“What is a fraternity?”. It’s kind of an alien concept to anyone outside of the USA and a question that every member of Theta Alpha has been asked several times. A staple in colleges throughout the USA, fraternities are all-male social organisations. They are secret circles that bind men together as brothers for life, not just during their years at university. Sounds kind of like a cult, right? Have no fear, it’s not and this blog post should hopefully dispel any myths you have heard before.
One thing people always seem concerned about is the negative stereotypes that surround fraternities. Films like ‘Bad Neighbours’ and ‘Goat’ paint fraternities out as being exclusively about drinking, debauchery and hazing which, in my experience, is not how it actually is. While Theta Alpha hosts fundraising parties, the fraternity is about so much more than that.
Theta Alpha likes to turn some of the negative stereotypes of fraternities on their head. One of the famous clichés is the ‘toga party’. We hosted one recently, complete with a beer pong table, and raised over £120, all of which is being used to buy food for homeless people in central Scotland.
But how is that any different from the toga parties seen in the likes of ‘Animal House’, I hear you ask. Well, first of all, there’s obviously the charitable element. On top of that, though, Theta Alpha takes a much more laid-back approach to its parties – much like most people in the UK. As the fraternity’s president, Matt Mark, says, “There’s no massive house parties with people being thrown out of windows and crazy keg stands. We’re still normal students.” Instead, it’s very much a case of BYOB, have a good time and enjoy some good music but be respectful that the fraternity brothers still have to live in the house once everyone else has left. It also helps that Dusk is right next door to the frat house!
Theta Alpha is also becoming an important link between the university and the wider local community in Stirling. Recent projects have included volunteering at The Haven’s ‘homework club’, helping kids from low-income families with schoolwork, and helping with a gardening project at the bowling green in the Old Town. According to Theta Alpha’s president, helping out with projects like this is all about “just generally making a difference but having fun doing it”.
As I said before, the fraternity is a secret circle. No, it doesn’t involve any weird stuff like witchcraft or sacrifices. While I obviously can’t go into detail about it, the ceremonies are simply about having traditions that draw the brothers together. For comparisons sake, the closest organisation we have to the Greek system in the UK is the Freemasons.
So, why bring the Greek system to Scotland? Fraternities have been a staple in America for hundreds of years now and have proved beneficial to those that have joined. What was important though was not to directly copy and paste the American format in Scotland, as that just wouldn’t work. In America fraternities tend to put great value on things like patriotism (like saluting the American flag, which we obviously don’t do over here) and honour, which just sounds outright cheesy if you say that to someone over here.
Instead, Theta Alpha is a Scottish fraternity with values that fit in with the Scottish lifestyle (the three core values are brotherhood, charity and scholarship – basically work hard and have fun but don’t be a d**k). This, and the low membership cost, rules out elitism that is rife in American fraternities, that can cost thousands of dollars per year. Instead, it can just be about a group of guys coming together.
I, for one, know that I wouldn’t be friends with most of the members if it wasn’t for the fraternity. It has drawn together people from all sorts of backgrounds and people with different interests – from working class Scots to students from Finland, boxers to Brig writers. Uniting such a diverse group can only be a good thing, with it being a space where any male identifying person is welcome.
If the Theta Alpha fraternity sounds like the society for you, you can find out more on their Instagram and Facebook pages, where you can also drop them a message to talk to them about getting involved. You can also find out more at the Greek System Society page on the Students’ Union website, which is the union society that encompasses the on campus fraternity and sorority.