Since members involved with Greek public relations are going through a transition period, I have taken this rare opportunity to provide a little historical glimpse of the history of the Greek system.

Though fraternities and sororities often have the reputation of being a haven for party animals, they were originally known as organizations for the elite and highly educated. The Phi Beta Kappa Society, which was founded on Dec. 5, 1776, at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., was begun with the idea of providing a place where students could discuss current events. In the last 200 years, it has become a national honor society and has chapters in 270 institutes of higher education in the United States.

The first all-female fraternity – the word sorority didn’t even exist back then – was formed in 1872. The sorority was Alpha Phi.

Like Alpha Phi, most fraternities and sororities were founded upon the principles of community service, learning and leadership.

Greek organizations developed the party stigma only in the last 30 years due to entertaining, yet stereotypical films such as “Animal House,” and “Revenge of the Nerds.”

Most fraternities and sororities posess some sort of ritual system that is symbolic and kept confidential. Many rituals, in both fraternities and sororities, are very similar, denoting their common ancestry.

Rituals can include passwords, songs, handshakes, journals and initiation rites. Most of the meetings of the active members are generally kept secret and are not to be discussed without the formal approval of the chapter as a whole.

“Rush” is when fraternities and sororities invite their fellow students to meet the current members of the chapter. At the end of this time, a chapter will invite – give a “bid” – to a potential member. The pledging process follows and then eventually initiation as a new member.

Joining a sorority or fraternity provides a wonderful college experience. So congratulations to all new members of the Greek system – maybe you too, can one day write for the Greek column!

Lepore can be reached at

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