The Office of Student Life has changed the name of social clubs on the university website to “local fraternities and sororities” to help prospective students and their families understand ACU’s unique social club system.
Mark Jackson, associate director of student organizations and programs, said his office will still refer to them as social clubs around campus, though, and will not change any of the traditions associated with them. There are six women’s clubs and six men’s clubs on campus.
“As time has gone on, we’ve realized we kind of need to make a slight switch to continue to make ourselves known to incoming students and incoming families,” Jackson said. “Years back, we were having more families where mom or dad went here or a grandparent went here, and that does not happen as much now, which is awesome. But because of that, there’s less of an idea of what a social club is. We’ve just begun to brand more to our outside constituents.”
In 1919, the first social club came to campus and was called the High A Club. This club evolved from the first campus societies, the Hardings and the Zellners, formed in 1913. Later, the name of the High A Club was changed to Ko Jo Kai.
“I don’t know why they went the social club route instead of fraternities and sororities, but they did, so we’ve just stuck with it,” Jackson said.
Though they are unique to only a handful of campuses across the country, social clubs serve much the same function as fraternity and sorority chapters at larger universities.
For example, national fraternities have a national board and a larger network of members, Jackson said.
Jackson said the structures of social clubs and fraternities and sororities are different.
“There’s more structure in that there’s a national board, but there’s less structure in that there’s a less hands-on approach,” he said.
Another difference is that social clubs offer the opportunity to be unique to its campus.
“Unlike with a national fraternity, (social clubs) can be completely different,” Jackson said. “Tri Delts at Oklahoma are going to look pretty similar to Tri Delts at Texas State University, where as Sub T-16 at Lubbock Christian is going to look very different, and it does look very, very different, than Sub T-16 at ACU.”
Jackson said, while some differences and similarities exist between what the university calls social clubs and nationally recognized fraternities and sororities, the structure of relationships is the same.
“All fraternity and sorority mean are ‘brotherhood’ or ‘sisterhood,’ which is really what our social clubs are,” Jackson said. “Both are good, neither better than the other, but they are different and have different appeals.”
Social clubs have a more local aspect to them, something Jackson said can be a benefit.
“National fraternities and sororities may be coming in for a big training 300 miles away where as I’m right here on campus and can answer any questions and deal with the day-to-day from our social clubs head-on,” Jackson said. “There’s a lot of overlap, and that’s one of ‘benefits’ nationally. If you’re a Tri Delt adviser, you’re an adviser of different universities and it’s all the same, where here, we govern ourselves, which is good.”
Jackson said some students already refer to their social clubs as a fraternity or sorority, and when mentioned to current club members, he has heard no negative feedback about the decision.
Ali Rakestraw, president of Alpha Kai Omega, said she welcomes the change.
“I’m glad to see ACU starting to use the terms ‘fraternities’ and ‘sororities,'” said Rakestraw, senior pre-med biology major from Longmont, Colorado. “I don’t foresee this having any affect on our club or the way we do things, but I think it will be helpful for incoming students and for graduating students that are applying for jobs and professional schools. As I applied to medical schools this summer, I found myself having to explain what a social club was, when it would have been much easier to say I am the president of a local sorority.”
Galaxy President Spencer Woolfolk, senior marketing major from San Antonio, said he doesn’t think it will change anything in his club.
“I think it is an easier way to identify what a social club means for anyone who is not familiar with ACU or its traditions,” Woolfolk said. “I do not think it will have any impact on Galaxy. A name change will only affect how we are classified, it will not change our deep-rooted history and traditions.”