Monday, March 19, 2007

How Fraternities and Sororities Git-R-Done

[While Centre is on spring break, I will draw upon some excellent observations made by students in my family life class. Enjoy.]

Centre College is blessed with a number of single-sex organizations, living experiments in gender differences of all kinds. My student Taylor developed some interesting observations on how power is distributed through the offices of Greek organizations. In both kinds of organizations, when the officers work as expected, the whole organization really does function. I will quote from Taylor's edited observations on offices and officers today. Tomorrow I will share some of her findings on Greek elections.

"We talked in class about the differences between fraternity and sorority officer hierarchies and I thought that the differences were really striking. Because not only are the men's officers more hierarchical, their offices aren't taken as seriously.

In my sorority, each person is slated into a position that suits her personality and she is expected to perform her tasks to the best of her ability. For example, I am the Secretary and that means at any sorority function I have to take attendance and if people don't come, I deal with the repercussions. So, I go to all of the meetings and keep up with people. I take my job really seriously and so do all of the other officers. If anyone has a question about attendance, they come to me. If I have a question about rush, I ask the rush chair. If I have a question about an event, I ask the events chair. It's more like everyone really knows their areas and we ask each other and work together. The only person that has any true upper-hand is the president.

With men, it's way different. My boyfriend is the Secretary for his fraternity. Not only does he not have to go to anything, no one else is held responsible for not going to something. Occasionally, there will be one big event at which all the members must be in attendance and if they're not there then [her boyfriend] has to fine them but most of the time they don't pay. And the other officers don't take their jobs seriously at all. The only person who is truly accountable for anything in the whole fraternity is the president. It's really unnerving to me because I don't know how they get anything accomplished.

Anyway, I guess the point is that the sororities and fraternities are organized differently. For us, the president does have a slightly elevated position but everyone else in an office knows that they have a specialty and are expected to perform at that task. Since women in leadership tend to want to avoid making hierarchies, it makes sense. It's a very level playing field where no officer feels less important. We rule very much by consensus and no one makes any decisions without the input of the other sisters. But for men, the president literally holds all the power. He, of course, has been voted into that position and so everyone recognizes his power but none of the officers wield the same authority that he does. They never make group decisions and rarely even have meetings to talk about decisions. But, the president makes all the decisions and somehow things get accomplished."

A thoughtful female correspondent, after reading the above, wrote:

The sorority offices call for results AND getting the results within relationships. That's why sororities are real preparation for chick power. In school settings, you can feel the women who have done that Greek thing making things move. (Would actually be a darned good scientific study: relative sorority participation of women in various education positions.)


Anonymous said...

Curious...I obviously missed out on the well functioning sorority experience. The yearly change of officers left many of us bitter and angry over the popularity contest that masqueraded as elections. The people most suited to the indivdual offices were rarely the ones voted into them. I used to find myself envying the solidarity of my husband's fraternity and their respect for and support of their presidents. Perhaps, the sorority officers have to make greater efforts at cohesiveness because they lack the mandate of power held by the frat presidents.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Katie points at something that is a factor in why we haven't had U.S. President who is female.

Anonymous said...

In regards to how fraternities are run: I couldn't disagree more. But such is the case of exceptions, I suppose. In light of that, I'm glad to see that not all of Centre's fraternities are cookie-cutter fraternities of one another and that there are more differences than just the letters that they place on their porches.

Gruntled said...

Katie, Nate -- how did it work in your fraternity and sorority?

Anonymous said...

In my fraternity, each person is held accountable for their position they hold and expected to fulfill their duties. If they don't, they face repercussions. Each officer, for the most part, takes their job seriously. If anyone has a question regarding the secretaries duties, they go to him. If anyone has a question about rush, they ask the rush chair, etc. Everyone know their duties and what is expected of them. We work together. Like Taylor's sorority, "the one person with any sort of upper-hand" is indeed the president.

It is important for most of us to go to fraternal activities. We are held responsible for not attending to something without excuse (sometimes school is more important). If ever fined, for one reason or another, we must pay. In our sometimes destructive nature, we must pay a fine else face consequences from on high... or at least our treasurer and house manager, as much responsibility is trusted in them. And the best part is, each week we get a number of things accomplished.

We do have as bit of a hierarchy. We have offices which are more powerful than others, but none which are of much more importance. And they are all taken seriously, as we know they are key to a successful fraternity -- presidency, treasury, secretary, rush chair, philanthropy, house manager, etc etc. All important. All taken seriously.

Every decision we make is made by a consensus and no one makes any decisions without the chance for another member to add a thought or two.

It's true "that none of the officers wield the same authority" that the presidency does, but this is simply because each office has different power and purposes. Therefore, even the presidency doesn't wield the same authority as the house manager.