A fraternity (from Latin frater: "brother"; "brotherhood"), fraternal order, or fraternal organization is an organization, a society, or a club of men associated together for various religious or secular aims. Fraternity in the Western concept developed in the Christian context, notably with the religious orders in the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. The concept was eventually further extended with the middle age guilds, followed by the early modern formation of gentlemen's clubs, freemasons, odd fellows, student fraternities, and fraternal service organizations. Members are occasionally referred to as a brother or – usually in religious context – Frater or Friar.
Today, connotations of fraternities vary according to context including companionships and brotherhoods dedicated to the religious, intellectual, academic, physical, or social pursuits of its members. Additionally, in modern times, it sometimes connotes a secret society especially regarding freemasonry, odd fellows, various academic, and student societies.
Although membership in fraternities was and mostly still is limited to men, ever since the development of orders of Catholic sisters and nuns in the Middle Ages and henceforth, this is not always the case. There are mixed male and female fraternities and fraternal orders, as well as wholly female religious orders and societies, or sororities. Notable modern fraternities or fraternal orders that with time have evolved to more or less permit female members, include some grand lodges operating among freemasons and odd fellows.
There are known fraternal organizations which existed as far back as ancient clan hero and goddess cults of Greek religions and in the Mithraic Mysteries of ancient Rome. Analogous institutions developed in the late medieval period called confraternities, which were lay organizations allied to the Catholic Church. Some were groups of men and women who were endeavoring to ally themselves more closely with the prayer and activity of the Church; others were groups of tradesmen, which are more commonly referred to as guilds. These later confraternities evolved into purely secular fraternal societies, while the ones with religious goals continue to be the format of the modern Third Orders affiliated with the mendicant orders.
The development of modern fraternal orders was especially dynamic in the United States, where the freedom to associate outside governmental regulation is expressly sanctioned in law. There have been hundreds of fraternal organizations in the United States, and at the beginning of the 20th century the number of memberships equaled the number of adult males. (Due to multiple memberships, probably only 50% of adult males belonged to any organizations.) This led to the period being referred to as "the Golden age of fraternalism."
In 1944 Arthur M. Schlesinger coined the phrase "a nation of joiners" to refer to the phenomenon. Alexis de Tocqueville also referred to the American reliance on private organization in the 1830s in Democracy in America.
There are many attributes that fraternities may or may not have, depending on their structure and purpose. Fraternities can have differing degrees of secrecy, some form of initiation or ceremony marking admission, formal codes of behavior, disciplinary procedures, very differing amounts of real property and assets.
The only true distinction between a fraternity and any other form of social organizations is the implication that the members are freely associated as equals for a mutually beneficial purpose rather than because of a religious, governmental, commercial, or familial bond - although there are fraternities dedicated to each of these fields of association.
On college campuses, fraternities may be divided into four different groups: social, service, professional, and honorary.
Fraternities can be organized for many purposes, including university education, work skills, ethics, ethnicity, religion, politics, charity, chivalry, other standards of personal conduct, asceticism, service, performing arts, family command of territory, and even crime. There is almost always an explicit goal of mutual support, and while there have been fraternal orders for the well-off there have also been many fraternities for those in the lower ranks of society, especially for national or religious minorities. Trade unions also grew out of fraternities such as the Knights of Labor.
The ability to organize freely, apart from the institutions of government and religion, was a fundamental part of the establishment of the modern world. In Living the Enlightenment, Margaret C. Jacobs showed that the development of Jurgen Habermas's "public space" in 17th-century Netherlands was closely related to the establishment of lodges of Freemasons.
The development of fraternities in England can be traced from guilds that emerged as the forerunners of trade unions and friendly societies. These guilds were set up to protect and care for their members at a time when there was no welfare state, trade unions or universal health care. Various secret signs and handshakes were created to serve as proof of their membership allowing them to visit guilds in distant places that are associated with the guild they belong.
Over the next 300 years or so, the idea of "ordinary" people joining together to improve their situation met with varying degrees of opposition (and persecution) from "People in Power", depending on whether they were seen as a source of revenue (taxes) or a threat to their power. When Henry VIII broke from the Roman Catholic Church, he viewed the guilds as supporters of the Pope, and in 1545 expropriated them. Later, Elizabeth I appropriated apprenticeships away from guilds, and by the end of her reign most guilds had been suppressed.
The suppression of these trade guilds removed an important form of social and financial support from ordinary men and women. In London and other major cities, some Guilds (like the Freemasons and the Odd Fellows) survived by adapting their roles to a social support function. Eventually, these groups evolved in the early 18th century into more philosophical organizations focused on brotherly love and ethical living. Among guilds that became prosperous are the Freemasons, Odd Fellows and Foresters.
By joining a fraternity, networking becomes a key factor to pushing a member towards success. With alumni members; who have previously been active but graduated at an earlier time, connections offered by them are endless. Depending on the individuals interest and common goals; Networking is a big part of the different types of Fraternities (ex: Social, Business, Religious, etc.).
Fraternities have a history in American colleges and universities and form a major subsection of the whole range of fraternities. In Europe, students were organized in nations and corporations since the beginnings of the modern university in the late medieval period, but the situation can differ greatly by country.
In the United States, fraternities in colleges date to the 1770s but did not fully assume an established pattern until the 1820s. Many were strongly influenced by the patterns set by Freemasonry. The main difference between the older European organizations and the American organizations is that the American student societies virtually always include initiations, the formal use of symbolism, and a lodge-based organizational structure (chapters).
The oldest active social American college fraternity is the Kappa Alpha Society founded in 1825 at Union College. Sigma Phi Society (1827) and Delta Phi Fraternity (1827) were founded at the same school and comprise the Union Triad.
In Germany the German Student Corps are the oldest academic fraternities. Twenty-eight were founded in the 18th century and two of them still exist. Most of their traditions have not changed much for the past two centuries. These traditions include academic fencing duels with sharp blades while wearing only eye and neck protection, or regular hunting events, as can be seen in examples such as Corps Hubertia Freiburg, Corps Palatia Munich, Corps Rhenania Heidelberg, or Corps Altsachsen Dresden.
At Swedish universities, especially those of Uppsala and Lund, students have organized in nations since the 16th century. These organizations are open to all students who wish to join. Parallel to the nations both Uppsala and Lund play host to a large number of university related secret societies, for both students and older academics.
Alpha Epsilon Pi (ΑΕΠ), commonly known as AEPi, is a college fraternity founded at New York University in 1913 by Charles C. Moskowitz. The fraternity has more than 186 active chapters across the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Austria, Australia, and Israel, and has initiated more than 102,000 members. Although the fraternity is based upon Jewish principles, it is non-discriminatory and is open to all who are willing to espouse its purpose and values.Alpha Phi Alpha
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (ΑΦΑ) is the first African-American, intercollegiate Greek-lettered fraternity. It was initially a literary and social studies club organized in the 1905–1906 school year at Cornell University but later evolved into a fraternity with a founding date of December 4, 1906, at Cornell. It employs an icon from Ancient Egypt, the Great Sphinx of Giza, as its symbol. Its aims are "Manly Deeds, Scholarship, and Love For All Mankind," and its motto is "First of All, Servants of All, We Shall Transcend All." Its archives are preserved at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center.
Chapters were chartered at Howard University and Virginia Union University in 1907. The fraternity has over 290,000 members and has been open to men of all races since 1945. Currently, there are more than 730 active chapters in the Americas, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and Asia. It is the largest predominately African-American fraternity and one of the ten largest collegiate fraternities in the nation.Alpha Phi Alpha is a social organization with a service organization mission and provided leadership and service during the Great Depression, World Wars, and Civil Rights Movement. The fraternity addresses social issues such as apartheid, AIDS, urban housing, and other economic, cultural, and political issues of interest to people of color. National programs and initiatives of the fraternity include A Voteless People Is a Hopeless People, My Brother's Keeper, Go To High School, Go To College, Project Alpha, and the World Policy Council. It also conducts philanthropic programming initiatives with the March of Dimes, Head Start, the Boy Scouts of America, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
Members of this fraternity include many historical civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., NAACP founder W. E. B. Du Bois, John Mack (civic leader) and Dick Gregory. Other world renowned-members include political activist Cornel West, musicians Duke Ellington and Lionel Richie, NBA legend Walt Frazier, Jamaican Prime Minister Norman Manley, Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens, Justice Thurgood Marshall, Investor and founder of Vista Equity Partners Robert F. Smith, United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, Academy Award-winning director Barry Jenkins, six time MTV Video Music Awards - winning director/choreographer Frank Gatson Jr., hero of the Nashville Waffle House shooting, James Shaw Jr., and ESPN sportscasters Stuart Scott, Stan Verrett and Jay Harris.
Alpha Phi Alpha was directly responsible for the conception, funding, and construction of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial next to the National Mall in Washington D.C.Fraternities and sororities
Fraternities and sororities, or Greek letter organizations (GLOs) (collectively referred to as "Greek life") are social organizations at colleges and universities. A form of the social fraternity, they are prominent in the United States, with small numbers of mostly non-residential fraternities existing in France, Canada, and the Philippines. Similar organizations exist in other countries as well, including the Studentenverbindungen of German-speaking countries.
Similar, but much less common, organizations also exist for secondary school students, as do fraternal orders for other adults. In modern usage, "Greek letter organization" is often synonymous with the terms "fraternity" and "sorority". Two additional types of fraternities, professional fraternities and honor societies, incorporate some limited elements of traditional fraternity organization, but are generally considered a different type of association. Traditional fraternities of the type described in this article are often called "social fraternities".
Generally, membership in a fraternity or sorority is obtained as an undergraduate student but continues, thereafter, for life. Some of these organizations can accept graduate students as well as undergraduates, per constitutional provisions.Individual fraternities and sororities vary in organization and purpose, but most share five common elements:
Selection of new members on the basis of a two-part vetting and probationary process known as rushing and pledging
Ownership and occupancy of a residential property where undergraduate members live
A set of complex identification symbols that may include Greek letters, armorial achievements, ciphers, badges, grips, hand signs, passwords, flowers, and colorsFraternities and sororities engage in philanthropic activities; host parties; provide "finishing" training for new members, such as instruction on etiquette, dress, and manners; and create networking opportunities for their newly graduated members.Kappa Alpha Psi
Kappa Alpha Psi (ΚΑΨ) is a collegiate Greek-letter fraternity with a predominantly African-American membership. Since the fraternity's founding on January 5, 1911 at Indiana University Bloomington, the fraternity has never limited membership based on color, creed or national origin. The fraternity has over 160,000 members with 721 undergraduate and alumni chapters in every state of the United States, and international chapters in the United Kingdom, Germany, South Korea, Japan, United States Virgin Islands, Nigeria, and South Africa.The president of the national fraternity is known as the Grand Polemarch, who assigns a Province Polemarch for each of the twelve provinces (regions) of the nation. The fraternity has many notable members recognized as leaders in the arts, athletics, business, Civil Rights, education, government, and science sectors at the local, national and international level. The Kappa Alpha Psi Journal is the official magazine of the fraternity since 1914. The Journal is published four times a year in February, April, October and December. Frank M. Summers was the magazine's first editor and later became the Fourteenth Grand Polemarch. The former editor of the magazine was Jonathan Hicks. The current editor of the magazine is Earl T. Tildon.
Kappa Alpha Psi sponsors programs providing community service, social welfare and academic scholarship through the Kappa Alpha Psi Foundation and is a supporter of the United Negro College Fund and Habitat for Humanity. Kappa Alpha Psi is a member of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) and the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC). The fraternity is the first predominantly African American Greek-letter society founded west of the Appalachian Mountains still in existence, and is known for its "cane stepping" in NPHC organized step shows. Kappa Alpha Psi celebrated its 100th anniversary on January 5, 2011, and is one of four predominantly African American collegiate fraternities to do so.Kappa Sigma
Kappa Sigma (ΚΣ), commonly known as Kappa Sig, is an American collegiate social fraternity founded at the University of Virginia in 1869. Kappa Sigma is one of the five largest international fraternities with currently 318 active chapters and colonies in North America. Its endowment fund, founded in 1919, has donated more than $5 million to undergrads since 1948. In 2012 alone, the Fraternity's endowment fund raised over $1 million in donations.Lambda Chi Alpha
Lambda Chi Alpha (ΛΧΑ), commonly known as Lambda Chi, is a college Fraternity in North America, which was founded in 1909. It is one of the largest social fraternities in North America, with more than 280,000 lifetime members and active chapters and colonies at 195 universities. The youngest of the fifteen largest social fraternities, Lambda Chi Alpha has initiated the third highest number of men ever, based on NIC statistics. Lambda Chi's International Headquarters is located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Its members are referred to as "Lambda Chis", "LCAs", "Lambdas", and "Choppers". It was a member of the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) until October 2015.Liberté, égalité, fraternité
Liberté, égalité, fraternité (pronounced [libɛʁte eɡalite fʁatɛʁnite]), French for "liberty, equality, fraternity", is the national motto of France and the Republic of Haiti, and is an example of a tripartite motto. Although it finds its origins in the French Revolution, it was then only one motto among others and was not institutionalized until the Third Republic at the end of the 19th century. Debates concerning the compatibility and order of the three terms began at the same time as the Revolution. It is also the motto of the Grand Orient de France and the Grande Loge de France.Omega Psi Phi
Omega Psi Phi (ΩΨΦ) is an international fraternity with over 750 undergraduate and graduate chapters. The fraternity was founded on November 17, 1911 by three Howard University juniors, Edgar Amos Love, Oscar James Cooper and Frank Coleman, and their faculty adviser, Dr. Ernest Everett Just. Omega Psi Phi is the first predominantly African-American fraternity to be founded at a historically black university.Phi Beta Sigma
Phi Beta Sigma (ΦΒΣ) is a collegiate and professional fraternity founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C. on January 9, 1914, by three young African-American male students with nine other Howard students as charter members. The fraternity's founders, Abram Langston Taylor, Leonard Frances Morse, and Charles Ignatius Brown, wanted to organize a Greek letter fraternity that would exemplify the ideals of Brotherhood, Scholarship and Service while taking an inclusive perspective to serving the community as opposed to having an exclusive purpose. The fraternity exceeded the prevailing models of Black Greek-Letter fraternal organizations by being the first to establish alumni chapters, to establish youth mentoring clubs, to establish a federal credit union, to establish chapters in Africa, and establish a collegiate chapter outside of the United States, and is the only fraternity to hold a constitutional bond with a predominantly African-American sorority, Zeta Phi Beta (ΖΦΒ), which was founded on January 16, 1920, at Howard University in Washington, D.C., through the efforts of members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity.
The fraternity expanded over a broad geographical area in a short amount of time when its second, third, and fourth chapters were chartered at Wiley College in Texas and Morgan State College in Maryland in 1916, and Kansas State University in 1917. Today, the fraternity serves through a membership of more than 200,000 men in over 700 chapters in the United States, Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean. Although Phi Beta Sigma is considered a predominantly African-American Fraternity, its membership also consists of diverse college-educated men of African, Caucasian, Hispanic, Native American and Asian descent. According to its Constitution, academically-eligible male students of any race, religion, or national origin may join while enrolled at a college or university through collegiate chapters, or professional men may join through an alumni chapter if a college degree has been attained, along with a certain minimum number of earned credit hours.
Phi Beta Sigma is a member of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) and the North-American Interfraternity Conference (IFC or NIC). The current International President is Michael Cristal, and the fraternity's headquarters are located at 145 Kennedy Street, NW Washington, D.C.Phi Delta Theta
Phi Delta Theta (ΦΔΘ), commonly known as Phi Delt, is an international social fraternity founded at Miami University in 1848 and headquartered in Oxford, Ohio. Phi Delta Theta, along with Beta Theta Pi and Sigma Chi form the Miami Triad. The fraternity has about 185 active chapters and colonies in over 43 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces and has initiated more than 251,000 men between 1848 and 2014. There are over 160,000 living alumni. Phi Delta Theta chartered house corporations own more than 135 houses valued at over $141 million as of summer 2015. There are nearly 100 recognized alumni clubs across the U.S. and Canada.
The fraternity was founded by six undergraduate students: Robert Morrison, John McMillan Wilson, Robert Thompson Drake, John Wolfe Lindley, Ardivan Walker Rodgers, and Andrew Watts Rogers, who are collectively known as The Immortal Six.
Phi Delta Theta was created under three principal objectives: "the cultivation of friendship among its members, the acquirement individually of a high degree of mental culture, and the attainment personally of a high standard of morality". These cardinal principles are contained in The Bond of Phi Delta Theta, the document to which each member pledges on his initiation into the fraternity.
Among the best-known members of the fraternity are Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd President of the United States, Adlai Stevenson I, the 23rd Vice President of the United States, Baseball Hall of Fame member Lou Gehrig, actor Burt Reynolds, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Neil Armstrong the first man to walk on the moon, R. Scott Morris the former CEO of the Boston Options Exchange, and John S. McCain Sr., U.S. Navy Admiral and grandfather of John McCain.Phi Gamma Delta
Phi Gamma Delta (ΦΓΔ), commonly known as Fiji, is a social fraternity with more than 158 active chapters and 13 colonies across the United States and Canada. It was founded at Jefferson College, Pennsylvania, in 1848. Along with Phi Kappa Psi, Phi Gamma Delta forms a half of the Jefferson Duo. Since its founding in 1848, the fraternity has initiated more than 180,000 brothers. The nickname FIJI is used commonly by the fraternity due to Phi Gamma Delta bylaws that limit the use of the Greek letters.Phi Kappa Psi
Phi Kappa Psi (ΦΚΨ), commonly known as Phi Psi, is an American collegiate social fraternity that was founded by William Henry Letterman and Charles Page Thomas Moore in the southwest corner of the second floor of Widow Letterman's home on the campus of Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania on February 19, 1852. There are over 100 chapters and colonies at accredited four year colleges and universities throughout the United States. More than 179,000 men have been initiated into Phi Kappa Psi since its founding. Phi Kappa Psi and Phi Gamma Delta, both founded at the same college, form the Jefferson Duo.Pi Kappa Alpha
Pi Kappa Alpha (ΠΚΑ), commonly known as Pike, is a college fraternity founded at the University of Virginia in 1868. The fraternity has over 225 chapters and colonies across the United States and abroad with over 15,500 undergraduate members and 280,000 lifetime initiates.
The fraternity's vision statement is "To set the standard of integrity, intellect, and achievement for our members, host institutions, and the communities in which we live."Pi Kappa Phi
Pi Kappa Phi (ΠΚΦ) commonly known as Pi Kapp, is an American Greek Letter secret and social fraternity. It was founded by Andrew Alexander Kroeg Jr., Lawrence Harry Mixson, and Simon Fogarty Jr. on December 10, 1904 at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina. The fraternity has 187 active chapters (168 chartered chapters and 19 associate chapters), and more than 113,000 initiated members.Pi Kappa Phi's mission statement is "To create an uncommon and lifelong brotherhood that develops leaders and encourages service to others for the betterment of our communities." The fraternity's vision statement is "A future where every Pi Kappa Phi embraces his role as a leader, puts service before self and improves the world around him."Pi Kappa Phi operates in four entities: Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi Foundation, The Ability Experience, and Pi Kappa Phi Properties. Pi Kappa Phi operates its own philanthropy, The Ability Experience (formerly known as Push America), which works with individual chapters to serve people with disabilities.Sigma Alpha Epsilon
Sigma Alpha Epsilon (ΣΑΕ), commonly known as SAE, is a North American Greek-letter social college fraternity. It was founded at the University of Alabama on March 9, 1856. Of all existing national social fraternities today, Sigma Alpha Epsilon is the only one founded in the Antebellum South. Its national headquarters, the Levere Memorial Temple, was established on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, in 1929.
The fraternity has chapters and colonies in 50 states and provinces as of 2011. The creed of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, The True Gentleman, must be memorized and recited by all prospective members. New members receive a copy of The Phoenix, the manual of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, for educational development. In March 2014, the fraternity announced that it was eliminating the tradition of pledging following several alcohol- and drug-related incidents.
The fraternity's mission statement is "To promote the highest standards of friendship, scholarship and service for our members based upon the ideals set forth by our Founders and as specifically enunciated in our creed."Sigma Chi
Sigma Chi (ΣΧ) is one of the largest social fraternities in North America. The fraternity has 244 active chapters across the United States and Canada and has initiated more than 300,000 members. The fraternity was founded on June 28, 1855, at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, by members who split from the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity.
Sigma Chi is divided into six operational entities: the Sigma Chi Fraternity, the Sigma Chi Foundation, the Sigma Chi Canadian Foundation, the Risk Management Foundation, Constantine Capital Inc., and Blue and Gold Travel Services.Like all fraternities, Sigma Chi has its own colors, insignia, and rituals. According to the fraternity's constitution, "the purpose of this fraternity shall be to cultivate and maintain the high ideals of friendship, justice, and learning upon which Sigma Chi was founded".Sigma Nu
Sigma Nu (ΣΝ) is an undergraduate college fraternity founded at the Virginia Military Institute on January 1, 1869. The fraternity was founded by James Frank Hopkins, Greenfield Quarles and James McIlvaine Riley shortly after Hopkins witnessed what he considered a hazing ritual by upperclassmen at the Virginia Military Institute. The fraternity's existence remained secret until the founders publicly announced their new society on January 1, 1869. Since its founding, Sigma Nu has more than 279 active and inactive chapters and colonies across the United States and Canada and has initiated more than 227,000 members. Sigma Nu, Kappa Alpha Order and Alpha Tau Omega make up the Lexington Triad.
The fraternity's values are summarized as an adherence to the principles of love, honor, and truth. Because of its military heritage, Sigma Nu retains many military trappings in its chapter ranks and traditions, and places importance on the concept of personal honor. In 1945, William Yates (University of Pennsylvania) inspired the formation of the "Sigma Nu Inc., Educational Foundation". Its name was changed to the "Sigma Nu Educational Foundation, Inc." The foundation assists collegiate members with financial aid supplements, and the fraternity in the development of a leadership program.
The fraternity's mission statement is:
To develop ethical leaders inspired by the principles of Love, Honor and Truth.
To foster the personal growth of each man's mind, heart and character.
To perpetuate lifelong friendships and commitment to the Fraternity.Sigma Phi Epsilon
Sigma Phi Epsilon (ΣΦΕ), commonly known as SigEp, is a social college fraternity for male college students in the United States. It was founded on November 1, 1901, at Richmond College (now the University of Richmond), and its national headquarters remains in Richmond, Virginia. It was founded on three principles: Virtue, Diligence, and Brotherly Love (often abbreviated as "VDBL"). Sigma Phi Epsilon is one of the largest social fraternities in the United States in terms of current undergraduate membership.Theta Chi
Theta Chi (ΘΧ) is an international college fraternity. It was founded on April 10, 1856 at Norwich University in Norwich, Vermont, and is a member of the North-American Interfraternity Conference. Theta Chi has initiated more than 188,000 members and currently has over 8,000 undergraduate members across North America.