Written by: Jack Anson, Colgate ’47
(This article, which first appeared in the December 1965 issue of the Laurel, when Brother Anson was its editor, has a timelessness that speaks eloquently to contemporary issues.)
In these times when the nation is in a state of change, when the academic evolvement is pointed decidedly toward scholastic achievement, when segments of some student bodies are demonstrating for or against political issues, it seems timely and important to examine once again Brotherhood, Fellowship and Fraternity.
These intangibles are seldom actually defined. They are concepts groped for by many but verbalized by few. It is easier to give examples than it is to clearly define. Webster says Fraternity is “the state of being brothers, a body of men associated for their common interests… a brotherhood in American colleges, a student organization formed chiefly to promote friendship and welfare among the members…”
Honored Founder William H. Shideler many years ago said: “The great purpose and ideal of fraternities is fraternity. This ideal, made up of many separate intangibles, is still intangible when its separate elements are combined. It cannot be analyzed and evaluated in mathematical terms and can be ap-praised only in comparative terms and in terms of personal experience.”
Brotherhood, Fellowship and Fraternity go beyond activities of a worthwhile nature undertaken by chapter members— raising funds for a needy family, building a float together, etc. All activities and the experiences we have together play a part, but to find a meaning we must delve deeper into the concepts.
Fraternity is understanding, it is recognition, it is a joining with men in common enterprises, it is acceptance of others, it is a willingness to share and to participate, it is discipline. It is selflessness. It is these things and many more—it is above all an attitude.
In the days when colleges and universities were small institutions with a small number of students, the fraternity had its beginning. It was needed then because it satisfied man’s natural desire as a gregarious being to form close associations with his fellow man. The fact that a need existed and that fraternities met that need is clearly indicated by even a cursory examination of the history of fraternities in the United States.
Today, fraternities are giving every indication of continuing to fill a void that would otherwise exist on the campus. No organization in existence today meets the needs of the student as does a fraternity. There is no realistic competition from a campus organization for the Fellowship, the Brotherhood, the Fraternity that exists in chapters today.
An ideal chapter has been defined in many ways. It is first a credit to the college in which it is located, second, a credit to the National Fraternity to which it is a part, and third, a credit to itself. To be a credit to the college, the chapter must uplift the social, moral, intellectual and religious life of the college.
The ideal chapter is a harmonious brotherhood of college men working for the benefit of each other, the National Fraternity and institution in which it is located.
The key to Brotherhood—that which makes us different from all other fraternities and different from simply a collection of men sharing living quarters—is the Ritual. In the ceremony of initiation into membership in the Fraternity are embodied the principles for which the Fraternity stands. It is on this foundation that the Fraternity had its beginning, its growth, and draws its strength.
The truths contained in the Ritual have significance and meaning to our members. It is from this base that Fellowship, Brotherhood and Fraternity are taught, grow and become a part of the members’ existence. Without our common bonds of belief, the Fraternity would lose its significance in its role to build better men, to give them ideals, and to teach them understanding. Without truths the Fraternity would lose its meaning and purpose. Its very life would be dimmed. Fellowship, Fraternity and Brotherhood are not subjects that are consciously taught. They come into being through example, through desire and through attitude.
In this day when fraternities are under criticism by the press, it is small satisfaction to complacently think that the writers don’t know what they are talking about, that they have taken the point out of context, that their information is erroneous.
The mere fact they are writing–accurately or inaccurately—is indicative that fraternity men need to examine their organizations. When the usually friendly, pro-fraternity college administrator begins to question the importance of fraternities, then the time has long past arrived to take stock. It is time to return to the altar where Fraternity, Fellowship and Brotherhood have their beginnings and re-examine those truths that unite us in common bonds.
What do college officials expect of a fraternity chapter today? They expect it to be a credit to their campus, to make a contribution to the welfare of the students. They expect it to live up to its ideals and to operate efficiently with emphasis more on academic achievements than on the common social activities, more stress given to a cultural atmosphere than to an attitude of rowdiness mixed with hazing and based on an anti-intellectual framework. They want the chapters to join with the school in its program to help its members develop into competent, educated adults who are good citizens.
In the Creed of Phi Kappa Tau, the Fraternity has outlined the significance of its ideals and briefly noted the obligations each member has to his Fraternity.
By individually seeking to attain the ideals as embodied in the cardinal principles of the Fraternity and making them a part of your life, by adhering to those principles, the door to Fellowship is opened. When Brotherhood is universal within the chapter, that chapter has within it the necessary ingredients to become an ideal chapter. When every chapter is an ideal chapter, the Fraternity will be truly outstanding among fraternities in the American fraternity system.
When all chapters of all fraternities achieve the heights to which they can rise, the good they will accomplish, the acclaim they will receive, will go beyond measure. It all starts and ends with Brotherhood, Fellowship and Fraternity!
This article was republished in the December 2017 issue of the Laurel, which can be viewed online, in its entirety, at phikappatau.org/laurel.