Fraternities and sororities?Given the definitions of gangs, are Fraternities and Sororities considered gangs? Why or Why not?

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enotechris's profile pic

enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

As defined by Webster's, one of the definitions of gang was "a group of young people who regularly associate together."  Sounds like a fraternity! Then again, for fraternity, Webster states "a group of people sharing a common profession or interest." Sounds like a gang!!

It appears that the terms are somewhat synonymous, contingent upon socioeconomic standing. Gangs are for the poor, fraternities for the rich.

boblawrence's profile pic

boblawrence | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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The word "gang" has a universal negative connotation...an organization of antisocial persons wtih the primary purpose of committing crimes against society.  The typical gang member is disenfranchised, has little if any future, and lacks an adequate support structure at home.

Sororoties and fraternities are social organizations situated on college campuses and sanctioned by campus authorities.  They have a charter and bylaws, including standards of acceptable activities (of which commission of crimes is not one).  They usually involve a live-in arrangement and therefore foster social skills beyond merely hanging out together to make trouble.  Members of Greek organizations are actively enrolled in a college or university.  They are working toward a degree and a career.  They would be proud to list their sorority or fraternity on their resume.

The question is provocative.  It makes me wounder about the movtives of the questioner.  I am aware that many students think Greek organizations are snobbish, and sometimes unfairly biased in chosing which applicants to accept or reject.  But to liken these organizations to gangs...that seems unwarranted and a bit extreme.

herappleness's profile pic

M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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As always, mwestwood writes a fantastic addition to our discussions! I love the quoting of Macbeth, thank you for that!!!

My opinion is that connotations are the key to most semantic meaning and so if you deem a group of bad kids a "gang", it would be inappropriate to deem the same name and meaning to a group that acts completely differently altogether.

A group is a group. A fraternity is a fraternity. A gang is a gang. Period.

If you write, you are a writer. If you report, you are a reporter. The writer and the reporter both write, but they use different techniques, topics, and formats. To call a reporter a "writer" would be to reduce the job of a writer who, by connotation, does far more than repeat information to the masses.

Hence, fraternities and sororities are academic and social organizations whose purpose is to filter student demographics either by ethnicity, by academic interest, or by social interests. A gang is a simple group of naydoers who like to cause mischief. No- a gang and a fraternity or a sorority are not the same thing in whatever contextual definition you wish to analyze it.

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

"Nothing is but what is not" (Macbeth) nowadays.  People can rearrange connotations and denotations so that they fit whatever definitive desire they feel at a precise moment in time.  President Bill Clinton's statement "That depends upon what the meaning of is is" epitomized this situational mentality of this New World.

So, depending upon what the meaning of gang is and what the meaning of fraternities and sororities are, then they can be similar or they can differ in meaning. Besides, what did Hamlet say to Guildenstern and Rosencrantz?

Why then 'tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or
bad, but thinking makes it so. (2.2.250-251)

 No wonder the Existentialists declared existence absurd!

literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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I would have to agree with all of the posters. For one to see similarities between gangs and fraternities/sororities, they would need to look at the positive aspects of each. Gangs, though historically associated with negative behaviors, can be linked to both fraternities and sororities. Both tend to have family-like relationships and the members look out for each other. In this way, all three can be linked.

belarafon's profile pic

belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Certainly the public perception of Fraternities and Sororities is negative, and portrayals in film and television often show groups of house-mates rampaging around campus, hazing students, abusing drugs and alcohol, intimidating teachers, and generally practicing lawless behaviour. This story compares and contrasts with quotes from members of each; it's interesting reading.

bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The definition of a "gang" obviously has many different variations. A group of close friends going to a movie or shopping can be considered a gang. I have often used the expression "let's get the gang together" when assembling friends for an outing of some sort. Fraternal organizations can probably fit into this category, but they are nothing like criminal gangs that terrorize other people. Frats and sororities are not perfect, and they often resort to a "follow the pack" mentality, but they are not specifically organized with the primary intention of resorting to criminal activity for profit, like the street gangs with which we generally associate the term today.

stolperia's profile pic

stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Interesting discussion points! Personally, I see a number of similarities between greek organizations and gangs, but I also recognize that greek houses are sponsored by their college or university and do have adult houseparents / advisors / sponsors, which sets them apart from gangs.

larrygates's profile pic

larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The similarity is one of connotation and semantics, beyond that, the two are poles apart from one another. The term "Gang" is typically used to mean a group comprised of young men or women with little future who are frequently involved with criminal activity. Fraternaties don't always enjoy the greatest reputation in the world, and are prone to acts that are borderline criminal on occasion; however its members do have a future and a goal, which is not true of true gang members. Fraternties and sororities are normally chartered organizations which encourage high ideals among their members. Additionally, members of gangs tend to come from poverty whereas members of fraternities tend to come from affluent families. Gangs have no purpose other than to create a sense of belonging; fraternities do instill some sense of higher purpose and responsibility, even though its individual members may stray from the straight and narrow at times. To compare the two other than as a matter of semantics is unfair and insensitive.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This will, as the first post said, depend on the definition of "gang" that you've been given.  Typically, we say that gangs are groups that select their own members based on their own criteria.  We also say that gangs are not sponsored or supervised by adults and are not tied to any real institutions of the "conventional" world.

By the first criterion, Greek organizations and gangs are similar.  It is the second criterion that separates the two.  Greek organizations are part of broader national organizations with some amount of adult supervision.  They are also tied fairly closely to universities, which are very much conventional institutions.  So that's how I would see the similarities and differences between the two.

readerofbooks's profile pic

readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

This is an interesting perspective and question. I would also say that it is very difficult to answer, because you are seeking definitions and definitions are fluid and change from people to people. So, how a person defines "gang" and "fraternity" and "sorority" will make all the difference. In my opinion, based on my common sense view of the world, I think there is a fundamental difference between gangs and fraternities and sororities. The difference is the law. Usually gangs have a connotation that is negative. In other words, gangs usually engage in unlawful acts. Of course, fraternities and sororities can do illegal things, but that is not the first thing that comes to mind. So, in my working definition, I would say that they are different.

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