Fraternities: the word is sure to conjure up a different picture in everyone’s imagination. They are a staple in popular culture, immortalized in films such as Neighbours and Animal House, and television shows such as Greek. For many, they represent everything that is fun exciting about life on a university campus: partying, the feeling of belonging, community, independence and a transition into the real world. For others, there is a negative connotation with fraternities: some see them as a symbol of toxic masculinity and elitism. Others worry about the many publicized incidents of hazing gone wrong. Either way, most Badgers are probably unaware of the role fraternities play in the Brock community.
At their most basic, fraternities are social groups at post-secondary institutions, which are created, and governed by students. Their names are typically a few Greek letters and are male-exclusive; the female equivalents known as sororities. They are more prominent in the United States; however, there is an international presence of fraternities at colleges and universities, notably in the Philippines, France, and here in Canada. In the United States, fraternities typically operate on some degree of secrecy from the general student body, and choose new members to add through a process called recruitment, known better in popular culture as rushing and pledging. In Canada, the University of Toronto and McGill University were the first post-secondary schools to host American fraternities.
At Brock University, there are currently two large frats active: Sigma Chi and Zeta Psi. Sigma Chi in full is known as the Lambda Colony of the Sigma Chi Fraternity, and originated from the University of Miami in 1855.
“The fundamental purpose of the Sigma Chi Fraternity is the cultivation, maintenance and accomplishment of the ideals of Friendship, Justice and Learning within our membership,” said Rob Babiak, is the Magister, or pledge educator, of Sigma Chi on Brock’s campus.. “Sigma Chi offers a host of social life rewards, but it does so in the context of moulding good character within its members. Integrity, sound judgment and loyalty are all lofty goals that can occasionally be found contradictory to the impulses of collegiate life. Sigma Chi provides a continuum of character development that assists young men in developing the qualities of their character.”
Babiak further elaborated on why exactly students at Brock University should join Sigma Chi: he specifically noted the social and philanthropic work the frat is involved in and the levels of commitment to the organization.
“Last year through our Derby Days events we raised over $1,300 for cancer research”, Babiak said. “There is a commitment with joining any organization. Sigma Chi is really about what you put into it. It is a few hours a week, but those hours are productive and fun. If you want to make a life-long bond with a group of individuals that are focused on friendship, justice and learning, then Sigma Chi is for you. To speak to Sigma Chi specifically, if you look at what some of our alumni do when they are done with their undergrad, it’s pretty amazing”.
Babiak also took the time to highlight the list of alumni from Sigma Chi as an international fraternity. From the world of sports, pro-athletes as diverse as Skip Schumaker, Fred Akers and Jay Wright were former Sigma Chi brothers. Former President of the United States Grover Cleveland was a member of Sigma Chi during his education; as was former US Senator and presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater; and former US Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman Jr.
The other major fraternity on campus is Zeta Psi, which identifies in full as Zeta Psi Fraternity at Brock University Theta Eta Chapter. Established in 2009, it is the oldest active fraternity on campus.
Zeta Psi Vice President Jesse Clews spoke in-depth not only about his fraternity on campus, but the importance of fraternities as an institution and the concept of ‘Greek System. As the system explains, a fraternity is an organization composed of members with similar goals, interests and/or professions. In addition, fraternities have been around for almost 200 years at institutions of higher learning and have always represented groups of students and alumni that are strong leaders who work towards shared goals and objectives. The Greek System is a diversification of organizations, that although differ in many facets, share similar goals and interests with respect to personal development, leadership and networking opportunities. The Greek system is all about managing the multifaceted experience that university life really is. Brock prides itself on the ‘Both Sides of the Brain’ campaign-emphasizing the need to balance academic accomplishment with a healthy lifestyle outside of the classroom.
A fraternity is a great gateway to being involved in any number of things; recreational sports, employment opportunities, a place to socialize in a positive environment, etc.” he went on to say. “For a truly holistic experience during your time in post-secondary education, Greek organizations have historically proven to be one of the best opportunities for student to access the most during their time in university/college institutions. He explained.
Clews was well versed in his fraternity and the other major fraternity on campus. “What differentiates Zeta Psi from the other fraternal options on campus is simple; we pride ourselves in selecting men of distinction that are respectful, hard-working and carry themselves with a level of integrity that not only drives them to improve every day, but inspires those around them to follow suit and do the same”, Clews explained. “As a member of Zeta Psi, you can expect a plethora of philanthropic initiatives that our members happily participate in both on and off campus.” Jesse listed many of the various charities and charitable events Zeta Psi has been involved in, including the Terry Fox Run, CIBC Run for the Cure, blood drives on campus, the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes campaign, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Catharines.
Despite all of the positive events both representatives noted, the news has been filled with negative headlines in recent years. They typically involve fraternity members engaging in sexual violence and assault. One case at the University of Wisconsin in 2014 is particularly disturbing, as many frat members were accused of intoxicating and sexually assaulting many women on campus.
Babiak was quick to note how different Canadian frats were from their American counterparts: “Sigma Chi, and more importantly Sigma Chi at Brock, is not like the fraternities that you read about in the US. The Jordan Standard obligates us to find members who would not be involved in such issues. Sigma Chi has strong risk management; the chapter has sober brothers at all events. We promote a safe environment and try to do everything we can to achieve that. We want to be better than people expect of us and that this is a real issue and concern for Sigma Chi.”
Clews also noted how Zeta Psi implements training and rules to stop these events, and takes an active role on campus on these issues: “Every undergraduate member engages in educational sessions every semester, both locally, and through regional Leadership Training Institutes (LTI), to ensure all of our members are knowledgeable about how to prevent these occurrences; both within the fraternity, and within the college atmosphere. We do not exist in a bubble – we are all students, and these issues affect us all on an individual level. We can all do more to ensure these things are not occurring – our members receive more training and awareness than most other students on how to recognize and prevent the actions prior to an incident occurring. We want our members to be safe, and be responsible, and to ensure the safety of those around them.”
Both frats have a very active online presence Zeta Psi can be found at https://www.facebook.com/zetapsibrock/ and Sigma Chi at https://www.facebook.com/sigmachibrocku/. On GreekRank.com, a website dedicated to rating and critiquing fraternities throughout North America, Sigma Chi sits at eighty-two percent approval rating and four-out-of-five stars. Zeta Psi currently has a seventy-eight percent approval rating and three-out-of-five stars on the website.
-Quinton Ascah, Assistant News Editor