Guide for Parents

Guide for Parents

Penn State Altoona is proud to support the long standing tradition of hosting a fraternity and sorority community, commonly referred to as "Greek Life", to encourage students' growth, citizenship, and values. Our community currently consists of four chapters and one governing council who is leading the charge to redefine what it means to be "Greek". As of Spring 2013, over 135 students at Penn State Altoona belonged to the Greek Community and were engaged with the campus community as a result. As a parent or family member of a Penn State Altoona student, we hope you will find the information contained here helpful to you. If you find yourself with more questions, please feel free to reach out to the Center for Student and Civic Engagement at aastudentlife@psu.edu or 814-949-5407.

What are fraternities and sororities?

Although almost everyone has heard about what Fraternities and Sororities are as well as what they do, what are the actual reasons that they exist? Many stereotypes exist about Fraternities and Sororities but when you look deeper into their fundamental intent, action, and purpose you will see a very different representation.

  • Fraternities and Sororities are organizations made up of groups of students that have bonded together and agreed to live out the values espoused by their founders, their creed, and the national organization.
  • The Fraternities and Sororities are values based social organizations; meaning, that the organizations subscribe to a specific set of core values and beliefs that incorporate the concepts of brotherhood, service, tradition, scholarship, leadership and building relationships into their ideals and traditions.

By the numbers

  • There are over 9 million Greek members nationally
  • There are 123 fraternities and sororities with 9 million members total
  • Over 85% of the student leaders on over 730 campuses are involved in the Greek community.
  • The Greek system is the largest network of volunteers in the US, with members donating over 10 million hours of volunteer service each year
  • Forty-three of fifty of the largest North American companies are headed by Fraternity men and Sorority women.
  • Every U.S. President and Vice President, except two in each office, born since the first social fraternity was founded in 1825 have been members of a fraternity.
  • Famous Greek Life members include Condoleeza Rice, Warren Buffet, Katie Couric , Mark Zuckerberg, and Dr. Martin Luther King

What Parents Should Know

What are the benefits of joinging fraternities or sororities

As a member of a fraternity or sorority, your student should be participating in a variety of positive activities that will enhance their academic and extracurricular experience at Penn State Altoona. Participation in a fraternity or sorority should enhance your student’s collegiate experience, not be an obstacle to academic achievement or personal development. Your student will have opportunities to grow in the following areas:

Academics

The academic life of any student during his or her college years is important for someone looking to succeed after college. The Center for Student and Civic Engagement strives to provide all students with the best opportunities to succeed while being active in clubs and organizations. Academic excellence within the Greek community is encouraged in the following ways:

  • Fraternities and Sororities include within their education program for new members study sessions, as well as library hours.
  • The Center for Student and Civic Engagement and the individual chapters require a minimum GPA in order to become and remain an active member.

Each individual chapter has an appointed scholarship chair that is responsible for keeping track of members and their academic performance. The scholarship chair helps not only those who are struggling, but also develops programs to assist the entire chapter in excelling academically. The scholarship chair offers scholarships, awards, and programs for individual members and the chapter in order to realize the entire organizations academic success.

Service

One of the many advantages of being a part of the Greek community is the time spent helping others in need. The commitment found in the members of fraternities and sororities can be seen in the enthusiasm they have in giving back to the community in the form of Community Service, known as Philanthropies.

  • Each chapter has a philanthropy recognized and supported by their national organization
  • The Greek Life community at Penn State Altoona hosts an annual event called the Bounce Marathon to support Blair County non-profits. The event was started in 1970 and the current students are proud to carry the tradition on.

Networking

Members of fraternities and sororities have an instant connection with their alumni. During their college years, students will have the opportunity to meet alumni from their chapter to begin the networking process.

Alumni use Greek connections to make connections in other sectors of the community, including business, religious and other school establishments. Networking is a great benefit of sorority or fraternity affiliation because it gives alumni a base of contacts to use for career choices or volunteer opportunities.

Alumni of fraternities and sororities usually keep strong connections with their organizations after graduation, sending monetary donations and coming back for reunions to say hello to old friends and meet new members. Alumni can provide connections, references, and information job opportunities.

Frienship/Support System

Members of the Greek Life community have the opportunity to meet students of various backgrounds with both similar and different interests. Within each chapter, there is a close bond of friendship and brotherhood/sisterhood which only the fraternity/sorority atmosphere can foster. College can be tough, even for the most prepared student, so having a support system in place before tough times come is incredibly valuable.

Values Clarification

Every fraternity and sorority has their own set of core values upon which their organization was founded. When a new member chooses to join a fraternity or sorority, they are adopting those values as their own guiding principles by which to live. For information on an individual chapters mission and core values, please visit the organization’s website. (see General and Chapter Information)

What are the Concerns of Joining Fraternities or Sororities?

Time

Generally, partaking in the New Member Education involves the most amount of time. The new member education period lasts 6-8 weeks and requires approximately 10-15 hours per week. Once the new member is fully initiated, the time commitment generally drops, but is dependent on whatever roles or responsibilities your son or daughter may take on. It is important to encourage your student to ask questions related to time commitment before they make their decision to join. Every student has different academic needs and, of course, their academics should come first.

Financial Responsibility

Upon accepting a bid from a Greek organization, your son or daughter will be billed both a candidate and initiation fee by the national organization. These are one time only fees that will help cover the cost of the materials your son or daughter used during the pledging process (manuals, leadership retreats, etc.). These fees are usually nonrefundable should the student decide not to follow through with the new member education process.

Every semester thereafter, your student will be expected to financially commit to local dues assessed by the chapter, which cover annual educational programs, social activities, and insurance fees from the national organization. Generally, dues range from $250-$650 per semester. For more information on the financial responsibilities in a specific organization, please encourage the interested student to ask about dues during the recruitment process. Each chapter will be able to provide you with information regarding the financial commitment to their organization and how specifically those funds will be used.

There are repercussions for students who fail to meet their financial commitment. These are generally handled through the national organizations via a collection agency.

Hazing

Hazing is any physical or mental act that puts a person in a stressful or dangerous situation. Hazing is not permitted by The Pennsylvania State University, the Penn State Altoona Greek Council or by Pennsylvania State law. Hazing can manifest itself in many different ways and it is usually hard to detect since the participants are usually willing to be subjected to these juvenile and sometimes dangerous acts. Secrecy also plays a major role. If you suspect that hazing is happening in a fraternity or sorority at Penn State Altoona, please call the Center for Student and Civic Engagement at 814-949-5064. Every effort will be made to respect the confidentiality of complaints. This is not the time parents should be concerned about being their son’s or daughter’s best friend or social stigmas. Hazing is a crime and oftentimes can be dangerous and parents are encouraged to contact the Center for Student and Civic Engagement if they suspect hazing is occurring. Remember, a student cannot agree to be hazed. The law is clear. Just because a student wants to participate in a particular activity does not mean the activity is acceptable or that the fraternity or sorority may permit the activity to occur. It is important to note that any group or organization is capable of hazing; fraternities and sororities are not unique in this possibility.

Policies and Laws regarding hazing

The Pennsylvania State University Hazing Policy:
Recognized student organizations may not engage in HAZING ACTIVITIES. Hazing is defined as any action or situation that recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student or that willfully destroys or removes public or private property for the purpose of initiation or admission into or affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership in any recognized student organization. Hazing includes, but is not limited to, any brutality of a physical nature, such as whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, exposure to the elements, forced consumption of any food, liquor, drug or other substance, or any other forced physical activity that could adversely affect the physical health and safety of the individual, and shall include any activity that would subject the individual to extreme mental stress, such as sleep deprivation, forced exclusion from social contact, forced conduct that could result in extreme embarrassment, or any other forced activity that could adversely affect the mental health or dignity of the individual, or any willful destruction or removal of public or private property. Any activity as described in this definition upon which the initiation or admission into or affiliation with or continued membership in a recognized student organization is directly or indirectly conditioned shall be presumed to be “forced” activity, the willingness of an individual to participate in such activity notwithstanding. Any recognized student organization that commits hazing is subject to disciplinary action by the governing councils, the Center for Student and Civic Engagement, Penn State Altoona and/or local law enforcement.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Hazing Law: "Hazing."

[P.S.] § 5352. Definitions

The following words and phrases when used in this act shall have the meanings given to them in this section unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:

"HAZING." Any action or situation which recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student or which willfully destroys or removes public or private property for the purpose of initiation or admission into or affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership in, any organization operating under the sanction of or recognized as an organization by an institution of higher education. The term shall include, but not be limited to, any brutality of a physical nature, such as whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, exposure to the elements, forced consumption of any food, liquor, drug or other substance, or any other forced physical activity which could adversely affect the physical health and safety of the individual, and shall include any activity which would subject the individual to extreme mental stress, such as sleep deprivation, forced exclusion from social contact, forced conduct which could result in extreme embarrassment, or any other forced activity which could adversely affect the mental health or dignity of the individual, or any willful destruction or removal of public or private property. For purposes of this definition, any activity as described in this definition upon which the initiation or admission into or affiliation with or continued membership in an organization is directly or indirectly conditioned shall be presumed to be "forced" activity, the willingness of an individual to participate in such activity notwithstanding.

"INSTITUTION OF HIGHER EDUCATION" or "INSTITUTION." Any public or private institution within this Commonwealth authorized to grant an associate degree or higher academic degree.

[P.S.] § 5353. Hazing prohibited

Any person who causes or participates in hazing commits a misdemeanor of the third degree.

[P.S.] § 5354. Enforcement by institution

(A) ANTIHAZING POLICY.--

Each institution shall adopt a written antihazing policy and, pursuant to that policy, shall adopt rules prohibiting students or other persons associated with any organization operating under the sanction of or recognized as an organization by the institution from engaging in any activity which can be described as hazing.

(B) ENFORCEMENT AND PENALTIES.--

(1) Each institution shall provide a program for the enforcement of such rules and shall adopt appropriate penalties for violations of such rules to be administered by the person or agency at the institution responsible for the sanctioning or recognition of such organizations.

(2) Such penalties may include the imposition of fines, the withholding of diplomas or transcripts pending compliance with the rules or pending payment of fines and the imposition of probation, suspension or dismissal.

(3) In the case of an organization which authorizes hazing in blatant disregard of such rules, penalties may also include rescission of permission for that organization to operate on campus property or to otherwise operate under the sanction or recognition of the institution.

(4) All penalties imposed under the authority of this section shall be in addition to any penalty imposed for violation of section 3 or any of the criminal laws of this State or for violation of any other institutional rule to which the violator may be subject.

(5) Rules adopted pursuant hereto shall apply to acts conducted on or off campus whenever such acts are deemed to constitute hazing