Some things seem timeless. But if there’s one rule to the universe, it’s that entropy takes a toll on everything. Even the continents themselves buckle on the weight of time. Is it any wonder that social institutions are subject to change as well? Even something as seemingly eternal as fraternities react to differences in social norms and cultural climate.
And that brings up an interesting question. Just what will happen to fraternities in the future. If you could jump from the here and now to your fraternity in the future, would you be welcome? Would you even recognize the fraternities there? The best way to figure it out is to look at how the culture’s shifted in the past 100 years.
Really, surprisingly little has changed within fraternities during this time period. While those which existed back then have some differences to their modern adaptations, in general it should be fairly recognizable for someone who could step out of time for a visit.
Surprisingly, the biggest changes weren’t from the beginning of the century. Rather, an important data point can be found in the 1960s. It was a time filled with a frantic desire for social change. Often times with a desire to rebel against any authority. The reasoning for the sentiment was often closer to an emotional need rather than an intellectual decision. People, especially younger men and women, were trying to push any and all formal rules and societal norms away. Though ironically that response was often times far more dogmatic and rigid than the organizations they found offensive.
The 1960s were perhaps the most worrisome time for fraternities. Membership numbers were dropping, and the quality of pledges was often disappointing as well. Worse, the overall sentiment in the culture was often pushing for the idea that fraternities and sonorities might be a relic of the past. However, fraternities did manage to weather the decade and ended up stronger for the experience.
In many ways, one can see some minor aspects of that time cropping up in society. The norm is becoming, for lack of a better term, lazy. A culture where everyone expects a trophy for showing up isn’t one that takes well to the breaking down and rebuilding any pledge should expect. The current culture most people grow up in right now is one where people never learn the basic truths of suffering now for greater reward later.
If it hadn’t been for the 1960s, this might be more worrisome. However, by looking back at those days one can see what happens to fraternities during the most severe of cultural changes. And the real truth is that not much did change as a result of it. Fraternities in the 1950s, and those past the turn of the millennium, are the same in all the most important respects.
However, ultimately the face of fraternities in the future can be seen in those involved with them now. Will you uphold the principles your fraternity was founded on? Will you stand by it, even under the worst opposition? Will you tell your sons and their sons about what it means to you and what they might expect as well? That, above anything else, will determine what the fraternities of the future will look like. If you personally can stand strong, you can expect others to as well. And together everyone can ensure that fraternities in the future will hold true to what currently makes them great.