Sunday, February 11, 2007

Growing the Greeks at Metropolitan State

Metro State students play down booze as they launch frats, sororities

Chris Frates, Denver Post Staff Writer

With its reputation as a commuter school for older students, Metropolitan State College of Denver doesn't conjure images of Greek bacchanals with party people drinking from garbage cans full of jungle juice.

Even so, about 75 students at Metro are working to establish 10 fraternities and sororities - minus the boozy attitude.

Students say they are craving more campus life at a school where students drive home each day after they've finished classes. Before coming to Metro, Daniel Blaney, a 23-year-old senior, attended community college, "and this felt like a community college."

"We wanted to bring a taste of college life to Metro," said Blaney, who is vice president of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter that he hopes to bring to campus.
If he succeeds in setting up the chapter, it will follow a national increase in fraternity membership. Among fraternities in the North-American Interfraternity Conference, membership has increased about 12 percent over the past five years to 350,000 undergraduate men, said conference executive vice president Jon Williamson.

Like their established counterparts on more traditional campuses during rush season, the recruiters at Metro emphasize their fledgling organizations' values of scholarship, service and familial bonds.

But unlike at other schools, the Metro Greeks are less likely to fit the just-graduated-from- high-school-let's-party mold.

Take Jacinda Ughetti. The 27- year-old is married, works full time and majors in English literature. She's also a founding member and treasurer of Phi Sigma Sigma."I never, ever, ever in my life thought I would join a sorority," she said. "You get the sorority stereotypes from the scary movies where she's frail, weak and dumb."But, she said, the stereotypes aren't true. For one, there's no drinking, Ughetti said.

That was a selling point for Brieana Kennedy, who was introduced to Ughetti at a recent Meet the Greeks event."To have somewhere I can go without the activity being centered around alcohol is important," said Kennedy, a 25-year- old single mom.

At Metro, those 23 and older are 56 percent of the student body, according to university figures.

Similarly, in Metro's Greek community, 60 percent of the members are older than 21, said Gretta Mincer, Metro's interim associate director of student activities.
The older students have brought more maturity and organization to their startups than are sometimes seen in sororities and fraternities run by younger, more traditional students, Mincer said.

Currently, there is no push for on-campus Greek housing or alcohol use at student functions. But an increase in Greek life in the next few years is expected to bring more discussions about both issues, Mincer said.

She said she would like to see students be "proactive around the issue of alcohol" rather than the college imposing an outright ban.

Alcohol and fraternities took center stage in 2004 after Colorado State University sophomore Samantha Spady and University of Colorado freshman Lynn "Gordie" Bailey were found dead in fraternity houses.

Mark Koepsell, CSU's Greek Life director, said Spady's death taught the importance of keeping alcohol out of Greek housing."If I were ever to start out a new system, I would keep it substance-free and never go down that road," he said.