Fraternity and sorority etiquette has been passed down through generations and emphasizes respect and ritual.
Greek etiquette "centers around the word respect," said Michael Doughty, Sigma Chi consul.
When conducting themselves in public, fraternity and sorority members are expected to hold themselves to the standards of the Greek system. Cynthia Weston, National Panhellenic Conference area adviser for Virginia Tech, said they are expected to behave responsibly and show dignity and kindness.
"Imagine you're always wearing letters," said Matthew Karny, president of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. "Everything you do reflects on the fraternity and its members."
Doughty said much of the etiquette Greeks live by is overlooked. Although the Greek community participates in a variety of community service and philanthropy, it is overshadowed by the perception that Greeks spend most of their time attending parties, drinking in letters, or that the initiation process is fraught with hazing.
Karny said it is an honor for Greek members to wear the letters of their organization, and they are not allowed to wear letters until after their pledge, or associate member, process is completed.
"The associate member process is completed, and they have gone through the ritual of initiation," Karny said. "This opportunity varies by chapter for sorority members. Greek members work hard to meet the specific Greek standards and take great pride in wearing letters."
All Greek members are encouraged not to wear letters in environments associated with alcohol.
"There are many negative connotations associated with drinking that we don't want our fraternity to be associated with," Karny said.
Doughty said alcohol use is not a trait Greeks seek to portray.
"It reflects badly on the organization as a whole," Doughty said.
Fraternities and sororities look to "Robert's Rules of Order" when it comes to how parliamentary procedures are supposed to be carried out. They also conduct informal and formal meetings several times a month, depending on the organization's by-laws.
Most Greek organizations have secret ritual etiquettes unique to their chapter.
"Humans commemorate life-changing events with ceremonies," Weston said.
She said the rituals encourage associate members to learn the history and values of the organization as well as bond with the members.
Doughty said rituals are the "glue that bonds each brother at a national and chapter level."
Rituals for incoming members have remained the same through history. Members of the organizations would not reveal specifics of the rituals.
Many Greek organizations have secret handshakes that only members of their specific organization are aware of. Rules prohibit sharing the ritualistic handshake with those outside the organization.
"I was at a career fair, and on my resume it indicated I was in Sigma Chi. An employer came up to me and gave me our secret handshake. It helped me establish immediate rapport with the employer," said senior Ross Miles, a brother of Sigma Chi.
During the rush and recruitment process, fraternity and sorority brothers and sisters try to make potential new members feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible.
"Everyone is stressed, but new recruits should genuinely feel welcome around the members," Weston said. "During recruitment, I spilled a drink and was so embarrassed. Members of that chapter were so genuine and made me feel so comfortable. It was not (a) big deal. I felt like they had been my friends forever."
The various chapters organize and promote various rush events to get to know potential new members.
"We try to pick events the brothers enjoy to attract people with the same values and interests," Karny said. "This ensures each associate member will feel comfortable and fit in with the brothers."