YES I am about to write about my RBA and NO you’re not supposed to know what that is if you don’t go to Stanford and YES I will tell you what it is either way and I PROMISE that I’m doing this because I genuinely think you, Dear Reader, will find this interesting. Promise.
Everybody hates PWR. (Pronounced /’paʊ-ər/, or “power” (I hate myself for writing in IPA (Forgive me))) PWR is a course requirement for freshmen and sophomores at Stanford. It stands for “Program in Writing and Rhetoric,” and teaches skills like rhetorically and contextually analyzing scholarly writing, developing a research-based writing style, and other boring useless stuff like that. (That was sarcasm, by the way.)
Throughout the quarter, PWR students gear up to write the infamously known and universally loathed “RBA” or “Research-based argument.” The exact word count varies from class to class, but it’s essentially a super long paper that talks about some interesting topic of the student’s choosing.
I decided to do my RBA on how Greek-letter organizations (sororities and fraternities) regulate their members’ content on sites like Instagram and Facebook to try to promote a certain image of their organization. I wanted to know…
- What types of things are Greek-letter organizations (GLOs) censoring and why?
- What sort of image are GLOs trying to uphold by doing this?
- Does anybody care that students are being censored on campus?
- Who should intervene if sororities and fraternities get too powerful?
I may have been the only person on campus who didn’t woefully despise PWR or my RBA. In fact, it didn’t take long for me to get a little too interested in my topic for my own good. I ended up taking it upon myself to go out and conduct my own research, since theres *~l i t e r a l l y~* no information online about social media regulations in Greek life. So I was like, “Hey. I know some people in Greek life. Why don’t I just ask them?”
I polled 114 members of sororities/fraternities at 15 different universities, in at least 22 different Greek organizations across the U.S. to find out what sort of regulations they had to follow on their personal social-networking sites.
Take a look.
An Independent Study: Social Networking Site-Related Obligations in Greek Letter Organizations
Has YOUR SORORITY or FRATERNITY ever given you EXPLICIT, MANDATORY REGULATIONS for your PERSONAL social media presence?
TAKEAWAY: Sororities are more strict than frats on social media.
If your answer to the previous question was “Yes,” which of the following has YOUR SORORITY or FRATERNITY asked you to do?
|All (56)||Sororities (44)||Fraternities (12)|
|1. Post or share invites to sorority or fraternity non-social events such as fundraisers||71.4%||79.5%||41.7%|
|2. Post specific photos promoting sorority or fraternity events as your “profile picture” or “cover photo” (Facebook)||67.9%||77.3%||33.3%|
|3. Post or share invites to sorority or fraternity parties, mixers or socials||35.7%||25.0%||75.0%|
|4. Refrain from posting or sharing photos showing the official letters of your Greek organization if you do no appear “presentable”||21.4%||20.5%||25.0%|
|5. Post or share silly or embarrassing content for “hazing” purposes||5.4%||2.3%||16.7%|
|6. Refrain from posting or sharing photos showing the official letters of your Greek organization if you are not wearing makeup||1.8%||2.3%||0.0%|
|7. Refrain from posting or sharing photos with members of specific FRATERNITIES||1.8%||2.3%||0.0%|
|8. Refrain from posting or sharing photos with members of specific SORORITIES||0.0%||0.0%||0.0%|
TAKEAWAYS: Sororities use their members’ social media pages to promote their fundrasiers a lot. Fraternities use their members’ social media pages to promote their ragers a lot.
21.4% of Greek members aren’t allowed to post pictures of themselves wearing Greek letters if they don’t look “presentable.” (What does that mean? idk)
Some girls aren’t allowed to post pictures of themselves wearing Greek letters if they aren’t wearing makeup (!)
Some Greek members aren’t allowed to post pictures with members of specific frats (!)
Please list all other EXPLICIT, MANDATORY REGULATIONS YOUR SORORITY or FRATERNITY has in place regarding your personal social media presence.
|Regulation category||# of students who included a specific regulation within the category (of 33)|
|1. No photos depicting alcohol WITH Greek organization identification*||14|
|2. No photos depicting alcohol||13|
|3. No photos depicting underage drinking||6|
|4. No photos depicting drugs or other illegal activities||3|
|5. No “inappropriate” photos WITH Greek organization identification*||2|
|6. No “inappropriate” photos||2|
|7. No photos depicting drugs or other illegal activities WITH Greek organization identification*||2|
|8. No content that talks negatively about other Greek organizations||1|
|9. No photos in bars or other “unbecoming” places WITH Greek organization identification*||1|
|10. No use of the word “initiation”||1|
|11. No use of the word “pledge”||1|
|12. No content that refers to or alludes to the initiation or “hazing” process||1|
|13. No “incriminating” photos||1|
|14. No sending friend requests to Potential New Members during rush||1|
TAKEAWAYS: Greek organizations are really really really not into letting alcohol be part of their public image.
Some Greek members over the age of 21 aren’t allowed to post pictures in a bar or holding a beer if they are wearing their letters (!)
“WITH Greek organization identification,” as marked with a “*,” refers to the depiction of a member’s official Greek alphabet letters, performing the official hand sign of the Greek organization, tagging the Greek organization in a text post or photo caption, using the Greek organization hashtag, or otherwise directly identifying their Greek organization in some way.
(Based on this study + additional research found here)
- Greek leaders use their members’ personal social networking sites as a tool to promote the Greek-letter organizations’ agendas.
- They also understand that this same tool simultaneously grants members the power to taint the public image of the organization.
- To reduce these risks as much as possible, Greek leaders have rules and regulations in place in an effort to help, and not harm, the image of the organization.
- GLOs exercise varying levels of strictness in their regulations of their members’ social media presences.
- Restrictions on content that a) depicts illegal activities or b) directly identifies GLO affiliation are permissible within the context of the first amendment and agreement of mutual benefit between GLOs and their members
- Restrictions on content that does not show Greek affiliation identification violate students’ right to free speech.
- Students should not have to give up such fundamental rights in order to participate in a voluntary student organization of their university.
- Universities don’t want to stop GLOs from imposing strict restrictions since they benefit from the squeaky-clean image the restrictions generate.
- Moving forward, I recommend the creation of a third party group, who would act as a monitor of GLO officials to ensure that student members’ individual rights are consistently being upheld within the organization.
- Such a group would have the opportunity—and responsibility—to set the precedent for Americans’ Freedom of Speech in the digital age.
So what did you think of the data? Did you draw different conclusions? Were you surprised by anything? Are you involved in Greek life and feel you have something to say? Hit me up in the comments below, or anonymously here!
If, like me, you find this topic interesting and would like to read more, you can find my full RBA here: “RBA Final – Fancy Formatting :P”. Or, you may simply admire it’s super fancy-looking formatting in the slideshow below. (I know I did.)
At this time, I would like to thank the one person without whom I’m uncertain I’d have ever been able to accomplish this study. Conner Smith, thank you for volunteering to proofread this paper the night before it was due into the wee hours of the morning. I know you were only doing it to try to find a typo so I’d have to either cite you or get a tattoo of your name on my body, so I just want you to know that this is about as good as finding “their” instead of “his/her” is going to get you. I told you I don’t make typos in final drafts.
Keep on killin’ it,
Inspirational quote of the day:
“Just do it.” – Shia LaBeouf 😉