Smith, Khrystal L.
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Utilizing a constructivist theoretical approach, this phenomenology sought to explore how members of collegiate fraternities and sororities used their pre-collegiate experiences to inform their values for the traditions and rituals associated with seeking membership into Greek-letter fraternal and sororal organizations. Eight members of collegiate Greek letter fraternities and sororities completed in-depth, semi-structured interviews and four themes were identified during the data analysis process: 1) Initiation Experiences as Purposeful Events, 2) The Importance of Traditions and Adherence to “Unwritten Rules,” 3) Cultural/Societal Influences on Member Perceptions of Their Initiation Experiences, and 4) Expectations of and Preparation for Fraternity/Sorority Initiations. Participants described their fraternal/sororal initiation experiences as being unique to each individual and influenced by factors such as race, gender, age, and personal experiences. Although the majority of participants described having some experiences with membership traditions in high school organizations before coming to college, it was often the influence of their background and their peers that shaped how they made decisions regarding those experiences (particularly in regards to participating in activities that could be defined as hazing), and how they developed the values they associated with their fraternity/sorority initiation experiences. Although some of the findings from this study supported existing literature on rites of passage, rituals, organizational culture, and risk management within contemporary Greek-letter organizations, the majority of the findings raised new questions for consideration when supervising student involvement in fraternal and sororal organizations. These findings presented three implications for student affairs practice and scholarship: the need to understand the diversity of student organizations and their memberships, especially in regards to the differences that exist across the membership traditions of various organizational types; peer and societal influences on how students view the membership traditions of their organizations; and the need to clarify the differences between “pledging” and “hazing” within student organizations.