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Robbins, A. (2019). Fraternity: An insider look at a year of college boys becoming men. New York, NY: Dutton. 

Review by: Tiffany Labon, The University of Alabama, tnlabon@culverhouse.ua.edu

 

Fraternities. Academics. Parties. College life. Hazing. Money. Studying. Relationships. Secrets. Trust. Loyalty. A process of growth and development. Networking. Brotherhood. A balance of wills is depicted in the book, Fraternity: An Inside Look at a Year of College Boys Becoming Men, written by Alexandra Robbins. Fraternity chronicles the lives of several male students across the U.S. who have chosen to participate in pledgeship on their university campuses. From a first-year student who is going through pledgeship to a sophomore who is the president of his chapter, Alexandra Robbins details the inner workings for one year of what it means to be a member of a fraternity in modern times. Fraternity life is not for the faint of heart. Robbins (2019) stated that “college usually marks the first time boys begin their identity away from family, home and the anchors they have known since childhood” (p. 271). With newfound freedom and responsibility, students grapple with the values and beliefs that they have been taught or learned through their life’s experiences. This book is:

"about boys who may be misjudged and misunderstood because of whom they choose to associate with...who are attempting to form friendships and decipher their identities in a climate that can stigmatize them merely for being male….trying to forge a path to manhood while they are away from home...searching for allies who can provide advice and support so they don’t have to navigate this complicated coming-of-age journey alone" (Robbins, 2019, p. 16).

As Fraternity progresses, the students slowly shed their own beliefs and start to conform to the beliefs of those that are leading them through the pledgeship process to becoming members of their fraternity. For some students, they are challenged to continue the path while others have to make the hard decision to remove themselves from something that they have always wanted.  

As an academic advisor, it was beyond interesting to confirm that most students knew which house he wanted to rush and why. As the students in the book spoke about the various tiers of the fraternities on their campus, Alexandra speaks to the research and history behind the fraternity system in the United States. Using the “Informational” Core Competency (NACADA, 2017), Fraternity gives academic advisors an insider’s view of what students face as they transition to the university setting and decide to pursue Greek Life. It assists in helping advisors question students on their definition of brotherhood and how it relates to their academic and professional journey that they are embarking upon. Academic advisors also have the ability to show our students respect  and empowerment (NACADA, 2017) by helping them to “[establish] a greater sense of self, a sense of character, an understanding of the weight of [their] words, the gravity of [their] actions, the expectations that coincide with ‘contribution’, and how to accept [their] shortcomings” (p. 258). 

Overall, for any academic advisor who desires to know more about the fraternity system, this book gives first-hand accounts and the psychology behind what it means to be a member of a fraternity. The book also exemplifies the notion that our students are always finding their way to the path that is uniquely theirs. As an academic advisor, it is our responsibility to walk the path with them, cheering them on, and asking probing questions in their quest for knowledge and power.

 

References 

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA academic advising core competencies model. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCompetencies.aspx

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA core values of academic advising. Retrieved from  https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx

Robbins, A. (2019). Fraternity: An insider look at a year of college boys becoming men. New York, NY: Dutton. 


 

 

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