Fraternities and sororities

Fraternities and sororities

Fraternities and sororities (from the Latin words frater and soror, meaning "brother" and "sister" respectively) are fraternal social organizations for undergraduate students. In Latin, the term refers mainly to such organizations at colleges and universities in the United States, although it is also applied to analogous European groups also known as corporations. Similar, but less common, organizations also exist for secondary school students. In modern usage, the term "Greek letter organization" is often synonymous, in North America, with the terms "fraternity" and "sorority".

Typically, Greek letters organizations are single-sex, initiatory organizations with membership considered active during the undergraduate years only, although a notable exception to this rule are historically black, Latino, Asian, and multicultural organizations, in which active membership continues, and into which members are often initiated long after the completion of their undergraduate degrees. Greek letter organizations may sometimes be considered mutual aid societies, providing academic and social activities. Some groups also maintain a chapter house, providing residential and dining facilities for members.



In modern usage, the term has become synonymous with the North American fraternity and sorority. The term fraternity, often colloquially shortened to "frat" (though use of such term may be derogatory in some contexts), typically refers to an all-male group, while the term "sorority", created for Gamma Phi Beta by Dr. Frank Smalley, typically refers to an all-female group. Some women's groups define themselves as fraternities for women or women's fraternities, such as Alpha Phi and Phi Mu. Additionally, some groups that define themselves as "fraternities" may be mixed-sex, such as Alpha Phi Omega, Phi Sigma Pi, Alpha Delta Phi Society, Kappa Kappa Psi or Mu Phi Epsilon; the same is true of groups that define themselves as "sororities", such as Tau Beta Sigma. Due to the ambiguous nature of the terms "fraternity" and "sorority" with respect to gender, and due to the inaccuracy and potentially sexist nature of the use "fraternity" to describe aforementioned organizations, it has become commonplace to use the synonym "Greek letter organization", since the vast majority of fraternities and sororities identify themselves using Greek letters. A recent example of this is the usage of the terms "(historically) Black Greek letter organizations" (BGLOs) and "Latino Greek letter organizations" (LGOs) within the literature. However, since most of those organizations that do not identify themselves using Greek letters are structured similarly to and share other several common characteristics with those that do identify themselves using Greek letters, all of these organizations are still considered to be "Greek letter organizations". All this said, the public at large and most members of fraternities and sororities still use the traditional terms ("fraternity" and "sorority"), to refer to all-male and all-female groups, respectively. Coeducational service fraternities and academic honors organizations (despite sharing a common history, as well as a common naming scheme, with modern fraternities and sororities) tend to be referred to more specifically. "Greek letter organization" tends to be used in "formal" contexts, but rarely in popular discourse.

The term social fraternity is used to differentiate four-year, undergraduate, and frequently residential groups from other organizations, many of which also have Greek-letter names, such as honor societies, academic societies, or service fraternities and sororities.

History and development


The Phi Beta Kappa Society, founded on 5 December 1776, at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, is generally recognized as the first Greek-letter student society in North America.[1] It was founded by John Heath, who had failed at admission to the two existing Latin-letter fraternities at the College, the F.H.C. Society (nicknamed as backronym the "Flat Hat Club") and the P.D.A. Society (nicknamed "Please Don't Ask").[citation needed] The main developments associated with Phi Beta Kappa are the use of Greek-letter initials as a society name and the establishment of branches or "chapters" at different campuses, following the pattern set by Masonic lodges.[citation needed] The Greek letters (ΦΒΚ) come from the motto Φιλοσοφία Βίου Κυβερνήτης (philosophia biou kybernētēs, "Philosophy is the helmsman of life"), now officially translated as "Philosophy is the guide of life".[2] Greek was chosen as the language for the motto due generally to classical education at the time, and specifically because Heath "was the best Greek scholar in college." One official historian of the society, William T. Hastings, and some others believe that the society was originally known by the Latin name Societas Philosophiae (Philosophical Society), and that the name Phi Beta Kappa became the society name over time.[3] This use of Greek letters was briefly preceded by the use of Latin letters, notably the F.H.C. Society drawing its name from its secret motto, presumed to be "Fraternitas, Humanitas, et Cognitio," or "Fraternitas Humanitas Cognitioque." (These are two renderings of "brotherhood, humaneness, and knowledge.")

However, Phi Beta Kappa was very different from a typical college fraternity of today, in that the membership was generally restricted to upperclassmen, if not seniors; and men initiated as students remained active in the society after becoming members of the faculty of the host university. The annual Phi Beta Kappa exercises at Yale were public literary exercises, with as many or more faculty members of the society than undergraduate.

As Phi Beta Kappa developed, it became an influential association of faculty and select students on several college campuses, with membership becoming more of an honor and less of social selection. Many came to see the increasing influence of the society as undemocratic and contrary to the free flow of intellectual ideas in American academia. As a curious side effect of anti-masonic controversy in the early Republic, the secrets of Phi Beta Kappa were published in the appendix to a book in 1831.[citation needed] After that time, Phi Beta Kappa ceased to be a social fraternity in any real sense and is now only an honorary society, though prominent and respected.

Chi Phi was established at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey on 24 December 1824 on the principles of Truth, Honor, and Personal Integrity.[4] However, shortly after the founding the Chi Phi Society (which included both faculty and student members) became inactive. Some 30 years later the name and traditions of the group were unearthed and adopted by a second organization founded at Princeton in 1854, but not as a direct outgrowth of the original organization. This was acknowledged formally by Chi Phi's national president A. Holley Rudd, at the public ceremonies in 1924 celebrating the Centennial of the original group. Two other organizations of the same name merged with it to create the modern Chi Phi Fraternity in 1874. It is also possible that other college organizations with Greek letter names may have existed prior to 1825 without having a direct influence on the future history of the fraternity system.

Union College in Schenectady, New York became the "mother" of the existing college fraternity movement with the establishment of The Kappa Alpha Society on 26 November 1825, an outgrowth of an organization called the Philosophers that was founded a year earlier as a literary society. Kappa Alpha possessed most of the distinctive elements of a modern fraternity, and was clearly the model that inspired the development of other societies according to Baird's Manual, the definitive reference work on fraternities. (The Kappa Alpha Society is distinct from the southern Kappa Alpha Order.) Kappa Alpha's founders adopted many of Phi Beta Kappa's practices, but made their organization an exclusively student group, adopted a much more elaborate ritual and doubled as a literary society. Its example encouraged the formation of two competitors on campus; the Sigma Phi Society formed in March 1827, followed by Delta Phi in November. These three are generally called the Union Triad.

The fraternity system becomes "national"

Sigma Phi was the first fraternity to expand "nationally" when it opened a second chapter at Hamilton College in 1831.[citation needed] That and an effort by The Kappa Alpha Society to enter Hamilton led to the formation of Alpha Delta Phi in 1832. Delta Upsilon, the first non-secret (originally anti-secret), fraternity was founded at Williams College in Massachusetts in 1834, following the establishment of chapters of Kappa Alpha and Sigma Phi in 1833 and 1834, respectively.[citation needed] Beta Theta Pi was founded at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio in August, 1839 in response to the chartering of the new chapter of Alpha Delta Phi.[citation needed] Alpha Sigma Phi was founded in December 1845 at Yale followed by Phi Delta Theta (1848) and Sigma Chi (1855) at Miami University.[citation needed] Along with Beta Theta Pi, these three fraternities have been called the Miami Triad. Also, around that time the Jefferson Duo was formed at Jefferson college in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, consisting of Phi Gamma Delta (1848) and Phi Kappa Psi (1852).[citation needed] Although this is a duo, it is recorded along with the other triads formed at the time.[citation needed] Union College continued its role as the "Mother of Fraternities" with the founding of Psi Upsilon (1833), Chi Psi (1841) and Theta Delta Chi (1847). With this second "triad", Union College can lay claim to the foundation of nearly half of the thirteen oldest fraternities in the country.[citation needed]

The Mystical 7 was founded at Wesleyan University in 1837, and established the first chapters in the South, at Emory in 1841, and elsewhere.[citation needed] Sigma Alpha Epsilon was founded at the University of Alabama in 1856, and it is the only fraternity founded in the Antebellum South that still operates.[citation needed], Then in 1862, Adelphic Alpha Pi was founded at Olivet College (Michigan), and it remains the oldest house on campus. Adelphic Alpha Pi is the Brother Society to Sigma Beta.

Growth was then mainly stunted by the Civil War. Theta Xi, founded at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York on 29 April 1864, is the only fraternity to be established during the War. However, following the War, the system as a whole underwent strong growth in the late 19th century and early 20th century, both in the number of organizations founded and chapters of existing organizations established.[citation needed] This was aided, in part, by the reopening of schools and the return of veterans as students.[citation needed] Alpha Tau Omega was the first Fraternity founded after the Civil War, and it also was the first Fraternity to be founded as a national organization, not local or regional.[5]

Alpha Phi Alpha,[6] Phi Iota Alpha,[7] Rho Psi, Phi Sigma Nu, and Zeta Beta Tau were founded as the first fraternities for African-American, Latino-American, Asian-American, Native American, and Jewish students, respectively.[citation needed]

Greek letters

The names of North American fraternities and sororities generally consist of two or three Greek letters, often the initials of a Greek motto, which may be secret. For example: Phi Beta Kappa (Society), from phi (φ) + beta (β) + kappa (κ), initials of the society's Greek motto, "φιλοσοφια βιου κυβερνητης" (philosophia biou kybernētēs), meaning "philosophy is the guide of life". The main thought behind the use of Greek letters is that the fraternities and sororities have a Hellenic way of thinking.

Fraternities and sororities are referred to by the encompassing term "Greek letter organization" and described by the adjective "Greek", as seen in phrases such as "Greek community", "Greek system", "Greek life", or members as "Greeks". An individual fraternity or sorority is often called a "Greek house" or simply "house," terms that may be misleading, since it could be taken to refer to a chapter's physical property, whereas many fraternities and sororities do not have a chapter house. "Chapter" and "organization" are used in these contexts, with the latter referring to the group as a collective entity, and the former referring to a specific division of such entity, though not all fraternities and sororities have multiple chapters.

The use of Greek letters started with Phi Beta Kappa (then a social fraternity and today an honor society) at the College of William & Mary – see History: Beginnings, below. Several groups, however, do not use Greek letters. Examples include Acacia, FarmHouse, and Triangle, as well as final clubs, eating clubs, secret societies at some Ivy League colleges, such as Skull and Bones at Yale and the military affiliated fraternity the National Society of Pershing Rifles.

Types of Greek letter organizations

Most Greek letter organizations are social organizations, presenting themselves as societies to help their members better themselves in a social setting.

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.[8][9] 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.[citation needed]

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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[citation needed] 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.


Fraternity Tricycle race philanthropy

Many Greek letter organizations make Philanthropy an integral part of their objectives to reach beyond their own group to support others. It would not be possible to list all charitable organizations and activities done on their behalf. This is an abbreviated list showing source of support, organization supported, and last known monetary contribution from a fund raiser.

Kappa Delta: - Girl Scouts of the USA; Prevent Child Abuse America; Richmond VA Children's Hospital; American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; Kappa Delta Foundation. Pi Kappa Phi: Push America for the disabled. Phi Sigma Alpha: Sigma Foundation. Delta Delta Delta: St. Jude Children's Hospital $9.1mm. Alpha Delta Pi: Ronald McDonald House Charities. Alpha Omicron Pi: Arthritis Research, Gamma Phi Beta: Campfire USA. Alpha Sigma Phi: Lance Armstrong Foundation. Chi Omega: Make-A-Wish Foundation. Delta Chi Lambda: Zeta Tau Alpha: Breast Cancer Education and Awareness. Sigma Sigma Sigma: Robbie Page Memorial]]. Theta Phi Alpha: Homeless shelters, underprivileged children. Phi Sigma Sigma: National Kidney Foundation.Phi Mu: Children's Miracle Network, Phi Iota Alpha: UNICEF.

Note worthy fundraisers. 2010 Derby Days at Rutgers University: Children's Miracle Network; $95k. February 2011 Pennsylvania State University's Dance Marathon; Pediatric cancer; $9.5mm (2010 $7.8mm)

Competition and cooperation

Early fraternal societies were very competitive for members, for academic honors, and for any other benefit or gain. Some of this competition was seen as divisive on college campuses. Today there is still competition, but that competition is intended to be within limits, and for nobler purposes, such as charitable fundraising.[citation needed] Often, organizations compete in various sporting events. There is also a greater emphasis on interfraternity cooperation. The single greatest effort along these lines was the creation of the National Interfraternity Council, now the North American Interfraternity Conference, a century ago, which was intended to minimize conflicts, destructive competition, and encourage student members to recognize members of other fraternities and sororities as people who share common interests. The National Pan-Hellenic Council has similar goals to unite members of all predominant BGLOs; (historically) Black Greek letter organizations.

Structure and organization

Most Greek letter organizations were originally organized on one campus.[citation needed] An organization that has only one established chapter is a "local." A local can authorize chapters of the same name at other campuses. After the first authorized chapter, a local is considered a "national," even if it only has two chapters.[citation needed] Over the past 180 years, North America has accrued several large national organizations with hundreds of chapters.[citation needed] Two or more nationals can also merge, and some of the larger nationals were created this way. Several national fraternities are international, which usually means they have chapters in Canada.[citation needed]

A local organization can petition one of the existing national organizations and be absorbed into their organization dropping all ties to the former local organization. Recently this has become the preferred method for expansion within national organizations because the members have already formed a bond and presence on campus but are changing their name, ritual, and structure.[citation needed]

The central business offices of the organizations are also commonly referred to as "Nationals". Nationals may place certain requirements on individual chapters to standardize rituals and policies regarding membership, housing, finances, or behavior. These policies are generally codified in a constitution and bylaws. Greek letter organizations may once have been governed by the original chapter, but virtually all have adopted some version of governance with executive officers who report to a board of trustees, and 'legislative' body consisting of periodic conventions of delegates from all the chapters.

Rituals and symbols

Most[citation needed] Greek letter organizations maintain traditions, sometimes accompanied by secret rituals, which are generally symbolic in nature. They include an initiation ceremony, and may also include passwords, songs, and handshakes. For example, writer Julian Hawthorne, the son of Nathaniel Hawthorne, wrote (in his posthumously published Memoirs[11]) of an ironic coincidence surrounding his fraternal initiation:[12]

I was initiated into a college secret society—a couple of hours of grotesque and good-humored rodomontade and horseplay, in which I cooperated as in a kind of pleasant nightmare, confident, even when branded with a red-hot iron or doused head-over heels in boiling oil,[13] that it would come out all right. The neophyte is effectively blindfolded during the proceedings, and at last, still sightless, I was led down flights of steps into a silent crypt, and helped into a coffin, where I was to stay until the Resurrection...Thus it was that just as my father passed from this earth, I was lying in a coffin during my initiation into Delta Kappa Epsilon.

Meetings of active members are generally kept private and not discussed without formal approval of the chapter as a whole.[citation needed]

For organizations with Greek letters composing their name, these letters are the initials of a motto (such as Delta Upsilon), a set of virtues (such as Alpha Kappa Lambda), or the history of its organization (such as Phi Tau).

Greek letter organizations often have a number of distinctive emblems, such as colors, flags, flowers, in addition to a badge (or pin), coat of arms, and/or seal. An open motto (indicating that the organization has a "secret motto" as well) is used to express the unique ideals of a fraternity or sorority.

Pins or badges

Alpha Kappa Alpha pledge pin

Pins have become increasingly popular to collect, even by individuals that never were members. Groups such as the Fraternity Pin Collector Society have collected thousands of pins worth tens of thousands of dollars in individual collections while organizations such as Kappa Kappa Gamma's "Keepers of the Key" work to reunite lost or stolen badges with their original owners.[14]

According to Martin (1918), the primary fraternal jewelers of the late 19th century and early 20th century were D. L. Auld Co. of Columbus, L. G. Balfour Co. of Attleboro, Mass., Burr, Patterson and Co. of Detroit, Upmeyer Company of Milwaukee, A. H. Fetting Co. of Baltimore, Hoover and Smith Co. of Philadelphia, O. C. Lanphear of Galesburg, Ill., Miller Jewelry Co. of Cincinnati, J. F. Newman of New York, Edward Roehm of Detroit, and Wright, Kay and Co. of Detroit. Currently the most widely used jewelers are Herff Jones, Jostens, and Balfour. Jewelers' initials and stampings are typically found on the back of pins along with the member name and/or chapter information. The history of fraternal jewelers is important when determining age of non-dated jewelry pieces.

Since fraternity and sorority pins are used as the primary symbols for societies, licensing and marketing concerns have developed. As a result, many of the larger organizations have had to put a legal team on retainer as consultants.[citation needed]

Coat of arms

Fraternities and Sororities have coat of arms that represent the familial aspect of brotherhood and sisterhood. The greatest representation of fraternal coat of arms is found in yearbooks and chapter publications from 1890 to 1925. Engravings were made of coat of arms and tipped into the yearbooks, often later removed and framed. Sizes range from a square inch to a full page layout. Many of these engravings were signed, creating a period art form.

Fraternal coat of arms engravings were typically made by cutting lines in metal or wood for the purpose of printing reproduction. The earliest known engravings printed on paper in this fashion date back to the 16th century. Much of the engravings done in the 19th century were metal engravings where the image was carved into a piece of steel or iron. In the early 20th century, it became more common to use photo-engraving, or photogravure to print the coat of arms.


Apparel such as shirts, pants, bags, canteens, jewelry and key chains are often worn by members with their Greek letters on them. These shirts and other articles may later be used for a pass-down ceremony between seniors and fellow members. Seniors may choose to pass down some or all of the clothing they own that is associated with the sorority. Some of the shirts are ten or more years old and in some chapters, girls will compete for them. In those chapters, generally members feel it is an honor to have older artifacts. At some institutions, it is considered inappropriate and may be prohibited to wear apparel with the society's name when the member is consuming alcohol. It is considered disrespectful to have their letters on when drinking, regardless of their age. Also, it is generally taboo for non-members to wear any apparel with a group's letters.

Membership pins are not worn at all times. Some organizations limit pin-wearing to times of professional or business dress, also known as "Pin Attire".[citation needed] The pins are kept until the member dies, when they are returned to the Fraternity.[citation needed]

Chapter houses

Unique among most campus organizations, members of social Greek letter organizations often live together in a large house or distinct part of the university dormitories. This can help emphasize the "bonds of brotherhood or sisterhood" and provide a place of meeting for the members of the organization as well as alumni. For reasons of cost, liability, and stability, housing is usually owned or overseen by an alumni corporation or the organization's national headquarters. As a result, some houses have visitor restrictions, and some national organizations restrict or prohibit alcohol on the premises.[15] At some colleges where chapters do not have residential houses for the general membership, they may still have chapter houses where meals are served for their membership and guests.[16]


University students line up to rush a sorority.

The process of joining a Greek letter organization varies from organization to organization. Organizations governed by the National Panhellenic Conference or the North-American Interfraternity Conference commonly begin their process with a formal recruitment period, often called "rush week," or formal recruitment, which usually consists of events and activities designed for members and potential members to learn about each other and the organization. At the end of the formal recruitment period, organizations give "bids", or invitations to membership. Most organizations have a period of "pledgeship" before extending full membership. Some organizations have changed the name of pledgeship due to negative connotations to the process (such as calling pledges "Zobes" or "new members"), or have given up the process in favor of other joining requirements.[citation needed] Upon completion of the pledgeship and all its requirements, the active members will invite the pledges to be initiated and become full members. Initiation often includes secret ceremonies and rituals. Organizations governed by the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations (NALFO), or the National Multicultural Greek Council (NMGC) have very different recruitment processes. Oftentimes the fraternities and sororities associated with these councils do not participate in a typical recruitment process nor do they host a rush week. Instead interested students must formally express their interest to a member, or more oftentimes than not, members of the particular organization they are interested in.

Requirements may be imposed on those wishing to pledge either by the school or the organization itself, often including a minimum grade point average, wearing a pledge pin, learning about the history and structure of the organization, and performing public service. When a school places an age or tenure requirement on joining, this is called "deferred recruitment", as joining is deferred for a semester or year. The pledgeship period also serves as a probationary period in which both the organization and the pledge decide if they are compatible and will have a fulfilling experience.[citation needed]

Controversy and criticism

Academic achievement

A 1996 study examined the cognitive effects of Greek 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.[17]

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 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.[18]

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.”[19]

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 than non-Greek students. This negative effect was most pronounced for small fraternities and weakest for sororities.[20]

Other research from 1997, reveals the positive effects of joining student organizations and specifically Greek letter organizations. A study in the Journal of College Student Development surveyed college men, both Greek and non-Greek, from freshman year to senior year and tested their scores on the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. The study shows that Greek men have significantly higher self-esteem then their non-Greek counterparts. [21]

Other research, however, paints a more positive picture of the effects of Greek affiliation. Greek affiliation leads to significantly higher levels of general education gains, volunteerism, civic responsibility, willingness to donate to charitable or religious causes, and participation in student organizations (Hayek, Carini, O’Day, & Kuh, 2002; Whipple & Sullivan, 1998). Greek members have a higher tendency to persist through their senior year and graduate (Nelson, Halperin, Wasserman, Smith, & Graham, 2006). Furthermore, Greek members experience greater gains in interpersonal skills than unaffiliated peers (Hunt & Rentz, 1994; Pike, 2000).[22]

Hazing issues

Hazing is the harassment of new members as a rite of passage, by giving them meaningless, difficult, dangerous or humiliating tasks to perform, exposing them to ridicule, or playing practical jokes on them. It is a crime in 44 states,[23] and most educational institutions have their own definitions of, and prohibitions against, hazing, many required by state statutes.

Due to the nature of hazing and the secretive nature of Greek letter organizations, hazing is largely underreported. Most, if not all, hazing activities take place either during pledge (or "interest") activities.

Exclusionary nature

Some colleges and universities have banned Greek letter organizations with the justification that they are, by their very structure, set up to be elitist and exclusionary. The most famous, and oldest ban was at Princeton (Leitch 1978), though Princeton has now had fraternities since the 1980s.[24] Fraternities have been banned in recent times from Williams College, Middlebury College, and Amherst College.[25] Stanford University banned sororities in 1944, but not fraternities. They were restored in 1977 under Title IX.[26] The University of Victoria administration enforces strict non-recognition of fraternities citing their exclusionary nature.[27] While preferable, fraternities do not require recognition by a university.

Alcohol and other drug abuse

According to the U.S. Department of Education, fraternity and sorority members drink more often and in far greater quantities than their non-fraternity and non-sorority peers, and are therefore more likely to suffer the effects of alcohol abuse, such as poor academic performance, missing classes, fights, vandalism, injuries, and sexual assault, than the general college population.[citation needed] Citing a 2004 study and Monitoring the Future data, the U.S. Department of Education also states that Greek-letter organization members abuse prescription stimulants more than other students do and that membership in a Greek-letter organization increases the likelihood of marijuana use. Alcohol abuse and drug use in fraternities and sororities is related to both socialization and self-selection.[28]

North American Greek letter organizations in other regions

North American Greek letter organizations (NAGLO) are present almost exclusively in the United States and the English speaking universities of Canada, with a minority of organizations having chapters elsewhere, such as the Caribbean, Africa, and some in France there have also been temporary accommodations. The Arizona State University currently has the largest Greek letter organization system in the world with 69 fraternities and 36 sororities. Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, a prominent historically African-American Sorority, currently has chapters in the Virgin Islands and Bermuda. There was a brief chapter of Chi Phi at Edinburgh, Scotland during the American Civil War to accommodate Southern students studying abroad, and another for American servicemen who were still college students during World War II, but there has been no real export of the system to Europe. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, a historically black sorority founded in Washington, DC, USA, was the very first Greek-lettered organization ever to establish a chapter in Africa (1948), along with its constitutionally bonded brother organization, Phi Beta Sigma, Fraternity, Inc.[citation needed] Today, both the Sigmas and Zetas have chapters in the USA, Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean. Likewise, Zeta Psi and Sigma Alpha Mu have chapters in Canada. Zeta Psi also has one in England.[29] Tau Kappa Epsilon has chapters in Canada. Sigma Thêta Pi is present in Canada and France. In the National Panhellenic Conference, notable Canadian expansion efforts include Alpha Gamma Delta and Alpha Phi, which have seven and six Canadian chapters respectively.[citation needed] In 2009, Alpha Epsilon Pi established its Aleph chapter at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel.[30] Delta Lambda Sorority was founded in 2009, Sweden, and is currently the country's only active Greek letter organization.[31]

In Puerto Rico there are a number of social fraternities and sororities, a few having chapters in the mainland United States such as Phi Sigma Alpha. Puerto Rico does have many chapters of professional, honorary, and service fraternities and sororities from the United States such as Sigma Lambda Beta International.[32]


The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, also known as the three link fraternity, was the first organization to form a woman's auxiliary when it formed the Daughters of Rebekah in 1851 but the term sorority was not yet coined during that time. However, many of the first societies for women were not modeled as fraternities, but were woman's versions of the common Latin literary societies. The Adelphean Society (now Alpha Delta Pi) was established in 1851 at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia.[citation needed] The Philomathean Society (now Phi Mu)[33] was founded at Wesleyan College a year later in 1852. The Adelphean Society and the Philomathean Society did not take on their modern Greek names (Alpha Delta Pi and Phi Mu, respectively) until 1904 when they expanded beyond the Wesleyan campus.[citation needed]They are now often referred to as the Macon Magnolias. Many aspects of Alpha Delta Pi and Phi Mu (such as the stars and hands on their badges and the mascot of the lion) are similar due to the fact that while at Wesleyan a founder of Alpha Delta Pi, Eugenia Tucker Fitzgerald, and Phi Mu's Mary Ann DuPont (Lines) were roommates.[citation needed]

On 28 April 1867, I.C. Sorosis (later known by its original Greek motto Pi Beta Phi) was founded at Monmouth College, in Monmouth, Illinois. It is the first sorority founded on the model of the men's fraternity. A year later it established a second chapter at Iowa Wesleyan College. Three years later on 13 October 1870, Kappa Kappa Gamma was founded. These two fraternities were later known as the Monmouth Duo.

On 27 January 1870, Kappa Alpha Theta was formed at De Pauw University as the first Greek Lettered Fraternity known among women.[34]

In the mid-19th century, previously all-male universities began to admit women, and many women students felt it was in their best interest to band together. The first collegiate women formed woman's fraternities in an effort to counteract the widespread opposition to their presence (Turk 2004). Others disagree with this agonistic historical view.[citation needed]

Alpha Delta Pi was the first sorority, founded in 1851 at Wesleyan College.[35] The earliest organizations were founded as "women's fraternities" or "fraternities for women;" the term sorority was coined by professor Frank Smalley in 1874, in reference to the Greek organization, Gamma Phi Beta being established at Syracuse University. Kappa Kappa Gamma (1870) and Pi Beta Phi (1867), known as "The Monmouth Duo", were both founded at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois. Alpha Phi was established at Syracuse University first, in 1872. Along with Alpha Gamma Delta, these three sororities make up the Syracuse Triad. The first organization to adopt the word sorority was Gamma Phi Beta, established on 11 November 1874 at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York. In 1874, Sigma Kappa was also founded in Waterville, Maine at Colby College. Also founded at DePauw University, was Alpha Chi Omega in 1885. In 1893, Alpha Xi Delta was founded at Lombard College in Galesburg, Illinois.[36] Just a few years later, Chi Omega Fraternity was founded April 5, 1895 at the University of Arkansas. January 2, 1897, Alpha Omicron Pi was founded at Barnard College of Columbia University. Later in 1897 Kappa Delta was founded in Farmville, Virginia at Longwood University. A year later, Sigma Sigma Sigma, Zeta Tau Alpha followed by Alpha Sigma Alpha were founded, also at Longwood and are called the Farmville Four. Delta Delta Delta was founded at Boston University in 1888.[37] Like Pi Beta Phi, Tri Delta was modeled after the men's fraternity.[37]

Alpha Kappa Alpha, Lambda Theta Alpha, Alpha Pi Omega were founded as the first sororities by and for African-American, Latina-American, and Native American members respectively. In 1913, at Hunter College, New York, Phi Sigma Sigma became the first non-denominational sorority, allowing any woman, regardless of race, religion, or economic background into membership.[citation needed]

A number of sororities have been founded at the graduate school level. In 1917, at New York University School of Law five female law students founded Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority.[38] Currently active collegiate membership is only open to undergraduates.

Currently, the largest non-cultural sorority is Chi Omega with 17,000 collegiate members at any given time.,[39][40] Delta Zeta is the second largest, and Alpha Phi follows in third.

In North America, there are certain sororities that are considered bigger in Southern states just like certain sororities are bigger in the Northern states. Some Colleges or universities don't have sororities but could instead have groups.

High school fraternities and sororities

High school fraternities and sororities (or secondary fraternities and sororities), are social organizations for high school-aged students.

Torch and Dagger (later Omega Eta Tau) was the first such organization and was established in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 1859. The movement more generally developed in the 1870s with Gamma Sigma, Alpha Zeta and Alpha Phi, all closely modeled on college fraternities in their areas. Some of these early groups were discussed in the early editions of Baird's Manual of American College Fraternities under the heading "Academic Societies." In 1913, "American Secondary School Fraternities" by J. Ward Brown, provided a detailed history of these organizations. By that time there were at least 57 national fraternities and 21 national sororities. Some like Gamma Delta Psi, Gamma Eta Kappa, Delta Sigma, Delta Sigma Nu, Lambda Sigma, Sigma Phi Upsilon and Phi Sigma Chi were spread broadly across the entire country, but most were regional in nature given the difficulty for high school students to travel. Typical of those that survive are Phi Kappa, limited to around 50 chapters in the deep south (with five still active) and Omega Gamma Delta with more than 100 chapters in the northeast (two still active) and a couple of chapters further afield. In addition there were an enormous number of local fraternities scattered around the country.

Another 15 nationals were founded after this period including several that still exist. But starting around 1910, a strong anti-fraternity movement among high school administrators took a heavy toll on such organizations in many parts of the country. A reduced level of interest by high school students themselves since 1970, has brought the number down even further.

The largest such organizations are Aleph Zadik Aleph with around 250 chapters and Sigma Alpha Rho with more than 100. Both of these have the advantage of being sponsored by Jewish community groups and are more than simple fraternities. Beyond that, Gamma Eta Kappa, Delta Sigma, Phi Lambda Epsilon and Theta Phi all had more than 75 chapters over the years, with Omega Gamma Delta and Phi Sigma Kappa having more than 100 each.

Several nationals also had chapters in Canada and, in recent years, a whole class of similar fraternities has emerged in the Philippines, many of them outgrowths of sponsoring college organizations.

The fraternity tradition still has pockets of interest. Beyond Aleph Zadik Aleph, Sigma Alpha Rho (SAR), Omega Gamma Delta and Phi Kappa, there are similar groups such as the Order of DeMolay sponsored by the Masons. Alpha Omega Theta of New York still exists, though not in high schools, ΕΣAΔΕ is in Barcelona, The Lounge operates in Saginaw, Michigan; Phi Eta Sigma and Zeta Mu Gamma are located in Puerto Rico; Sigma Nu Xi is on the mainland United States. Sigma Delta Chi is an active sorority that was established in Alabama and continues today with several different chapters throughout Alabama, Tennessee and Florida. Although these are analogous societies, they are considered wholly different and unrelated societies. The Sub Deb Club, also known as "Sigma Delta Chi" was chartered in Athens, Alabama, in 1965, as a service and social sorority for young ladies who are students at Athens High School; Sub Deb Clubs or local chapters can be found in neighboring towns such as Decatur, Hunstville, Florence, Sheffield, Russellville, and Pulaski, Tennessee. Theta Phi Delta was the second high school sorority founded in Durham, North Carolina in 1996 and was incorporated in 2004. Fox Theta Delta, is a Philippines fraternity, founded in Butuan City in 1977, and claiming a somewhat tenuous connection with an American organization in Michigan.

In popular culture

  • In the 1967 movie The Graduate, Ben (Dustin Hoffman) runs into the Theta Delta Chi house at Berkeley while searching for Elaine and her fiance, Carl - supposedly a member living there prior to his nuptials. (The flag for the fraternity is visible over the ivy covered entry.)[41][42]
  • The 1978 comedy movie National Lampoon's Animal House portrayed members of a fictitious fraternity at a fictitious college.
  • The 1984 comedy movie Revenge of the Nerds portrayed 'rejected' fraternity members taking revenge on popular fraternities by setting up their own fraternity and the change in power from the jocks and cheerleaders to the nerds. Starred Robert Carradine and Anthony Edwards.
  • The 1994 comedy movie PCU also portrays members of a student group at a fictitious college where fraternities have been prohibited.
  • The 1997 movie Scream 2 includes fictional Greek organizations. The character Derek gives a lettered necklace to his girlfriend, prompting an angry response from his fraternity brothers.
  • The 2001 film Legally Blonde features the sorority 'Delta Nu'. Several of the characters, including Elle Woods and Brooke Wyndham, are members.
  • The 2002 film National Lampoon's Van Wilder features the fraternity 'Delta Iota Kappa', which Van's love rival leads.
  • The 2002 film Drumline includes the real Kappa Kappa Psi fraternity and the fictional Sigma Phi Alpha sorority. Images of Tau Beta Sigma appear throughout the film.
  • The 2006 film Stomp the Yard depicts African American Greek life centered around the tradition of stepping, made popular by Black Greek Letter Organizations.
  • The 2007 film Sydney White features the sorority 'Kappa Phi Nu'. Amanda Bynes was one of their members.
  • The 2007–2011 ABC Family television series Greek depicts students of the fictional Cyprus-Rhodes University (CRU) who participate in the school's Greek system.
  • The 2008 season of Degrassi: The Next Generation features the sorority 'Phi Gamma Phi'. Liberty was trying to apply to the sorority.
  • The 2008 film The House Bunny features the sorority 'Phi Iota Mu' competing with 'Zeta Alpha Zeta'.
  • The 2009 slasher film Sorority Row features the sorority 'Theta Pi' in which Audrina Patridge was one of their members.
  • The 2009 movie "Sorority Wars" revolves around sorority experience in college.
  • The 2010 television series Glory Daze depicts students of the fictional Hayes University who participate in the school's Greek system.
  • The 2010 film Brotherhood directed by Will Canon depicts hazing which gets out of hand.

Other countries

Other countries have similar institutions; in German-speaking countries these are significantly older, and fall under the umbrella term of Studentenverbindung, includes the Burschenschaften, Landsmannschaften, Corps, Turnerschaften, Sängerschaften, Catholic Corporations, Wingolf and Ferialverbindungen.

In Belgium there are student clubs similar to the German Studentenverbindungen, however they are not the same. The main differences being that clubs do not own a clubhouse with dorms but rather have a bar where they regularly meet and there is no fencing. The largest clubs are based around a specific academic course or a collection of them, the others usually are based on regional origins of the students and the others are simply a group of friends or patrons of the same bar.

In the United Kingdom, student dining clubs exist, which are similar to American eating clubs which were later eclipsed by Greek societies. Some well known one such as the Bullingdon Club in Oxford University are socially exclusive due to being prohibitively expensive. Also, several secret societies exist, the most famous one being the Cambridge Apostles, also known as the Cambridge Conversazione Society.

In Portugal, there are also fraternities, especially in Coimbra, the city with the oldest university in the country and one of the oldest in Europe. These houses, called "Repúblicas", are independent, protected by law, and run by students. They first appeared in 1309 when King D. Dinis first ordered to build student housing for the recently founded University of Coimbra, in 1290. The name, translating to "Republic", represents the house spirit: every member of the house participates in the household tasks and decisions are made unanimously. There are 27 Republics in Coimbra, 3 in Lisbon and 1 in Oporto. Republicas are also found at the Federal University of Ouro Preto in Ouro Preto, in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. And at the Federal University of Lavras (UFLA) in Lavras' City, also in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil.

In Sweden and Finland, there are similar student institutions in called Nations. At the oldest Nordic universities, the Nations have existed since the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Nations have also existed in Central Europe in the Middle Ages. The universities in Uppsala, Lund, and Helsinki have the oldest Nations. Since the beginning, the Nations have been social gatherings for students that came from the same parts of the country, and they are also named after parts of Sweden and Finland. Nations have also been founded at younger universities like the ones in Umeå and Linköping. It has been mandatory for students attending the universities of Uppsala and Lund to be members of nations until the autumn of 2010. After the mandatory membership was abolished by the parliament the Nations of Sweden are now contemplating founding a League of Nations to help further connections between Nations and universities.

See also


  1. ^ Vincent, Fran.The history of college, 1996, p.1.
  2. ^ Everett, Edward (1840). Importance of Practical Education and Useful Knowledge. Boston: Marsh, Capen, Lyon, and Webb. p. 382. 
  3. ^ Hastings, William T. (1965). Phi Beta Kappa as a Secret Society with its Relations to Freemasonry and Antimasonry Some Supplementary Documents. Richmond, Virginia: United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa. p. 3. 
  4. ^ "About Us: The Authentic Fraternity". Chi Phi Fraternity. Retrieved 31 May 2009. 
  5. ^ "The ATO Story". Retrieved 13 April 2011. 
  6. ^ "Congressman Scott Honors Centennial Anniversary of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.,". Retrieved 2006-12-01. 
  7. ^ Anson, Jack L.; Marchesani, Robert F., Jr. (1991). Baird's Manual of American College Fraternities. Menasha, Wisconsin: Banta Corporation. VIII–22. ISBN 0-9637159-0-9 
  8. ^ Sanua, Marianne Rachel (2003). Going Greek: Jewish College Fraternities in the US, 1895- 1945. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 9780814328576.,M1. Retrieved 2008-11-14. 
  9. ^ a b Torbenson, Craig L. (2005). "Origin and evolution of college fraternities and sororities". In T. Brown, G. Parks, & C. Phillips (Eds.), African American fraternities and sororities: the legacy and the vision (37-65). Lexington, KY: University Press.
  10. ^ "Fraternal History". About Us. Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity, Inc.. Retrieved 30 May 2009. 
  11. ^ "Books: Hawthorne's Line". Time. April 25, 1938.,8816,931060,00.html. Retrieved 2010-08-17. 
  12. ^ Matthews, Jack (August 15, 2010). "Nathaniel Hawthorne's Untold Tale". Excerpts from Julian Hawthorne's Memoirs. The Chronicle Review. Retrieved 2010-08-17. 
  13. ^ Matthews, Jack (August 15, 2010). "Nathaniel Hawthorne's Untold Tale". The Chronicle Review. Retrieved 2010-08-17. "This was, of course, all very collegiate for that long-ago time, and—with the exception of the "red-hot iron" and "boiling oil" references, if taken too literally—quite typical." 
  14. ^ Katherine, Rosman (11 August 2002). "O Brother (and Sister), Where Art Thy Pins?". The New York Times: p. Section 9 Column 2 Style Desk. Retrieved 30 May 2009. 
  15. ^ Bill, Schackner (18 August 2000). "Fraternity houses turn off the taps and sober up". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 31 May 2009. 
  16. ^ "Housing". Greek Life at Vanderbilt University. Office of Greek Life, Vanderbilt University. Retrieved 31 May 2009. 
  17. ^ Ernest T. Pascarella, Elizabeth J. Whitt, Amaury Nora, Marcia Edison, Linda Serra Hagedorn, Patrick. T Terenzini. What have we learned from the first year of the National Study of Student Learning?
  18. ^ Pascarella, Ernest T., Lemont Flowers, Elizabeth J. Whitt, Research revisited: Cognitive effects of Greek affiliation in college: Additional evidence. The Research Journal of the Association of Fraternity, Vol. 2. Iss. 1, September 2006.
  19. ^ Kuh, G. D., Pascarella, E. T., & Wechsler, H. (1996). The questionable value of fraternities. Chronicle of Higher Education, 42(32), A68.
  20. ^ Farley Grubb (2006). Does Going Greek Impair Undergraduate Academic Performance? American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 65, p. 1085-1110.
  21. ^ Bledsoe, T; S.R., Goldstein, A.R., Goyen, K.D., Rounds, L.E., Street, J., Winston, R.B., Wisbey, M.E. (1997). "Describing the Climate of Student Organizations: The student Organization Environment Scales". The Journal of College Student Development (38): 417–427. 
  22. ^ Asel; Seifert and Pascarella (2009). Oracle: The Research Journal of the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors 4 (2). 
  23. ^ "State Anti-Hazing Laws". Educating to Eliminate Hazing. Retrieved 26 May 2009. 
  24. ^ "Princeton’s Fraternities Growing". New York Times: pp. Section 1 Page 56. 28 November 1993. Retrieved 31 May 2009. 
  25. ^ Donofrio, Leana (16 October 2002). "Private colleges ban fraternities, sororities nationwide". ISU Bengal (Idaho State University). Retrieved 31 May 2009. 
  26. ^ "The Amherst Chapter of the Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity". The Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity. Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity. Retrieved 31 May 2009. 
  27. ^ [1][dead link]
  28. ^ "Fraternity and Sorority Members". U.S. Dept. of Education Higher Education Center. Retrieved 10 December 2009. 
  29. ^ "Zeta Psi Active Chapter List". Retrieved 2011-08-22. 
  30. ^ "Brothers in the Holy Land: AEPi chapter in Herzliya is first college fraternity in Israel". Retrieved 15 January 2010. 
  31. ^ "About | Damlaget Sorority Blog". Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  32. ^ "VICEPRESIDENCIA ASOCIADO PARA ASUNTOS ESTUDIANTILES" (in Spanish). Retrieved July 5, 2010. 
  33. ^ Not associated with the Philomathean Society of the University of Pennsylvania.
  34. ^ "Kappa Alpha Theta". Kappa Alpha Theta. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  35. ^ Nuwer, Hank (1999). Wrongs of Passage: Fraternities, Sororities, Hazing, and Binge Drinking. Indiana University Press. p. 149. ISBN 0-253-21498-X. 
  36. ^ "Women's Fraternity". Alpha Xi Delta. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  37. ^ a b "The History of Tri Delta". Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  38. ^ "Who We Are...The Founding of Delta Phi Epsilon". Delta Phi Epsilon. Retrieved 27 July 2008. 
  39. ^ "Chi Omega". Chi Omega. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  40. ^ "Largest and Biggest Fraternities and Sororities". Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  41. ^ Film in America - The Graduate
  42. ^ Cal Greeks - UCB Theta Delta Chi

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