Being about to finish college without ever appending a Greek letter to my resume (although I am a scant .04 grade points short of being eligible for Phi Beta Kappa), I've never understood these folks.
Most Greek letter organizations are social organizations, presenting themselves as societies to help their members better themselves in a social setting.
The more generous might interpret this as 'networking'. The less generous might interpret this as 'pseudo-nepotism, mutual backscratching, and insufficient reliance on one's actual skill'.
A variety of Greek letter organizations are distinguished from social groups by their function. They can be specifically organized for service to the community, for professional advancement, or for scholastic achievement.
Certain organizations were established for specific religious or ethnic groups, while others focus on numerous qualifications. For example, Phi Sigma Pi, the only national honor fraternity, stresses both academic achievement and leadership in the community. Some social organizations are expressly Christian, such as Alpha Chi Rho (founded as Christian, presently non-exclusive). Jewish fraternities, such as Alpha Epsilon Pi, Zeta Beta Tau, and Sigma Alpha Mu (historically Jewish, but has been non-sectarian since the 1950s) were established, in part, in response to restrictive clauses that existed in many social fraternities' laws barring Jewish membership, which were removed in the mid-20th century. A controversy remains between the idea of creating supportive communities for distinct groups on the one hand and the intent to create non-discriminatory communities on the other.
There are also organizations with a cultural or multicultural emphasis. For example, Alpha Phi Alpha and Kappa Alpha Psi, both African American Fraternities, were established at Cornell University in 1906 and Indiana University – Bloomington in 1911, respectively, the first Chinese fraternity, established at Cornell in 1916, and Sigma Iota, the first Hispanic fraternity, established at Louisiana State University in 1904. The latter later merged with other Hispanic fraternities and organizations around the nation to form Phi Iota Alpha, the oldest Latino fraternity in existence, in 1931. The Phi Sigma Alpha fraternity in Puerto Rico can also trace its roots back to Sigma Iota. There are now 20 Latino fraternities in the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations. A distinct set of black fraternities and sororities also exists, although black students are not barred from non-black organizations and there are black members of non-black organizations. Non African-American students are also not barred from predominately African American fraternities and sororities.
Organizations designed for particular class years do exist, but are usually categorized separately from other types of Greek letter organizations. While these were once common in older institutions in the Northeast, the only surviving underclass society is Theta Nu Epsilon, which is specifically for sophomores. Many senior class societies also survive, and they are often simply referred to as Secret Societies.
The rituals just make them look really, really stupid - they're trying to create an air of exclusivity, mysticism, and I-don't-know-what that at least to me falls flat.
While the system has produced its share of poets, aesthetes, and Henry James scholars, it is far more famous for its success in the powerhouse fraternity fields of business, law, and politics. An astonishing number of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, congressmen and male senators, and American presidents have belonged to fraternities. Many more thousands of American men count their fraternal experience—and the friendships made within it—as among the most valuable in their lives. The organizations raise millions of dollars for worthy causes, contribute millions of hours in community service, and seek to steer young men toward lives of service and honorable action. They also have a long, dark history of violence against their own members and visitors to their houses, which makes them in many respects at odds with the core mission of college itself.
Business, law, and politics are fairly notable for drawing sociopathic little fucksticks to their ranks. Just saying.
A 1996 study examined the cognitive effects of fraternity/sorority affiliation during the first year of college. Statistical controls were made for individual pre-college ability and academic motivation as well as gender, ethnicity, age, credit hours taken, work responsibilities, and other factors. Data showed that men who were members of fraternities had significantly lower end-of-first-year reading comprehension, mathematics, critical thinking, and composite achievement than their peers who were not affiliated with a Greek organization. Sorority membership also had a negative effect on cognitive development. However, only the effects for reading comprehension and composite achievement were significant and the magnitude of the negative influence tended to be smaller for women than for men.
A follow-up study in 2006 by the same researchers and using similar sampling techniques and controls showed that negative effects of fraternity/sorority affiliation were much less pronounced during the second and third year of college than during the first year of college. On objective, standardized measures of cognitive skills, the effects of Greek affiliation continued to be negative for both men and women, but they were substantially smaller in magnitude and only one could be considered statistically significant (a negative effect for fraternity membership on end-of-third-year reading comprehension). The study also included self-reported measures of students’ cognitive growth. For men, fraternity membership continued to exert small negative effects in the second and third years of college, but only one[clarification needed] was statistically significant. For women the impacts of sorority membership on self-reported gains were just the opposite. In both the second and third years of college, sorority membership exerted small positive effects on all self-reported gains measures, several of which reached statistical significance.
George D. Kuh, Ernest T. Pascarella, and Henry Wechsler used research from the National Study of Student Learning (NSSL) and concluded that “fraternities are indifferent to academic values and seem to short-change the education of many members.”
A 2006 study which was published in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology found that fraternity and sorority members suffered from 1 to 10 percent lower cumulative GPAs (Grade Point Average) than non-affiliated students. This negative effect was most pronounced for small fraternities and weakest for sororities. Further impact was demonstrated by a study in the Journal of College Student Development, which surveyed college men, both fraternity/sorority-affiliated and non-affiliated, from freshman year to senior year and tested their scores on the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. The study shows that affiliated men have significantly higher self-esteem then their non-affiliated counterparts.
To sum it up, frat bros and sorority girls are dumber on average but at least on the part of the frat bros they puff up (I don't know whether it's the good kind of self-esteem they're talking about - the kind that's actually commensurate with the reality of who they are).
I don't know if any of you were fraternity or sorority members, but I have met precious few who haven't SCREAMED 'smarmy sociopathic Goldman Sachs executive wannabe'.