When you’re an active fraternity or sorority member, going Greek seems like the most natural thing in the world. However, for potential new members, joining a fraternity or sorority or even going through formal recruitment can be an intimidating decision and a staggering step to take. This decision can be made even more difficult if the student’s parents weren’t in a fraternity or sorority, believe the negative stereotypes, or are “anti-Greek”. For many potential new members, disapproving parents can deter them from recruitment or accepting a bid. And, for those students who choose to join despite their parents’ perspective, balancing Greek life and family life can be a challenging task to accomplish. Luckily, there are many ways that active members and fraternity and sorority chapters can help to alleviate tensions between students and parents, and change the image of Greek students.
Greek Information at Recruitment
No doubt, the potential new members will have heard the gossip, know the stereotypes of fraternities, sororities and Greek life, and will enter recruitment with a slightly biased opinion. Your Greek community and fraternity or sorority chapter can combat this bias head-on by providing information about Greek life all throughout recruitment. Not only should this information go to the potential new members, but also to their parents and families. When potential new members register for formal recruitment, have them provide their parents’ mailing address or email so recruitment information can be sent (both from your governing body such as IFC or Panhellenic and the individual chapters). Information should include the formal recruitment process, the participating fraternity and sorority chapters, and a glossary of terms (i.e. what a “bid” is).
Additionally, fraternity and sorority members can do their part to disprove the image by acting appropriately throughout recruitment. Sororities who bad-mouth other chapters and fraternities who host illegal parties with alcohol and drugs do nothing to improve the image of the Greek community.
Chapter Information throughout Student’s Pledge Process
Once your potential new members receive and accept their bids, the majority of the responsibility to stay in contact with parents falls on the individual chapters. While the Greek governing bodies should still send out information to parents to keep them up to date, once new members accept their bids, parents usually want specific information about their student’s chapter. Most national fraternities and sororities send out welcome and introduction letters to parents that include general information about the organization and additional resources. Before you send out information to the parents of your new members, be sure to talk with your nationals to see what they already send out.
Since your nationals sends out general information to parents, most information you send out should be specific to your chapter and the new member (pledge) process. Include information such as what the chapter is doing, what the new members are doing, and how the new member process works. Also, if you have a chapter newsletter (sent out to parents of active members), consider sending this to parents of new members as well.
Although your new members have now made it through the new member process, been initiated, and become a vital brother or sister of the chapter, it doesn’t mean that their parents will automatically change their views on the Greek system. Unfortunately, you may never be able to completely change a parent’s perspective of fraternities and sororities or their idea of what it is to be “Greek”, but that doesn’t mean you should stop trying. As their student is now an active member of the chapter, parents should still be kept up to date about what’s going on. Send out a parents newsletter at least twice a year (once per quarter or semester is ideal) with information about the chapter and what’s going on. Here are some ideas of what to include:
- Newly elected executive members
- Philanthropic activities
- Current athletics and results from previous sports (championships, etc.)
- Chapter awards and recognitions (from the university, from your nationals, etc.)
- Upcoming events that parents can attend (philanthropy, parents’ night, etc.)
Although sending out newsletters and chapter updates are effective ways of keeping parents in the loop, sometimes the best way to change a stereotype is face to face. Many chapters host a parents’ day, night, or weekend in which any parents of an active member can visit the chapter’s house, meet the active members, and see what the chapter does. Tailor your parents’ event to the needs and abilities of the chapter and its members as well as the general abilities of the parents. Don’t try hosting your parents’ day during Finals or Midterm week, and if your chapter can only host a two-hour event, don’t try to stretch your budget and host an entire weekend. Likewise, if many of your members are from out-of-state, plan the event ahead of time and tell the parents far enough in advance so they can make travel plans and change their schedule if need be. As you plan your parents’ day, make sure to schedule events that both allow people to meet and mingle, and that are tailored to parents and members. Also, remember to provide snacks for a short event, and lunch or dinner if the event goes over three or four hours.
Local Active and Alumni Chapters
Fraternity and sorority chapters should be aware of how their actions affect the public’s perceptions of Greeks. Not only do members’ behavior reflect the chapter and the national fraternity or sorority, but they also reflect the Greek community as a whole. Additionally, Greek alumni chapters and associations reflect the Greek community and contribute to the overall image of fraternities and sororities. Even if the issue of anti-Greek parents hasn’t come up in your chapter, consider how your chapter’s actions and behavior will positively or negatively affect the stereotype. Because, chances are, the issue will eventually affect one or more of your members.