Welcome to OFSL's Parents' Page!
Although your students are now adults, parents remain an integral partner in the educational process. This page is provided as a resource for parents to be educated and involved should your student choose to join a Greek-letter social sorority or fraternity.
Why Go Greek?
Coming to a university requires a great deal of adjustment for most students. Every aspect of their life is changed once they get to campus from their smaller living quarters in the College Houses, to eating in dining halls, to classes and social life. Students struggle with fitting in and finding new friends that will match up to their aspirations, careers, and futures. At a university as large as Penn, this process can be rather daunting and overwhelming. There are nearly 400 Penn student organizations in which to get involved, so why are 33% of the student population choosing membership in a fraternity or sorority as one of their main activities?
Membership in a fraternity or sorority provides your student with an immediate family on campus. The community that is built through a chapter is one of support, lifelong friendship, shared values, and understanding. The bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood created within a chapter are immensely strong and are a type of friendship that most members find hard to explain.
Besides creating this home-away-from-home environment, fraternity and sorority chapters also offer their members expansive opportunities through holding officer positions in the chapter. As an officer, members are able to gain valuable professional and life skills like leadership, delegation, people skills, time management, conflict resolution, and event planning. Members also work in a team environment, thus enhancing their ability to work with others; a skill that is extremely valuable in the work place. In addition to the skill building that a chapter can offer, your student will also be exposed to many other activities and interests that they might not seek out on their own. Chapters often sponsor discussion series with professors, host national speakers, and participate in a variety of campus and community events.
Networking is another large component of fraternity and sorority membership. Each of the chapters at Penn are national or international organizations, which means they exist across the country and abroad with thousands of members. Alumni support for our chapters is very strong and will provide your student with the opportunity to build intergenerational friendships. Once your student graduates from Penn, they will once again to be able to call upon the support of their brothers or sisters from other chapters as they enter the alumni/ae stage of membership, and as they begin and expand their career paths.
When is Recruitment and how does it work?Recruitment for first year students, and the only "formal" recruitment period, takes place at the beginning of the spring semester each year. Deferring recruitment to the second semester allows first year students to get settled at Penn, complete their first semester, and establish themselves academically. Students interested in fraternity or sorority recruitment must register during the fall semester or winter break via an online registration process, and must attain at least a 2.5 grade point average and have completed at least four credit units. Registering to go through recruitment does not in any way obligate them to join, but simply lets the fraternity and sorority chapters and OFSL know they are interested in receiving more information and may go through the process to explore the wonderful things that fraternity/sorority life has to offer. Upperclass students may join a fraternity or sorority during the formal recruitment time in January or at other points in the academic year when individual chapters may be seeking new members. For fraternities, the recruitment period brings a number of food and themed events throughout the first two weeks of the spring semester. The Interfraternity Council and the individual chapters will advertise electronically as well as on campus bulletin boards about the recruitment schedule of the chapters. Men are welcome to visit any/all of the fraternity chapters in which they might be interested during the first seven to ten days. After that, events are typically by invitation only and are a bit more intimate to allow perspective members and chapters to get to know each other better before "bids" or formal invitations are issued. The Interfraternity Council recruitment period officially ends on the Tuesday of the third week of classes when University bids and paperwork are distributed. For sororities, the recruitment process is much more formalized and regulated per national policy. All women going through the recruitment process visit all of Penn's Panhellenic chapters and then narrow down their choices through a mutual selection process. Women involved in recruitment are placed into small groups and given a "Rho Gamma" or Recruitment Guide, a sorority woman who has temporarily disaffiliated from her chapter, gone through special training, and serves to neutrally counsel and guide the perspective members as they move through the process. The Panhellenic Recruitment period ends on the Wednesday of the second week of classes with an exciting Bid Day Ceremony when sororities welcome their new members. For chapters of the Intercultural Greek Council (MIGC), those historically African-American, Latino/a and Asian Interest fraternities and sororities, the "intake" process is individual by chapter, is coordinated with their inter/national organization and graduate chapters, is not regulated at all by the IGC, and is more personalized on a chapter-by-chapter basis. Interested students should contact OFSL and/or the specific chapters in which the individual students are interested.
How does the New Member/Pledging Process work? Are there time limits? What type of supervision is there for Chapters?Once a student has accepted a bid from a chapter, their new member education program begins. Contemporary new member education processes are unlike what most people think of as traditional "pledging" programs. New Member Education programs are designed to educate new members on the history and traditions of the inter/national organization and local chapter, facilitate them getting to know the initiated brothers/sisters, enhance their time management and study skills, learn more about campus resources, and get to know their fellow new members. Any hazing is prohibited. The University of Pennsylvania requires that, unless a chapter has special dispensation in writing, all new member education programs be completed within six (6) weeks, or as the University begins spring break. Further, University policy prohibits any new member education programs from taking place between 12:00 midnight and 8:00am on school nights (Sunday through Thursday nights), AND other than formalized study hours, new member education programs may not occupy more than 10 hours of any given week. Chapter officers, particularly New Member Educators, must complete a training process before the chapters are allowed to take new members. This training includes education on the University and Commonwealth regulations on hazing and the negative effects of hazing activities, elements of a positive, strong new member education program, and exploration of resources available to chapters to enhance this process. Chapters are regulated by local alumni/ae advisors, inter/national fraternity and sorority traveling consultants, and the staff at OFSL. Should you as a parent hear of ANYTHING that appears to be a violation of these guidelines, you are encouraged to contact OFSL immediately (even if it is anonymous) and provide whatever information you can. Please understand that the more details and information you are able to share, the more effective an investigation and subsequent disciplinary action can be. All credible tips are investigated fully by the Office of Student Conduct, OFSL, and the inter/national headquarters of the fraternity or sorority in question. Hazing and activities that detract from the well being and successful academic achievement of a student are taken very seriously and will not be tolerated. What type of support does OFSL offer? Who do I contact with questions or concerns? The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life (OFSL) offers support and guidance to all fraternity and sorority chapters in the form of regular advisement, leadership training, personal and group counseling and referral, educational disciplinary procedures and strong advocacy. We work with the philosophy that effective fraternity/sorority life is managed through a four way partnership: the students, the alumni/ae, the inter/national headquarters, and the University, primarily through the work of OFSL. A positive fraternity experience is a superlative compliment and support for a rigorous academic experience, providing a family and home away from home, lifelong brother/sisterhood and friendship, and amazing career networking. Any chapter that is not living up to that expectation will be brought back into consonance with their espoused values and the mission of the University. Should you have any questions, concerns or issues relative to any of Penn's chapters or the experience that your student is having related to a chapter at Penn, you are encouraged to immediately contact any of the staff of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life (http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/ofsa/ofsl_staff.php ) at 215.898.5264 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We greatly value the encouragement and involvement of parents in the higher education of their children, and encourage you to talk candidly and often with your student about their fraternity/sorority experience, their classes, and other avenues of involvement in the Penn community and the City of Philadelphia. How much of a financial commitment is membership? What is the Program Fee? What does it go to? What is the Facilities Management Fee? The financial commitment of fraternity or sorority membership varies from chapter to chapter. Your student should inquire not only about financial obligations, but also tangible issues to fraternity/sorority membership like the chapter's academic performance and related programs and incentives, community service and philanthropy activities, alumni and career networking, possibilities for living/housing options, and levels of involvement in other campus activities by current members. The Fraternity and Sorority Program Fee is a fee that was instituted by the Greek Alumni Council in 1982 to provide revenue that assists the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life (OFSL) and provides funding for leadership and organizational development training, resources for chapters and fraternity/sorority governing bodies, and other responsibilities and objectives of OFSL. It appears once a year on the bursar's bill of every student within the fraternity/sorority system and is currently set at $91.00 per year. Returning students will find it on their bill just prior to the fall semester. Students who join the fraternity sorority system during the academic year will find it on their bursar's bill in the spring, typically on the March billing. For a more comprehensive explanation of the fee, please visit: http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/ofsa/policies_fees.php#program The Out of House/Facilities Management Fee is a fee that some chapters have to help maintain the chapter house. The actual residents of the house pay a market-competitive rent rate to live there, but the house is used by the entire chapter on a regular basis and this fee provides for everyone in the chapter to help with the responsibility of maintaining a safe, supportive environment for the chapter to have and in which the chapter may hold their formal and informal functions.
What kind of time commitment does membership require? What types of activities do chapters plan or participate in regularly? At Penn, chapters realize that students are typically involved in multiple activities and provide the flexibility to encourage that involvement. Above, we discussed the maximum amount of time allowed for new member education programs. Once a member, individuals may choose to devote significant amounts of time to the chapter, particularly those involved in leadership positions, but academics should never be superseded by chapter involvement. Chapter programming in any given chapter would include academic and personal development programs, community service/philanthropy projects, scholastic and career development opportunities, alumni networking, leadership training, intramural sports, and programs of some personal interest (technology, sports, fashion, travel, recreation, etc.). Chapters are also encouraged to co-sponsor programs with each other as well as other student organizations and offices at Penn.
What about the negative things that one hears/reads about in Greek Life? What is the University's Alcohol Policy? Enforcement? What is hazing and the University's stand regarding it? BE AWARE THAT GROUPS LIKE APES, THEOS, OZ, OAX, OWL SOCIETY, AND TABARD SOCIETY ARE NOT FRATERNITIES OR SORORITIES AND THEY ARE NOT RECOGNIZED ORGANIZATIONS. THE REASON THAT THEY WORK UNDERGROUND AND SEPARATE FROM THE UNIVERSITY IS THAT THEY WORK IN VIOLATION TO MANY UNIVERSITY POLICIES INCLUDING THE ALCOHOL POLICY, THE ANTI-HAZING POLICY AND MANY OTHER LOCAL, STATE AND FEDERAL LAWS. YOU ARE STRONGLY ENCOURAGED TO DISSUADE YOUR STUDENT FROM ANY CONTACT WITH THESE GROUPS. As for the recognized fraternities and sororities, typically, the negative things that people hear about fraternities include alcohol, drugs and hazing. Alcohol and drugs are unfortunately a fact of life and a ongoing issue across our society. OFSL works in partnership with the chapter, the Office of Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD), and The Penn Police Department to train students on event planning and registration. The University policy teaches responsibility and moderation, and provides for a sound social registration and management process, University monitors work with chapter leaders to improve and enhance their management of social situations, and to develop common sense guidelines for social hosting. The full text of the policy as well as much more information about alcohol education and related initiatives may be found here. Hazing is defined as any action or situation (1) which recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student or (2) which willfully destroys or removes public or private property for the purpose of initiation or admission into or affiliation with an organization. The University of Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and all inter/national fraternities and sororities have strict codes and regulations against such activities and they will not be tolerated. Any and all information received about the potential of such activities is immediately and fully investigated. If there is any credible evidence of such activities, inter/national headquarters and alumni advisors are also immediately advised and typically independent investigations begin on many levels. Any and all information, tips or questions about specific activities should immediately be directed to OFSL at email@example.com or 215.898.5264. The full text of the University of Pennsylvania Anti-hazing policy may be found at here.
My son or daughter needs to develop skill outside of the classroom. Are there opportunities for this? ABSOLUTELY!!! Honestly, involvement in fraternities and sororities is among the best opportunity for such skills to be developed. In addition to the support for a rigorous academic experience, providing a family and home away from home, lifelong brother/sisterhood and friendship, and amazing career networking mentioned above, the self governance of chapters provides an excellent laboratory to develop such skills. Interpersonal skills, values clarification and enhancement, leadership and personal management skills, positive role modeling and small group living are all integral parts of active participation in fraternity/sorority life. The close living situation, the value-based organizational programming, and the interaction with brothers and sisters of all classes and alumni/ae of many generations all contribute to these activities and the personal development of every member. This is not to say that individual skills are not developed through involvement in activities other than fraternities or sororities, but for overall experience, there are very few activities that compare to the experience of fraternity/sorority membership.