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April 04, 1986 - Image 14

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1986-04-04
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-W

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V V V V V

COVER STORY

Greek: Are they involved - or induent?

By Melissa Birks
N THE 1960s, it seemed like no one
on campus wanted to be Greek.
While student activists were highly
visible-protesting around the coun-
try and staging vigils, rallies, and sit-
ins - membership in fraternities and
sororities plunged to an all-time low.
Many Greek houses were forced to
rent out their houses, and several left
the campus altogether.
Today, one in five undergraduates
is affiliated with a fraternity or
sorority. And membership is steadily
growing. During the 1984-85 academic
year, fraternities accepted 750
pledges; 10 years earlier, only 398
men pledged. And since 1975, at least
nine fraternities that left during the
'60s have returned.
Sororities, too, are on the upswing.
Three new chapters have been started
since 1984, bringing the total number
of sororities on campus to 21.
The greater number of Greeks
means more than frequent parties. By
virtue of sheer numbers and their in-~
terest in social organizations, Greeks
play a major role throughout the
University. Almost 40 percent of the
University Activities Council
executive council - which controls
the largest student organization on
campus - is in a fraternity of
sorority. Nearly half of all resident
advisors and resident directors are
Greek,and many orientation leaders
are in the system.
"Greeks tend to be some of the
major contributors to student life on
campus," said Student Organization
Development Council consultant Cin-
dy Straub. "Greeks tend to be leaders
or members of volunteer
organizations. They contribute in that
sense."
Not everyone, however, thinks of
the Greek system in such positive
terms. The growing number of mem-
bers and houses has prompted action
by the central administration and
within the Greek system itself. The
University also has created a task
force to explore the relationship bet-
ween the University and the Greek
system. "Right now it's real loose,"
Straub says. "There is no relation-
ship."
"Most major organizations have a
formal relationship with the Univer-
sity. There is no one to do that for the
fraternities. There has been some
discussion to give them more help
than they have had," Straub says.
The task force, which includes
housing officials and officers of the In-
ter-Fraternity Council, the
Pan-Hellenic Association, and the
Black Greek Council, was created to
discover how the University should
exercise control over and work with
the Greek system.
"With that many students, it's a
marvelous opportunity to influence
growth and personal development
outside the classroom," said Jo Rum-
sey, assistant director of housing, and
a member of the task force.
The task force has recommended
that the University create an Office of
Greek Life to aid the fraternities and
sororities and protect the interests of

good either."
"Some don't have good reputations:
They're really ugly, fat, tall, or no
fun. They'll go to a party and just talk
to each other. If you get stuck with
them, you'll be upset," said Broucek.
"So you have a pre-party and get
really drunk so you're prepared."
D ESPITE ALL the politics
- which, members point out, go on in
most social circles - the system con-
tinues to thrive, attracting people who
are looking for a surge in their social
lives or just a group to belong tW.
The ready-made social life of the
Greek system is very attractive to
some people. "For incoming fresh-
man not from around the area, it's an
excellent way to meet people," says
Sizemore. "You gain 100 friends
right off the bat."
But many pledges don't realize
what they're getting into when they
decide to wear the letters of a frater-
nity or sorority. "They think it's all
fun and no work," says Sizemore. Ac-
tually, all Greek houses require ac-
tives and pledges to work on fun-
draisers for their charity. (Each
fraternity and sorority raises money
throughout the year for a particular
charity. Last month, the activities of
Greek Week raised more than $30,000
for local and national charities.)
"A lot come through and they don't
know what fraternities are about,"
says Tschampel, who admits to
having been "anti-Greek" before he
rushed last fall. "Usually people have
been to the parties before. They're in-
terested in the parties, or had people
they know in fraternities that they
join."
In addition, Kavanagh says, many
prospective pledges don't realize the
financial responsibilities of joining
the Greek system. Several houses
require their members to live in the
house, and actives make a poiint
during rush to explain how much
money will be involved.
"It's important to know about the
financial obligations," Kavanagh
said. "We don't want someone to drop
out because of money."

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the University.
In the fraternities and sororities
themselves, growing numbers mean
more competition. Rush remains a
rigorously scheduled activity which
can be cruelly selective. Fraternity
rush is far less structured than
sorority rush, but it is just as time-
consuming and just as nerve-
wracking. Rushees spend three to
four hours each night visiting parties1
at some of the 32 houses on campus. 1
"I didn't open a book the whole
week of rush," said Takeshi
Hatanaka, a sophomore in
engineering who joined Sigma Phi,
Epsilon.
Said LSA freshman G. M. Broucek,
a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon:
"'From 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., five days of
that, you drink.and you don't feel like
going to classes. When you rush, you
don't feel like doing anything."
The competition occurs not only
between rushees, but between houses
as well. In the latter competition,
bigger seems to be better. Smaller
houses or those that are far from Cen-
tral Campus often have to resort to
special measures - like free steak

dinners - in order to attract prospec-
tive pledges. "The bigger houses are
more competitive," acknowledged In-
ter-Fraternity Council President
Dennis Kavanagh, an LSA junior,
and a member of Phi Delta Theta.
The competition among the rushees
may be even more fierce. Broucek
noted that "good connections" in a
fraternity can help a rushee get a bid,
but there are no guarantees. "One of
my best friends rushed, and he didn't
get in," says Broucek. "He knew
people in the house. It's kind of a
downer."
The key to getting into a house,
members say, is making friends - no
matter how superficially - with as
many people as possible. .Kavanagh
said he has noticed an upsurge in
"suiciding," when rushees go to only
one fraternity in an attempt to
ingratiate themselves with the active
members. "I think it's silly," he says.
"They know someone who they think
can get you in, or they may not know a
lot of other houses."
"Knowing someone" in itself doesn't

necessairly earn a bid. During.
sorority rush, which is far more struc-
tured than fraternity rush, several
hundred women spend almost 30
hours pounding the pavement during
September, visiting every single
sorority house. Events progress from
"mixers" to "final desserts" in just a
few days. After that, the houses make
their picks.
Inevitably, not everyone gets a bid.
"Cuts were really bad," said School of
Nursing sophomore Vickie Sizemore,
who joined Zeta Tau Alpha last
fall. "The competition was really
ferocious. Everybody was trying to
outdress everybody else. The rushees
were callous and cold. They didn't
want the competition."
LSA freshman Melisia Taylor also
rushed last fall. She didn't make it.
And even though she says she wasn't
"totally upset," she regrets the time
she wasted as she and her roommate,
LSA freshman Kris Matthews, who
got a bid from Alpha Phi - hurried
back from classes, changed clothes,
and joined the sorority actives. "It was
like going to a job interview or
auditioning," Taylor said.

Matthews agreed that rush con-
sisted mainly of actives and potential
pledges trying to impress each other,
judging personalities without really
knowing each other. "There's so
many girls it's hard to know them,
which is one weakness of rush," she
said. "But I have no idea what a bet-
ter idea would be."
Looking ahead to next year, when
she will be more in charge of the
selection process, Matthews said,
"I'll definitely feel bad if I know girls
who didn't get in. I don't see that it's
going to change unless they open up
new houses."
But how will Matthews - and hun-
dreds of other women in her position
- decide who gets in and who
doesn't? Is it fair to make that
decision based on so few meetings?
Sizemore said there is always the risk
of finding that a sorority sister has
"changed" after rush is over.
"Everybody puts on a phony at-
titude," she says. "They're not sure
you're in the house, and they're trying
to make their house look the best. Now
that I'm in the house, they're laid
back and cool."

(.harfties.
T HE LOBBYING to get the<
'best" pledges really begins
before rush even starts, as potential1
pledges decide which fraternity orI
sorority they think they want to join.
Stereotypes play a huge role in this.
IFC President Kavanagh says frater-
nities don't fit their stereotypes, but
like all generalizations, fraternities
and sororities' reputations have at
least a grain of truth in them.
Said Matthews: "When I rushed, I
didn't know the sterotypes. I just
went. Whichever one I liked, I figured
out for myself. When I found out (the
reputations) afterwards, they pretty
much corresponded," she said.
Most fraternity and sorority mem-
bers would agree that stereotypes
flow freely through the system. And
while they cite "being labeled" as the
worst part of being Greek, for many
the stigma attached to their house
directly affects how many pledges a
house gets and what parties they are
invited to.
"There are a lot of reputations. You
can't avoid it," says LSA sophomore
Rick Tschampel, a member of Sigma
Chi. "They're categorized on
progression - that's just the way it is.
I think that most might be true a lit-
tle."
For fraternities, reputations are
based largely on the size of the house,
its location, and the parties they have.
Sororities are often at the mercy of
stereotypes that perpetuate the social
calendar that attracts or repels
women during rush.
Because sorority charters do not
allow alcohol in the houses, sororities
rely on fraternities to throw parties,
and that means more competition.
"We call up the fraternity and ask for

a party. There's competition with
other houses, because you want to
party with the big houses, the popular
ones," said Sizemore.
Fraternities, in turn, vote for the
sororities they want to party with. The
requirements?
"They have to be fun to party with,
and it's better if they're good-
looking," said Tschampel. "If they're
good-looking but deadbeats, that's not

He added that he has only known of
one fraternity member in the past
three years who has had to quit
because he couldn't carry the
monetary burden. .
Even in the '60s, when the Greek
system plummeted to an all-time low,
Greek housing was a popular alter-
native because of the cheap prices,
according to Rumsey.

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6 Weekend-April 4, 1986

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