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Archive for Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Greek membership down on campus

August 15, 2007

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Kansas University’s Alpha Gamma Delta sorority members, in red, sing a song to prospective freshman greek recruits in this August 2007 file photo during recruitment week.

Kansas University’s Alpha Gamma Delta sorority members, in red, sing a song to prospective freshman greek recruits in this August 2007 file photo during recruitment week.

Kansas University's Sigma Kappa sorority members, at top, sing a song to prospective recruits Monday during recruitment week.

Kansas University's Sigma Kappa sorority members, at top, sing a song to prospective recruits Monday during recruitment week.

Membership in the KU Greek community continues decade-long decline

Nearly one thousand fewer students have pledged a fraternity or sorority in the last five years - dropping the total Greek population below three thousand last year. Enlarge video

It's Rush Week at Kansas University, and hundreds of young women are trying to choose - or decide whether they want to be part of - a sorority.

But increasingly, more women - and men - are turning their backs on the greek community. Or once they've gone greek, they don't stick with it.

In the past five years, membership in KU sororities and fraternities has declined from about 3,500 to about 2,800 last fall. That's the first time the greek population was below 3,000 in some time.

"The numbers may be on a decline over the past 10 years, but have been fairly steady over the past couple of years," said Laura Bauer, director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life at KU.

Indeed, the current greek population has seen a major decline from its heyday of nearly 5,000 in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The decline had tapered off to about 70 members a year from 2003 to 2005.

Then that changed.

KU lost two large fraternities on campus - Sigma Nu because of allegations of hazing and Phi Kappa Theta for throwing a large party that included illegal alcohol sales.

The KU greek community declined by nearly 350 members between fall 2005 and fall 2006.

"Though the numbers are down, I think the quality of the membership is up," Bauer said. "Some of our smaller fraternities and sororities are the most well-functioning because they really follow our values."

Meanwhile, Pete Smithhisler, executive vice president of the North America Interfraternity Conference, said he thought the greek community, nationally at least, is growing. He cited growth in membership from a low of 290,000 in 1998 to 350,000 in summer 2006.

"We think that's consistent with the millennial generation (people born in the 1980s and 1990s) joining fraternities," he said. "They've been socialized throughout their life with group membership and group leadership."

Although there are signs of growth nationally, KU's decline continues.

Non-greek KU students give a number of reasons why they've chosen to stay away.

"I thought about it, and I have a lot of friends who are in fraternities," said Sam Winter, a sophomore from Minneapolis, Minn. "But I'm pursuing two degrees, and I figured if I were in a fraternity, there would be too much of an outside influence on my time."

Other students say it's just something they "don't think they'll like."

Matt Krische, a Lawrence dentist who was a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity at KU about 10 years ago, said much has changed.

"The liability aspects that are now placed (on chapters, regarding) having parties, the pledge program. There's a lot more restraint that's placed upon them at this point in time," he said.

Krische added that new rules - such as houses prohibiting alcohol - and better housing options on and off campus have been a blow to some recruitment tools that chapters use.

"It's definitely harder to recruit than it was 10 years ago," he said.

But in the view of Erin Gregory, the trouble isn't with recruitment but with retention.

"There's a really strong tradition with the greek community at KU," which brings a number of women out for recruitment, said Gregory, president of the Panhellenic Association, a group of 13 KU sororities. "In terms of retention, there's now a major focus on senior involvement. We want women who are going to stay involved through all four years of their college experience."

Ultimately, says Christy Steinbrueck, the Panhellenic Association's vice president for recruitment, the process is not about numbers.

"It's really important to chapters to keep their numbers, but I don't think about them when I do my job," she said. "I'm not going out and trying to get the biggest number of women to join sororities. It's about finding fits in the community."

Comments

LogicMan 7 years, 4 months ago

The demise of Stewart Avenue's physical houses might have just a little to do with it.

cowboy 7 years, 4 months ago

I think its due to kids being a lot less sheepish now , who wants to go follow some of these long gone lame rituals , and furthermore who has the cash to afford it and the surrounding lifestyle.

Does anyone else think that the higher ed system is just about useless not to mention wasteful in its current configuration ? When a Bachelors degree is largely useless in todays world would it not make a lot more sense to have intense skill targeted eduction for those 90% who are not exceptional and accelerated studies for those that are.

Targeted two or three year programs so when your skill gets outsourced a few years into your career you can go back and pursue another track. These kids come out of colege in such debt now its hard to make those course adjustments.

aquakej 7 years, 4 months ago

Well thank god!!! It's about time. I'm looking for flying pigs in the sky right now, though. It's just too good to be true! First Abercrombie & Fitch closes....then the Greek membership is down...I wonder if the two are connected....

chet_larock 7 years, 4 months ago

That's a funny observation, aquakej! Hmmm....

compmd 7 years, 4 months ago

cowboy, I think your second and third paragraphs are right on. The first one however demonstrates a misunderstanding of the greek system. Its not about sheepishness or "lame rituals" or cash. Sheepishness definitely isn't the case; look at how many kids come here pretending they are still in high school. And "lame rituals?" I know! Let's take a stab at people that pray before every meal! The money isn't such a big deal now like it was a few years ago. With the skyrocketing cost of tuition and rents in this city, the people who live in fraternity houses at least are getting a good deal overall. One of my brothers lived in-house for four years simply because it was the cheapest option for him. If you think there is a problem with being able to afford membership in the greek system, drive through the Legends apartment complex or the Reserve and take in the scenery.

One of the reasons for the decline in membership has been bad pledges. For the first time ever last year I saw nearly half a pledge class not make their grades, and of those, a couple who were such a$$h0l3s that they weren't going to be voted in anyway.

From an academic and professional standpoint, (and as someone who recruits and hires KU students for internships) I see the quality of KU students and graduates dropping overall. Perhaps that has something to do with this...

Wilbur_Nether 7 years, 4 months ago

cowboy wondered "...would it not make a lot more sense to have intense skill targeted eduction for those 90% who are not exceptional...?"

The number is closer to 70% than 90%, and it would. The issue isn't that a Bachelor's degree is "worthless" (research shows those with Bachelor's degrees still earn substantially more than those without); nor is it that only "exceptional" people (whatever that means) should or deserve to have one. The issue is that about 70% of the jobs in our economy do not require a Bachelor's degree to be able to successfully perform them.

The solution is to make better use of our technical and vocational schools for occupational training. Edward Gordon makes an excellent argument for this in his book "Skill Wars." Of course, that would require our Legislature invest in the College/Technical College infrastructure we have in place. I'm not holding my breath for THAT to happen.

toefungus 7 years, 4 months ago

Compmd, you are correct about the quality of students. KU is no longer a good choice for top students. Funding by the State has been so poor, that professors of distinction have not been attracted. Quality graduate students are then not attracted. The net result is poorer quality graduate teaching assistants, which teach many undergraduate classes. There have been several posts recently on the role of sports in this concern. In my opinion, sports have not been so much the cause as the effect. As standards have fallen, sports have been a convenient distraction from the weaknesses. Unfortunately, even that effort has not been up to the standards of Texas or Oklahoma. Now, before everyone thinks I simply dislike KU, I can assure you the opposite is true. This was truly the Harvard of the Plains just 20 years ago. It can be so again, but I have been so disappointed with our leadership and state support for our University. We all need to work for and demand the best for KU, because once down, the school is just short of impossible to lift back up.

fletch 7 years, 4 months ago

"They've been socialized throughout their life with group membership and group leadership."

Yeah, because when I'm put in a leadership position at work, I try my best to pull in a bunch of fresh recruits, and then make them spend a year doing demeaning chores and tasks. Oh wait, no I don't. Maybe, just maybe, kids today figured out they have better things to do in life and have found better leadership opportunities on campus that actually involve real leadership.

Kontum1972 7 years, 4 months ago

the Greek system's flourished after the Vietnam War Games, so it is hard to say that after this fiasco it might repeat the same trend,...LoL,....i was in the Greek system when I came back from SEA in 1973 and the house was mostly Viet Vets guess it was that "Band of Brothers" clique...to be really successful in recruiting people for Greek life it really depends on the ones in the system who know how to communicate with good people to pull them into your organization its like recruiting people to work for your company...it takes committment and focus..and with alot of this kids i see out there..I am not impressed..........its just not happening!

Janet Lowther 7 years, 4 months ago

I reckon Cowboy should have said "When a Liberal Arts Bachelor's Degree is largely useless. . ." instead of just ". . . Bachelor's degree is largely useless. . ."

"Engineers ask, 'How do I make it?' Accountants ask, 'How much will it cost?' And Liberal arts graduates ask, 'Would you like fries with that?'"

The statistics on bachelor's degree holders making more than high school graduates include the rather substantial premiums paid to engineers, accountants, computer specialists, and a few other occupations, and while I'm sure there would be a slight premium for say, philosophy majors, I doubt if they would ever recoup the tuition and living expenses getting the degree, never mind the income forgone while getting the degree.

Back in the '70s, my brother-in-law tried to talk me into joining his fraternity, but as near as I could tell the Greek fraternities at KU as a whole were nothing but a bunch of party animals, and I just wasn't interested in being anywhere close to loud, obnoxious parties. . . So far as I can tell they still are.

gabbo 7 years, 4 months ago

TOB,

Fatso's isn't a frat bar anymore. Live music and such. When was the last time you went?

FormerCentralKansan 7 years, 4 months ago

Hey, did you hear there was a fire at the Chi Omega house library overnight? Both books were burned and one hadn't even been colored in yet...

Haiku_Cuckoo 7 years, 4 months ago

Hey, how come I don't see any minorities in either of those sorority photos? Are they that restrictive?

Confrontation 7 years, 4 months ago

What I find funny is that those people who make fun of sororities and frats often try to associate themselves with other similar groups. For instance, there is a particular group of women in Lawrence who love to bash sororities, yet they've given themselves a group name and have nicknamed eachother. Other than not living together, they're pretty much a sorority.

Crispian Paul 7 years, 4 months ago

He he he....I guess people are getting tired of paying for friends.....

TOB, While I agree that It's Brothers is definitely the fratty type bar, Fatso's has actually changed a lot in the recent couple of years. I would never have gone there in my ten years in this town until recently. But then it got a new owner who is turning it into more of a live music venue....The last two times I was there, it was actually kind of a townie or older student crowd.

Crispian Paul 7 years, 4 months ago

FormerCentralKansan (Anonymous) says:

Hey, did you hear there was a fire at the Chi Omega house library overnight? Both books were burned and one hadn't even been colored in yet:

LMAO, especially considering those girls are known for their ahem brains....

Crispian Paul 7 years, 4 months ago

Confrontation (Anonymous) says:

It sounds like Machiavelli_mania was cut during rush. It's okay. I'm sure someone likes you.

Huh, and it seems Confrontation was once made fun of by some brainy girls who have minds of their own.....It's OK Confrontation, I am sure the friends that were bought and paid for still like you.

Crispian Paul 7 years, 4 months ago

Oh, and before you all go ahead and ask why I am "attacking" Confrontation personally, I am simply dishing the sarcasm back out.

Bud Stagg 7 years, 4 months ago

I work extensively with greeks throughout the country and every greek house at KU and KSU. While Mach is right to some degree, the people she is talking about are people who should never pledge a house. They are the Selfish people who are incapable of working or living with others. Greeks don't "need" to live with others, they desire it. They have fun, they work towards helping the community, and they work together as a team in sports, music, and other competitions. They form lasting friendships, they help each other in school, etc. Now I will put the disclaimer in, they do party a lot.

The problem I see at KU over any other campus is what I call the "Johnson County effect". These are kids raised by the affluent who are spoiled rotten. They don't want to follow rules and have very little ability to work for anything as a group, they only see "what's in it for me". They have difficulty honoring committments made to others. Therefore retention at KU Greek houses is not nearly as good as even KSU. Texas, LSU, Arkansas, etc. all have much better greek systems than that of KU.

sourpuss 7 years, 4 months ago

Well, I went to KU, got good grades, and I have multiple legacies with one of the sororities there, but I never pledged. Why? Because I didn't have the money for the membership dues, I didn't have the time for all of the activities and volunteer responsibilities, and I didn't have any interest in partying with frat boys. So I didn't join. Perhaps other people are like me in that they don't have the money, time, or interest in extending high school for four more years. The idea of a sorority sounds pretty fun, but I didn't want my free time through my entire college career to be regimented.

Confrontation 7 years, 4 months ago

Crispian, I know who you are and I know you couldn't even get invited to an open house.

corina 7 years, 4 months ago

I think the Greek experience varies across North America, as evidenced by the comments related to this article. I am encouraged to see the 'progressive' nature of most Fraternity and Sorority houses, which not only involve social activities and networking events, but also philanthropic and community building efforts. While not everyone can afford the luxury of volunteering time, I'm encouraged to see so many young people eager to develop strong ties to their fellow students and local community. To advance these effort, I have found FraternityLive.com and SororityLive.com to be great promoters of the 'modern' attributes Greek life can offer. This Free private Greek network helps to build chapters and organize their affairs; the sites also run lots of fun contests which in the past have yielded donations for charitable groups like the Special Olympics. As undergrads head into recruitment week, it is encouraging to see that such online services are helping Greeks to connect and make positive contributions to their chapters and campuses.

Wilbur_Nether 7 years, 4 months ago

Crispian wrote "before you all go ahead and ask why I am "attacking" Confrontation personally, I am simply dishing the sarcasm back out."

Gee, Crispian, have you never heard that two wrongs don't make a right?

Of course, three lefts do.... But I digress....

Crispian Paul 7 years, 4 months ago

Confrontation (Anonymous) says:

Crispian, I know who you are and I know you couldn't even get invited to an open house

Hahaha. LOL. OK, you know who I am am, who are you? You're the jerk who decided you Why is it that you apparently dislike me? Apparently, you are too much of a coward to let the world know who you are, so you just call yourself Confrontation instead of actually engaging in honest confrontation. Thanks for trying to insult me, but shove it. (Oh, and also, I was actually invited to join a sorority a WAY long time ago).

Crispian Paul 7 years, 4 months ago

Wilbur_Nether (Anonymous) says:

Crispian wrote "before you all go ahead and ask why I am "attacking" Confrontation personally, I am simply dishing the sarcasm back out."

Gee, Crispian, have you never heard that two wrongs don't make a right?

Of course, three lefts do:. But I digress:.

LMAO. There, now we have three wrongs not making right......Pot, meet kettle.

Crispian Paul 7 years, 4 months ago

Confrontation (Anonymous) says:

Crispian, I know who you are and I know you couldn't even get invited to an open house.

Just curious, how do you know this? Are you clairvoyant? Sweet! I am jealous.

bugmenot 7 years, 4 months ago

I know lots of kids raised in Johnson County who aren't spoiled, horrible brats. Even some with affluent parents. I also know a lot of kids who aren't from JoCo who are spoiled rotten with a what's-in-it-for-me attitude. Don't blame the county; blame the parents. There are a-holes everywhere.

Crispian Paul 7 years, 4 months ago

Confrontation (Anonymous) says:

Someone is a little nervous:.

Nope, just not a coward who uses a word like COnfrontation to say who I am but won't actually do anything to show I am willing to have an honest, non-anonymous confrontation. Maybe you should change your name to Coward. What in the world would I have to be nervous for. I would not use my real name if I didn't stand behind what I have to say unlike many on here.

Confrontation 7 years, 4 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Wilbur_Nether 7 years, 4 months ago

Crispian wrote "Pot, meet kettle."

Gee whiz, it was a little bit of humor. A ~very~ little bit of humor, true...but still not worthy of that level of overreaction.

Confrontation 7 years, 4 months ago

Should someone who used "LMAO" really be allowed in adult forums?

Kontum1972 7 years, 4 months ago

JoeHawk i agree with you completely i remember coming to KU to visit the chapter up here on a pledge sneak, the johnson county effect was "really in full swing"... jeez those guys were worthless they didnt want to have anything to do with us...."our brothers"...we went back the to our chapter the next morning, the following week we went down to Arkansas and visited the brothers down there...we had a blast they organized a big wing-ding for us...they informed us they had the same snub-reaction at KU when they came. KSU, ARK, & LSU had great programs just as u said, our chapter visited those universities on pledge sneaks...well worth the road trip. OBTW the chapter we visited up here lost their house...i think they are in a dorm now...last i heard.

Crispian Paul 7 years, 4 months ago

Should someone who is so cowardly as to talk trash about someone and say they know them, but still won't state who they actually are be allowed on an adult forum?

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