Archive for Sunday, November 27, 2005

Myths of the greeks

KU’s fraternities, sororities fighting bad rap

November 27, 2005

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For Kansas University's 3,500 fraternity and sorority members, it can be a tough job undoing the "Animal House" image - particularly when the greek chapters keep landing in hot water.

"I don't think it's ever going to get to the point where people have the right impression of greek life, as long as people are out there misrepresenting what we're all about," said Jennifer King, president of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

Many greeks prefer to be recognized for their focus on academics and public service. But the image of beer-saturated parties and tomfoolery remains.

"One of the things we tell members is, 'This is not something someone has done to us,'" said Laura Bauer, program director for fraternity and sorority life at KU. "We did this to ourselves."


Delta Sigma Theta members, from left, Jennifer King, Danica Moore, Yana Delkhah, Marie Hampton and Ragan Foreman, browse Kansas University gear at the Jayhawk Bookstore. The sorority raises money for different causes, including an upcoming project to benefit AIDS research.

Delta Sigma Theta members, from left, Jennifer King, Danica Moore, Yana Delkhah, Marie Hampton and Ragan Foreman, browse Kansas University gear at the Jayhawk Bookstore. The sorority raises money for different causes, including an upcoming project to benefit AIDS research.

Two houses, Phi Kappa Theta and Sigma Nu, have closed because of parties and hazing in the last year. Another, Kappa Sigma, is under investigation by its national chapter following a hazing allegation.

A group of Phi Kappa Theta's former pledges last week filed a lawsuit against the fraternity's alumni corporation, claiming the house's hazing practices included sexual harassment and psychological and verbal abuse.

It's hard to drive these incidents out of people's minds, Bauer said - especially with people familiar with the 1978 "Animal House" movie, with its raucous portrayal of greek life.

"You can't put an article in the paper about your service hours and expect that to combat the hazing allegations that came out before," she said. "You can't think positive things are going to cover up the negative things. Those are the ones that pop out in people's minds."

But some students still try.


Pi Kappa Phi fraternity members at Kansas University help construct a house ramp for an elderly Lawrence resident earlier this month. Greek organization members say they do many public service activities, but their reputations are harmed by hazing and partying allegations.

Pi Kappa Phi fraternity members at Kansas University help construct a house ramp for an elderly Lawrence resident earlier this month. Greek organization members say they do many public service activities, but their reputations are harmed by hazing and partying allegations.

In light of greek-related deaths at other schools, Bauer said there's been a push in recent years for chapters to return to their core values, trying to balance service and academics with the social aspects of greek life.

In spring 2005, greek students reported higher GPAs than the general student population, 3.13 for greeks, compared with 3.0 overall.

They hold food drives and raise funds for charities. The annual Rock Chalk Revue, a skit show performed by greek entities, raised $24,000 for United Way of Douglas County last year.

King and her sorority sisters are planning an AIDS awareness banquet Dec. 3 to raise money for the Douglas County AIDS project.

"We felt there was a need for our community, and there wasn't any AIDS banquet going on, so we decided to do it ourselves," King said. "It kind of sounds nerdy, but I get a rush helping people."

Trap of tradition

From left, Kansas University students Trevor Blattner, Shayley Gaskell, Brian Reynolds, Morgan Henzlik, Casidy Boyd and Ryan Staub celebrate making the cut for this year's Rock Chalk Revue. The annual event raises thousands of dollars for the United Way of Douglas County.

From left, Kansas University students Trevor Blattner, Shayley Gaskell, Brian Reynolds, Morgan Henzlik, Casidy Boyd and Ryan Staub celebrate making the cut for this year's Rock Chalk Revue. The annual event raises thousands of dollars for the United Way of Douglas County.

Sigma Nu was in the process of shedding its traditions when the national chapter shut its doors, its former president has said. The fraternity was working to end arbitrary rules such as requiring pledges to do everything that upperclassmen say, clean up messes and only use the bathroom closest to their room.

"KU is steeped in tradition, whether it be through the basketball program or walking down the hill (at commencement)," said Patrick Alderdice, CEO of Pennington and Company, a Lawrence firm that consults with greek chapters on fundraising, alumni relations and other issues. "I don't think the greek system is oblivious to that as well. I think they have a strong tradition, and I think sometimes some of those traditions need to go away when it comes to hazing."

Dealing with traditions in light of today's tough rules is a struggle, some said.

"Some traditions are worthwhile, and some are not good," said Scott Shorten, former Interfraternity Council president. "It becomes an issue of what traditions would be considered hazing and what would be considered unique (to the chapter)."

Figuring this out could be the key to their survival.


Delta Sigma Theta members, from left, Marina Barton, Ragan Foreman, Danica Moore and Jennifer King, talk about their upcoming 2005 Red Carpet Affair AIDS Banquet.

Delta Sigma Theta members, from left, Marina Barton, Ragan Foreman, Danica Moore and Jennifer King, talk about their upcoming 2005 Red Carpet Affair AIDS Banquet.

"Sometimes the greek system is like cancer surgery," Alderdice said. "Sometimes you have to cut a lot of the flesh to make sure the organization survives, and I think that's what we may be seeing right now."

Changing times

Bauer said decades ago, things were "bad" and "crazy" in greek life. Still, she said, "Animal House" exaggerated the problem.

Shorten said fraternities have changed from being strictly social environments to understanding they are a part of the larger community.

Scott Ferguson, the Interfraternity Council's current president, said he and others would visit all of their chapters at the start of next semester to meet with their leaders and make sure they understand the rules and the consequences for breaking the rules.

He said he didn't plan on changing activities, but he wanted to work on improving greek life in the eyes of others.

"Right now the greek community has a poor image," Ferguson said. "I don't want to change the image. I want the image to be more accurate."

Comments

failed_ged 9 years, 5 months ago

The Greek system could benefit from the "influence machine" of the KU sports (i.e, football, basketball) programs. That machine is very successful at covering-up, ignoring and deflecting the immoral, unethical and illegal conduct of it's student members.

scottjp 9 years, 5 months ago

I will not deny that some fraternities and sororities do ignorant things. The ones that are not changing, however, are gettin weeded out. While this is bringing the negatives to the forefront, Greek life is actually becoming stronger. The great things they do, such as academics and philanthropy, will become stronger as people that are only there to party and rule over others are eliminated.

Greek life also promotes leadership skills. I don't know the exact numbers, but most US presidents were greek, a large majority of Fortune 500 CEO's are greek. This is the first point in most people's lives to step up and be this leader within an organization. What a great way to hone your skills.

born1980 9 years, 5 months ago

Ban them all? You are probably part of the "progressive" community that is all for freedom and rights until you disagree with it. KU would cease to exist without fraternities and sororities. The list of KU's most generous donors reads like a who's who list of Greek members. Anshutz, Bud Adams, Richard Cray, etc. Get a clue pal.

born1980 9 years, 5 months ago

I am impressed by your ability to fit so many people into one category. You theory is already false because there were several members of my fraternity that didn't drink or party and no one ever made them feel bad about it. Do some research first before making sweeping comments.

scottjp 9 years, 5 months ago

How often do loud drunken parties happen? Do they happen at every greek house? I do not know what you consider obnoxious behavior other than maybe a party every now and then. Hazing does not happen as often as you would like you would like to think. Granted, there are isolated cases of hazing, but these are on the decline as the chapters that still decide to do it are shut down and people are becoming better educated. There is much less hazing in the greek system than there is in the military, including the rotc program.

Hong_Kong_Phooey 9 years, 5 months ago

Personally, I don't understand why the fraternities & sororities are trying so hard to look like philanthropic organizations. YOU ARE IN COLLEGE! Everybody expects you to party. Yes, hazing is bad and should be eliminated. Partying is not bad. The majority of greeks spend more of their time partying (whether it be at a bar or at a house-sponsored event) than they spend doing community service. You know what? Who cares. As for their "academics", can you really claim that studying, in college, is a positive thing that you all do? Again, YOU ARE IN COLLEGE! You are supposed to study so, if you do, it shouldn't be lauded as some grand achievement.

scottjp 9 years, 5 months ago

hongkong,

It is not that fraternities and sororities try to look like philanthropic organizations. It is just something that sets them apart from the dorms and people that live at home. Yes, most people in college party. Since this is expected, why are greeks set apart from others? I guarentee you that the dorms have much more alcohol in them than do fraternities. If someone gets drunk in a dorm, who cares...let them pass out somewhere. If someone gets drunk in a fraternity or sorority, they at least have people that will look after them. Don't tell me I'm wrong, I have seen this on several occasions(both in dorms and fraternities). Why is it bad that there is alcohol in a fraternity? It keeps more of them at home off the road while being drunk after the bar.
As far as the academics...it is not the fact that studying is good or bad...the fact is that the average G.P.A. within the Greek system is higher than the all campus average. What is the reason for this? Possibly a support system, study groups people might not participate in elsewise...I don't know. All I know is that the G.P.A. is higher which must correlate somewhere.

Harry_Manback 9 years, 5 months ago

I think certain greek houses attract certain kinds of people. I don't like everyone in life, so I'm not going to like everyone in frats and sororities. It does seem like the greek system seems to attract more a**holes than the regular student population though, but I'm can't really give the reasons. I do have a few friends who are in frats and sororities, but it seems like a lot of greek students really don't enjoy associating outside the system. This is kind of bothersome cause it gives off an air that they think they're better than everyone else. And I'm not talking about the sorority in this article, I'm talking about the big established houses that have been at KU forever.

scottjp 9 years, 5 months ago

Observer...go to http://www.kugreek.org/resources_reports.html and look at the different semesters for grades. It lists all the different chapters as well as the campus wide grades. Unless you do not believe numbers that people at the university put together, you better start believing it.

I highly disagree with your statement that Fraternities simply provide a support group for obnoxious drunks. I imagine that you have absolutely no basis for this statement. If you do, I'd like to hear it. I think you are greatly misinformed.

Harry, I don't think it is true that greek students don't enjoy associating outside the system. To an extent, it does happen, but it is not because they do not enjoy it. Once you gain a group of friends, that is who you tend to spend time with. With the programing that the greek system has to make its members better, members tend to meet people outside their own chapters, but still in the greek system. I understand that this does happen, but please do not think it is because they want to be social eliteists

scottjp 9 years, 5 months ago

observer, All the staff in the IFC office get paid by the university, not an outside business. As far as the numbers being based on fraternity and sorority submissions, you do not understand how this works. The chapters do no submit their own grades. Rather, every member signs a form at the beginning of their pledging to authorize release of their grades to the IFC(a KU organization). With this, the IFC gains everyone's grades, and obtains the chapter G.P.A.'s. It is not possible to just lie about grades and send them in to the office. This answers the question that the meathod is both valid and accurate. I'm sorry that you simply do not want to believe the truth.

scottjp 9 years, 5 months ago

All other students do not have to sign forms. They are also added together by the university so that the university knows where they stand. The university does pay people to support other groups too. This is in the office of Organizations and Leadership. I know that members are required to sign the forms because I did a few years back. It is possible that things have changed, but I highly doubt it. Keep the questions coming. I would like to inform you as much as I can. You still might not like the Greek System, but at least you will have a clue what you are talking about.

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