this all along, many people were upset that a person with such a history would be titled Miss America.
Sadly, many women in sororities have had to go through serious hazings, and find it to be almost normal and necessary to pass it down to women applying to be a part of their association. But most women will never reveal what truly goes down when it comes to hazing rituals they have had to endure.
8 Fatal Hazing
While most fatal incidences of hazing take place in fraternities, there have been a few tragic incidences of sorority pledges dying during hazing. In 2002, Kenitha Saafir and Kristin High drowned at Dockweiler State Beach. Both girls had been pledges of an Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority at Cal. State University. Witnesses claim the girls had been forced to do calisthenics on the beach for hours before they were told to walk backward into the ocean. High, who knew Saafir couldn’t swim, attempted to save her after a wave took her down, but both women ended up being swept away from the surf. No one was ever officially charged with their deaths.
What makes this even harder to tolerate is that the University of Maine describes hazing as "any activity expected of someone joining or participating in a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses or endangers them, regardless of a person's willingness to participate."
7 Tragedy Strikes
In 2003, an unrecognized chapter of the Sigma Kappa Omega sorority at Plymouth State University suffered a devastating loss when a vehicle carrying several pledges lost control and flipped off the road. The SUV was carrying ten students, including pledges who were blindfolded and forced into the back of the vehicle. It was a rainy night, and Holly Haigh, the driver of the vehicle, lost control and flipped the vehicle. One pledge, Kelly Nester, 20, was thrown from the vehicle and tragically died from her injuries. Holly Haigh was treated at the hospital the night of the accident and was later released. As the driver she wasn’t officially charged with Nester’s death, the victim’s family brought forth a civil lawsuit in hopes of getting more answers about their daughter’s death. Prior to the family filing a civil lawsuit, there were no criminal charges filed on this specific case.
6 Celebrity Sorority Members
Many celebrities proudly claim they were, or are, members of sororities and still work to help their sororities raise funds. Actress and director Elizabeth Banks was a member of Delta Delta Delta at Philadelphia University, and model Molly Sims was a member of the same sorority at Vanderbilt University. Lucy Lui, Heather Locklear, Angela Kinsey, and Catt Sadler were Chi Omega members. Kappa Kappa Gamma has some prominent members as well, most notably, actress Sophia Bush, designer Kate Spade, actress Jamie Chung, Lo Bosworth, Nancy O’Dell, Ashley Judd, and Mariska Hargitay. Basically, almost every famous face in Hollywood was part of a sorority or fraternity.
If you are wondering which male celebs were once frat boys well that list is really long to but include Ty Burell, Paul Rudd, Harrison Ford, Jeremy Piven and even Bob Barker. Sports superstar Micheal Jordan once belonged to Omega Psi Phi at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
5 Sororities in the Movies
Movie makers have picked up on how intrigued the public is about sororities, which has resulted in a plethora of movies being made about them. The movies range from horror films to comedies, but the general stereotypes about sororities tend to always be represented. Most movies show sororities and their members as being full of mean, and or dumb girls, most of which stick to a small group of favorites, all other members seeming insignificant. These movies perpetuate stereotypes and lead to the many misconceptions people have about them. Some of the most popular movies about sororities include The House Bunny, Legally Blonde, Neighbors 2, Sorority, and Pumpkin. While these films are no doubt entertaining, the best way to find out what life is like inside of a sorority is to either see for yourself or hear it straight from a sorority member. But don't expect for the members to divulge too much information.
4 The Best of the Best
Of the thousands of sororities and fraternities in America, some repeatedly earn the reputation of being the best of the best. But being tilted as such requires a few specific aspects. Factors that determine the quality of a sorority vary, but tend to include things like the overall size of the group, the support network, the average GPA of the members, the amount of money they raise and donate to charity, and the quality of things like housing and food. Sororities and fraternities that aren't rated as highly tend to lose points for things like their grueling initiation processes, their lack of philanthropic efforts, or their party reputation. The rules tend to be quite strict which helps make sure the women stay in line to meet the requirements. Among the highest-rated houses are Phi Mu, Gamma Phi Beta, Alpha Chi Omega, Delta Zeta, Kappa Alpha Theta, and Alpha Phi.
3 Making History
In 2015, the first LGBT-inclusive sorority launched in Austin, Texas, and many regard it as the first of its kind nationally, as well. Gamma Rho Lambda was created on the basis it would be inclusive and provide a queer-safe place for women who may have wanted to join a sorority but felt unwelcome or unsafe doing so. Some young women have come forward expressing their want to join sororities but feeling unable to do so due to sexual identity. Sororities and fraternities will create a big impact on the overall safety and inclusiveness of people who identify as LGBT or anything else when they express their openness and welcoming to different groups. The sheer volume of young people involved in Greek life provides a major platform to reach and shape future generations and use their voice in a positive way. Since 2015, many other fraternities and sororities have expressed their acceptance for LGBT people, signifying a greater social movement.
2 Epic Beginnings
Georgia Female College in Macon, Georgia was founded in 1836 and became the first college not only in America, but in the world, that gave degrees to women. In 1851, Eugenia Tucker created the Adelphean Society, which was the first secret society for women. In 1905, this same group changed its name to Alpha Delta Phi (and later to Alpha Delta Pi) and officially became a national organization. In 2011, Alpha Delta Pi became the first sorority to reach the 160-year landmark, and is applauded for its groundbreaking history. Alpha Delta Pi is incredibly philanthropic and since 1979, has adopted the Ronald McDonald House for its philanthropic efforts.
To be more specific about just how charitable this sorority is, according to alphadeltapi.org "During the 2014-2015 academic year, Alpha Delta Pi contributed $1,335,355.19 to charitable organizations, including $1,192,640.52 to Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) across the United States and Canada."
1 The Future of Sororities
With all of the controversy surrounding Greek life because of the incidences of sexual assault and alcohol abuse that have taken place within them, sororities and fraternities have taken a hit in both reputation and in numbers, many having difficulty regaining their once strong names back. Experts assert that if Greek organizations can focus on the positive sides of these organizations, there is hope for their future. Philanthropic efforts need to be bigger and better than ever, all hazing rituals need to halt indefinitely, and sexual and alcohol abuse need to be on the forefront of people's mind and treated very seriously. If Greek organizations can begin to work with the universities and prove themselves beneficial for not just those in a particular house, but for all who attend that specific institution. With some changes for the good of the members, these sororities might be able to change the perceptions many have of these organizations.