The Tradition Behind Probates

It is almost that time of year in which a robed few take to the yard of the university marching in a line while chanting and singing songs of history, triumph and victory before unveiling themselves to the onlookers in the crowd. Accompanied with stepping and strolling about, this impromptu showcase of celebration is a rite of passage for many Greek organizations and it has made its way to the University of West Georgia’s campus.

It’s probate season for many colleges and universities across the nation and UWG is getting in on the action. Mainly deemed as a National Pan-Hellenic Greek Organization ritual, probates are a tradition for sororities and fraternities whose membership is historically African American. This performance is defined as a Greek organization’s coming out of its new members.

“It is a time in which a Greek organization’s newest members are allowed to showcase the history that they have learned,” said Jordin Miller, a blogger of, and member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. “They reveal who they are and publicly celebrate their new membership along with their new found Greek families.”

It is a complex performance involving synchronized, percussive movement, singing, speaking, chanting and drama that often take months of preparation. Often, pledge members practice in secret locations in order to maintain their anonymity. Each organization has unique characteristics that become apparent in the showcase. These can be specific to a staff, cane or even a dance move. When viewing a probate, it’s the unique characteristics of the organization that bring out the best in the crowd.

“It takes dedication to commit oneself to a Greek organization,“ said Miller. “Performing a probate takes the same amount of study hours as a job and even your academic work at times.”

Probates once had a stigma of hazing, in which members would participate in acts that don’t pertain to the mission of the organization. Universities across the country have halted these naïve acts. Anti-hazing laws have been put in place to protect students and remind the few organizations of their original purpose. Although the time leading up to Greek probates can be controversial for some of its members, it is a time of encouragement and uplifting. Fellow chapters from across the state and even the country travel and unite to welcome their new members in to the organization. This event also often leads to a big post celebration in which all attendees can participate and fellowship with the Greek organizations.

If you are not a member of a Greek organization, do not hesitate to attend a probate.  The public is invited. The coming weeks of November are filled with opportunities to view this triumphant moment at UWG. Probates are often the inspiration that peaks interest into the many Greek organizations that UWG has to offer.



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