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Dec 11, 2018
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The psychology of joining Greek life


Fraternity students socializing at their Greek booths in front
of the free speech area. These are just two of the fraternities
represented in front of the University Student Union.

Sergio Robles / The Collegian

Fraternities and sororities are typically affiliated with alcohol and parties, but what ultimately convinces students to participate in such organizations?

Abraham Maslow’s theory of human motivation, also known as a person’s “hierarchy of needs,” is sometimes used to explain why students join such groups as fraternities and sororities.

The theory explains that unconsciously, humans have five levels of needs that guide their behaviors. The first are the very basic human needs, such as food, water, air, sleep and sex, among other basics. Essentially, these are basic needs that guarantee human survival.

A person who does not meet all their needs will focus their behavior patterns in trying to meet these needs.

Once a person guarantees their physical survival, they will pursue physical safety. Safety and survival needs are considered “lower-level needs.” Once these needs are met, people will try to satisfy their “upper level needs.”

The first “upper level need” is the sense of belonging and love. This level encourages humans to join certain groups where they might, feel they belong and are loved.

College students might join fraternities, sororities or other groups to feel they belong, to be a part of a large acceptance group.

“In our day-to-day life, we exhibit these needs in our desires to marry, have a family, be a part of a community, a member of a church, a brother in the fraternity, a part of a gang or a bowling club,” wrote Shippensburg University professor Dr. C. George Boeree in the university website.

“People like to associate with people like themselves, To a large degree people would join those organizations to kind of fit in,” Fresno State psychology professor Dr. Michael Botwin said.

Joining such organization have advantages such as developing networking and long-term friendships.

“It helps build your network of friends. I have colleagues who recently retired who were fraternity members who still associate with many of the people that they were in fraternities with when they went to college,” Botwin said.

Students who choose not to join such organizations do so because of lack of time and other factors.

“A lot of my friends who [joined fraternities] were not first-generation college students. I am a first-generation college student. I just went through doing what I thought I should do to do the best I could,” Botwin said regard ing his reasons for not joining such organizations.

“I will not be committed, because I am already committed to school,” Fresno State pre-nursing student Gracie Martinez said. “I do my own thing, and I am too busy, I don’t feel I am missing out because I have my own friends.”

Other students prefer the friendship a Greek community provides.

“I came here and didn’t know a lot of people, and some of the older guys here became my friends. I had them for a couple of classes, they invited me to hang out and then I liked everyone,” Fresno State Kappa Sigma member Aaron Van Laar said.

Van Larr added that joining Kappa Sigma will help him develop networking skills and “it looks good in my resume,” he added.

Greek members are subject to stereotypes that follow the reputation of some fraternity and sorority members.

“A lot of people have pre-conceived notions of fraternity life and what’s it like. I mean, it doesn’t come with out the stereotypes of being a frat,” Fresno State Kappa Sigma member Andrew Bunting said.

A study published by U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health published that the, “Active members of fraternities and sororities had higher levels of heavy episodic drinking, annual marijuana use and current cigarette smoking than non-members at all three waves.”

The study showed that “heavy episodic drinking and annual marijuana use increased significantly with age among members of fraternities or sororities relative to non-members.”

“I know people who are in one they are low on parties, but there are some that have parties every weekend,” Martinez said.

The role of the Greek community seems to be beneficial for some students who participate.

The University of Missouri published a set of statistics regarding Greek communiTY success, including a drastically higher graduation rate. “Nationally, 71 percent of all fraternity and sorority member graduate, while only 50 percent of non-members graduate.”

“Of the nation’s 50 largest corporations, 43 are headed by fraternity or sorority members,” the University of Missouri published. “All but two Presidents since 1825 have been fraternity or sorority members.”

“Up to “70 percent of the U.S. Presidents’ cabinet members since 1900 have been fraternity or sorority members.
76 percent of U.S. Senators are fraternity or sorority members,” published the University of Missouri.

“One of the things that I think we are losing in higher education, is people are seeing education as accumulating 120 units and graduating,” Botwin said.

“Everybody is busy working and trying to pay all the tuition and all the increases, but you got to stop and smell the roses and have fun,” Botwin added. “Going to college is a rare opportunity to get some of those kinds experiences and you can’t go back and get the club experiences.”

“I would rather see a student back off from taking 25 units and maybe take 15 units and learn about themselves by being in a club and doing some stuff for school [rather] than racking up credit units at phenomenal rates where they are not going to remember anything anyways cause they are taking too many classes,” Botwin said.

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