In the world of Greek life, sororities are often portrayed as sisterhoods built on support, friendship and self-determination. But behind the veil of sisterhood hides a darker reality for some: hazing. While recognized sororities adhere to strict guidelines and regulations, there is a subset of organizations that operate outside of the recognized Greek system and are often referred to as unrecognized or underground sororities. In this blog post, we dive into the world of unrecognized sororities and shed light on the widespread problem of hazing within their ranks.
The hidden world of unrecognized sororities
Unrecognized sororities, also known as underground sororities, are typically sororities that operate independently from the oversight and recognition of the university and national Greek organizations. Here are some reasons why some sororities are not recognized:
- Non-compliance with university standards: Some sororities do not meet the criteria set by the university for recognition. This may include not meeting academic, financial or behavioral requirements.
- Lack of national affiliation: many recognized sororities are affiliated with national Greek organizations that provide structure, support and oversight. Sororities without a national affiliation may have a difficult time becoming recognized because there are no established guidelines and standards.
- Conduct concerns: non-recognized sororities may engage in activities or behaviors that are considered inappropriate or unsafe by the college. This includes hazing, alcohol abuse or other forms of misconduct.
- Independence and autonomy: Some sororities choose not to be recognized in order to maintain their autonomy and independence from the university and national Greek organizations. They value the freedom to establish their own traditions, rituals and membership criteria.
- Disenfranchisement from the Greek system: in some cases, sororities operate outside the recognized Greek system because they are dissatisfied with or no longer accept the traditional Greek structure. They seek to establish alternative sororities that better reflect their values and beliefs.
- Historical or cultural reasons: Some sororities have historical or cultural roots that predate the founding of the college Greek system. Even if these organizations are not officially recognized, they may still have a presence on campus and in their communities.
Recognizing unrecognized sororities
Finding out if a sorority is recognized or not usually requires several steps:
- University website: visit your university’s official website and navigate to the “Greek Life” or “Student Organizations” section. There you may find a list of recognized sororities and fraternities affiliated with the university.
- Office of Greek Life: Contact the Office of Greek Life or Student Affairs at your college. They can provide you with information about recognized sororities, their affiliation and official recognition status.
- National Organizations: Research the sorority in question and find out if it belongs to a national organization. Recognized sororities are often part of national Greek organizations with established guidelines and standards.
- On-campus events and activities: look for on-campus events, recruitment activities and social gatherings. Recognized sororities typically participate in official university events and have a presence on campus.
- Talk to current members: If you are considering joining a sorority, talk to current members and ask them about their organization’s recognition status. They should be able to provide information about the official status of their sorority.
- Check with university officials: When in doubt, you should contact university officials or advisors to clarify status. They can confirm whether a fraternity is recognized by the university and give you more information if needed.
The culture of hazing
Hazing is any activity that is expected of prospective students that is humiliating or degrading or that threatens emotional and/or physical harm. Hazing is a widespread problem in unrecognized sororities. Initiation rituals can range from seemingly harmless tasks to dangerous and traumatic experiences. From excessive alcohol consumption to physical abuse, hazing leads to a culture of secrecy and fear that leaves aspirants vulnerable and isolated.
Since the sisters usually pledge to remain silent about the admission process, many rumors surround what happens there. Unrecognized sororities do not have to justify themselves to the university or an umbrella organization, which means that hazing is often particularly pronounced there. For example, there are reported cases of PNMs, potential new members or candidates, being tattooed or even branded.
Even supposedly harmless forms of hazing, such as forced excessive alcohol consumption, pose a real danger. According to research by The Economist newspaper, alcohol poisoning is the most common cause of death from hazing. From 1969 to 2021, there was at least one death from hazing at universities every year, including 40 between 2007 and 2017 alone. This does not even include fatal accidents caused by excessive alcohol consumption.
Another problem with enforced excessive alcohol consumption is that female candidates become easy prey for sexual assault when drunk. The issue of “rape culture” is far from off the table. And while alcohol and drug use are usually officially prohibited at recognized sororities, this does not apply to underground sororities. Especially at parties with associated fraternities, assaults and rapes often occur.
The effects on the members
The effects of hazing go far beyond the initiation phase. Many members of unrecognized sororities suffer long-term psychological and emotional trauma as a result of their experiences. Feelings of shame, guilt and mistrust can linger and affect personal relationships and psychological well-being. Furthermore, the normalization of hazing perpetuates the cycle of abuse as current members become perpetrators themselves and continue the tradition for future recruits.
Breaking the silence
Despite the secrecy that surrounds unrecognized fraternities, it is important to break the silence and address the issue of hazing directly. College administrators, student organizations and the entire Greek community must work together to provide resources and support for those affected by hazing. Education and awareness campaigns can help dispel the myth that hazing is a necessary rite of passage and encourage those affected to speak out against abusive practices.
Hazing in unrecognized sororities is a complex and deeply rooted problem within the Greek community. By shedding light on this hidden world and acknowledging the prevalence of hazing, we can begin to make a difference. Through education, advocacy and support, we can work towards creating a Greek community that upholds the values of sisterhood, respect and integrity and is free from the shadow of hazing. Only by acting together can we ensure the safety and well-being of all current and future members.