It’s Time!

I recently returned to higher education from retirement to an interim fraternity and sorority life position to assist my former university while they conducted a search. I learned fraternity and sorority life has made some strides forward since my initial time with this role 40 years ago. However, I was disheartened that some of the same problems continue to exist, alcohol/drug abuse, sexual assault/ violence, and hazing. There are also too many campuses where fraternity and sorority members are not excelling academically which is supposed to be a cornerstone of the fraternal experience. It’s time for some substantial changes to address these and other ongoing challenges.


It’s time to take alcohol and other substances out of our chapter houses, including illegal and  non-prescription drugs, and tobacco/vaping. All social functions with alcohol should be held at a licensed and insured third-party vendor/venue with licensed bartenders.

The dominant role alcohol plays in fraternity and sorority life must end. “Male fraternity members who lived in fraternity houses during college had the highest levels of binge drinking and marijuana use relative to non-members and non-students in young adulthood that continued through age 35, controlling for adolescent sociodemographic and other characteristics. At age 35, 45% of the residential fraternity members reported alcohol use  disorder (AUD) symptoms reflecting mild to severe AUDs; their adjusted odds of  experiencing AUD symptoms at age 35 were higher than all other college and noncollege  groups except non-residential fraternity members. Residential sorority members had higher  odds of AUD symptoms at age 35 when compared with their non college female peers”  (McCabe, Sean & Veliz, Philip & Schulenberg, John, 2018).

The role and presence of alcohol must be diminished and not such a significant part of  fraternities and sororities. Leadership, knowledge, culture, citizenship, service, and  excellence should be the most relevant components of the fraternity/sorority experience.

Leadership, knowledge, culture, citizenship, service, and  excellence should be the most relevant components of the fraternity/sorority experience.


It’s time for a zero-tolerance policy for sexual assault/violence. There must be  100% cooperation between the involved chapter(s) and the institution for a full college led investigation. The wall of silence cannot be tolerated. If there is a chapter culture of sexual  exploitation or a code of silence, there must either be a comprehensive intervention by the national organization and/or local alumni to weed out the problem or the chapter must be closed. Education alone cannot solve the problem if the chapter culture is misogynistic.

Sororities and College Panhellenics have the power to force significant change. Some College Panhellenic Councils have been taking action to confront sexual violence by establishing moratoriums on social events until the issue can be better addressed, including reviews of fraternity risk management practices. Although all fraternities have such policies, many of them are not followed or enforced. National fraternities must be more proactive in this regard. In addition to the lack of risk management enforcement by the fraternity chapters, some sorority chapters are not supporting the Panhellenic move to curb social events. These sororities are more concerned about their “social status” than the health and safety of their members. This attitude must change.

“Research on fraternity men has continuously found that they are much more likely to  commit sexual violence than men not in fraternities. In 2005, a study found that fraternity men were over 3 times more likely to commit sexual violence than men not in fraternities  (Loh, Gidycz, Lobo, & Luthra, 2005). Two years later, Foubert and his colleagues found an identical figure in their study, wherein fraternity men were 3 times more likely to commit sexual violence than men not in fraternities. An interesting facet of the latter study is that men who joined fraternities were just as likely to have committed sexual violence prior to college as men who did not join. Thus, it was not men who had a prior history of sexual violence who gravitated toward fraternities. Rather, it appeared to be the fraternity culture itself that was responsible for a threefold increase in rape among fraternity men” (Foubert,  Newberry, & Tatum, 2007).


It’s time for pledging to end. “Since 2000, there have been more than 50 hazing-related deaths. The causes are varied – heatstroke, drowning, alcohol poisoning, head injury, asphyxia, cardiac arrest – but the tragedies almost always involve a common denominator: Greek life” (Kesslen, 2021).

Eliminating pledging and implementing a four-year membership development program is a solution. A comprehensive program designed to build balanced leaders and engaged citizens is essential. The fraternal experience should be about the growth of its members and take into consideration each members’ current level of development. Having a self paced program running continuously would allow participants to begin and end the program at any time. Participants with relevant experience could move through the program at an accelerated pace. Such an approach would encourage juniors and seniors to join and participate, adding an additional level of experience and maturity to the chapter. Please also note that “pledge class unity” is superfluous. The focus should be on uniting the new members to the chapter.

Ultimately, chapters that haze should be closed.


It’s time for fraternities and sororities to establish higher standards for academic achievement. The minimum GPA to remain in good standing should be at least a 3.000 on a 4.000 scale or one to two tenths above the all-men’s/all women’s cumulative GPA respectively, whichever is higher. A 3.0 is not a strong GPA if the campus average is a 3.3. Shouldn’t we be seeking  members who are at least above average? Academic excellence and knowledge are the cornerstone of fraternity/sorority life and thus, high academic standards must reflect this priority.


It’s time for recruitment to be more proactive. Fraternities typically advertise on campus and wait for prospective members to come to them. The emphasis is passive instead of an intentional outreach to the various potential member constituencies on campus, such as  student government and student organization leaders, RA’s, orientation leaders, international students, transfer students, juniors and seniors, scholars, and varsity athletes. Shouldn’t the IFC and individual chapters reach out to these populations directly?

Since the National Panhellenic Conference manages the recruitment process for their member sororities they must also consider a more proactive approach. Collegiate Panhellenic officers and recruitment guides could reach out to the same populations (mentioned previously) and encourage them to participate in the recruitment process. This approach also applies to NPHC groups as well as Multicultural fraternities and sororities.

The National Panhellenic Conference must also review its current recruitment process. Many campuses still have a “cheerleader camp” type of recruitment atmosphere with singing, cheering, uniforms, and decorations. This is not what a sorority is about. While this may appeal to some potential members, there are many women on campus who are discouraged from participating due to this superficial approach.

There must also be a strategic marketing campaign to attract the top students on campus. How are we presenting the fraternity and sorority experience? Are we exhibiting superficial social scenes or are we showing students in research labs talking to faculty? Are we presenting a group of students smiling arm in arm or are we showing a group of students serving the community? Are we demonstrating leadership or social hedonism? There must be intention in marketing and advertising.


It’s time for more alumni involvement with sororities and fraternities. Comprehensive alumni involvement must be a priority with headquarters staff helping by identifying local  alumni. Chapters could also utilize headquarters to locate alumni from their own chapter who live at a distance and would be willing to serve as a virtual advisor. If the pandemic has shown us anything, it is that virtual/Zoom meetings can work well. This opens a whole new  realm in alumni advising capacity.


It’s time for more faculty engagement with our chapters. Astin (1993) found that with the  exception of the peer group, faculty had the most significant impact on the undergraduate development of a student. Such interactions included participating with faculty research or assisting with teaching and interacting with faculty outside of the classroom. This faculty student interaction also contributed significantly to a student’s grade point average, persistence to a degree, and pursuit of further education in graduate school.

Because academics need to be a cornerstone of the fraternity experience, having faculty involved with the chapter at some level is critical. This involvement could be as much as the role of a chapter advisor or in a more limited role as a once per quarter/semester interactive program or lecture. Some campuses have established a “Coffee with a Prof” program where the institution covers the cost for coffee at a campus location for a student and their professor to encourage student/faculty interaction. The fraternity and sorority community could offer this type of program to its members or approach the institution to do so.


It’s time for more of our chapters to embrace diversity. Equity, diversity, and inclusion are paramount in our society and thus, are an important part of our educational institutions. Fraternities and sororities must also be a part of this educational process to be in congruence with the mission of their host institution. Many strides have been made by some fraternalorganizations in this arena, including the implementation of non discrimination policies for gay and transgender students and educational programs focused on the importance of diversity and inclusion. “Greek EDI Peer Educators” are an example of a successful campus diversity program. Our success in this area varies from campus to campus and also among national organizations, but can be determined by the level of  diversity reflected in our chapters and the behaviors and organizational culture exhibited by our organizations. Are we having themed events that are derogatory or insensitive to others? Are we targeting diverse members during recruitment? Do we have international students in our organizations? Are we ethnically and culturally diverse? Do we have openly gay members? Do we have divergent political points of view? Diversity is an important educational experience and only makes our chapters stronger and our members more well rounded and better prepared to enter a diverse society and workforce.


It’s time to dust off that ritual book and put it into daily practice. Academic excellence, knowledge, service, leadership, brotherhood/sisterhood, integrity, virtue, citizenship are all pillars within our rituals. Let’s find ways to incorporate these pillars into the daily lives of our members and continuously strive for excellence.


It’s time for more of the national fraternities and sororities to take stronger actions to address these  problems and work more collaboratively with their host institutions. There are too few of them taking a strong proactive approach. Are their membership fees more important than student health and safety? Institutions need to hire more seasoned professionals to work with chapters. This type of investment and  experience is necessary to hold our chapters accountable and help them to flourish.

This perspective is informed by my past volunteer positions within my national fraternity, as a former fraternity/sorority advisor, and as a former dean of students.


About the author

Paul R. DeWine, Ed.D. is retired from a 32-year career in higher education. He has served as the Dean of Student Affairs of Earl Warren College at the University of California-San Diego and as the Associate Dean of Students at Purdue University. He has also served as the national president for AFA and chair of the Sigma Phi Epsilon National Leadership Committee.


Astin, A. (1993). What matters in college? Four critical years revisited. San Francisco, CA:  Jossey Bass.

Foubert, J. D., Newberry, J. T., & Tatum, J. L. (2007). Behavior differences seven months  later: Effects of a rape prevention program on first-year men who join fraternities. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 44, 728-749.

Foubert, J. D., Clark-Taylor, A., & Wall, A. F. (2019). Is campus rape primarily a serial or one time problem? Evidence from a multicampus study. Violence Against Women. Advanced online publication.

Kesslen, B. (2021, March 12). NBC News. Retrieved from 2022 NBC UNIVERSAL: hazing-what-will-n1260750

Loh, C., Gidycz, C. A., Lobo, T. R., & Luthra, R. (2005). A prospective analysis of sexual assault  perpetration: Risk factors related to perpetrator characteristics. Journal of  Interpersonal Violence, 20, 1325-1348.

McCabe, Sean & Veliz, Philip & Schulenberg, John. (2018). How Collegiate Fraternity and  Sorority Involvement Relates to Substance Use During Young Adulthood and  Substance Use Disorders in Early Midlife: A National Longitudinal Study. Journal of  Adolescent Health. 62. S72-S80.10.1016/j.jadohealth.2017.09.029.