Fraternities have come a long way since the founding of Phi Beta Kappa in 1776. Phi Beta Kappa was a literary society, but today there are more social fraternities. These fraternities may be further subdivided -- depending often on interest, race or religion -- and there also are professional and academic fraternities.
Recruiting members for a fraternity is called "rushing" and it usually takes place in the fall. The purpose of rushing is for the "rushee" and the brothers to get to know one another. When a rushee is a son or other relative of a fraternity alumnus, he almost automatically receives an invitation to join. Many colleges have their own rules about rushing and other aspects of fraternity life. To find recruits, fraternities often turn to friends, along with friends of friends, and hold events to which they invite fellow students who might be good candidates for rush. Often, there is a brother who is appointed chair of rush week and recruitment, and the president is involved too, overseeing the budget and keeping everyone motivated and on task [source: The Fraternity Advisor].
When a prospect agrees to join a fraternity, the process he goes through before he becomes a member is called "pledging." The purpose of pledging is bonding, both to the fraternity brothers and to the members of your pledge class. Pledging mostly involves learning about the fraternity and its way of life. It's also how a pledge shows the brothers that he is worthy of being a member. Often, pledges are given group projects to complete to show they can work as a team or individual tasks to show they're willing to help a brother. If the pledge demonstrates what the brothers are looking for, they initiate him into the fraternity.
The initiation may not be called hazing, but the practice dates back to the 1800s and even though it's banned by many campuses and fraternities, it likely still happens [sources: Conroe, Bloomberg]. When caught -- sometimes because the hazing results in injuries to a pledge -- the fraternity usually faces suspension from the university or the fraternity's national organization. Once the pledges join the fraternity, the initiation ceremony also is filled with mystery, where fraternity brothers reveal their passwords or other rites under the promise of secrecy.
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