Greek Row: Fraternity participation up, sororities down
The Daily Utah Chronicle
By Parker Williams
The majority of students who "go greek" join sororities and fraternities during Rush Week, but many organizations recruit new members year-round. With all of the efforts being made to find new members, one might wonder whether fraternities and sororities grow in number of participants.
According to statistics provided by Lori McDonald, Greek Council adviser and assistant dean of students, participation in fraternities at the U has increased by more than 30 percent since 2004.
Although sororities have more members, participation in them has decreased by more than 13 percent during the same time frame.
Despite the recent increase in fraternity participation at the U, overall membership in U fraternities and sororities is lower today than during the 1970s and 1980s.
Nationally, fraternity numbers have come down since membership peaked in the early 1990s. According to the North-American Interfraternity Conference, membership hit a low point in 1998 with fraternity membership around 280,000 members.
According to the Center for the Study of the College Fraternity, national sorority membership peaked in 1990 with about 170,000 members, but numbers have been decreasing since then. Sorority membership in the United States decreased by nearly 43,000 people between 1990 and 2000.
Currently, the largest fraternity at the U is Sigma Chi, which has more than 130 members -- 60 more than the next largest fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha."It can be chaotic at times, but I would rather have a larger house versus a smaller house," said Tim Jones, president of Sigma Chi.
"You just have to take more time to get to know certain groups of guys.
"Not all 130-plus members of Sigma Chi are active participants in the Greek system. As in any organization, some people cannot attend every meeting, Jones said. Even if a member doesn't attend every social activity, they are representing the fraternity in their respective areas, such as student government or sports, he added. Sigma Chi is also the oldest fraternity on campus and will celebrate its 100 years at the U next year.
The U is home to six sororities and nine fraternities. Although fraternities generally outnumber sororities at colleges nationwide, membership in individual chapters tends to be higher among sororities, McDonald said.
Some argue that participation in the Greek system has declined in the past 20 years because of the increasing number of student organizations available on campus."There is...more for students to get involved in than ever before -- fraternities and sororities are no longer the only option for a living community with other students," McDonald said.
U students are also members of fraternities and sororities organized through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The LDS fraternity Sigma Gamma Chi has 10 different chapters at the U, totaling about 350 members. The LDS sorority Lambda Delta Sigma has 17 chapters, totaling about 800 members.
Kellianne Lakis, president of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority said that although Alpha Chi Omega membership hasn't been affected by the LDS Greek system, growing numbers in LDS sororities and fraternities have influenced Greek Row as a whole.
"It makes it that much harder when people think they can only be in one (fraternity or sorority) and not the other, when it's completely possible for them to be in both," Lakis said
.With about 50 members, Alpha Chi Omega is the smallest sorority at the U. However, the largest sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, is not substantially bigger -- the sorority has 70 members.
"We've always been kind of on the smaller side of Greek numbers, but it's not necessarily a bad thing," Lakis said. "We tend to become a very close-knit house."
Technically, the U's multi-cultural sorority Theta Nu Xi is the smallest sorority with zero active members. The sorority's undergraduate chapter, which had two members last semester, went inactive this semester when the two members decided to take a break to focus on their academics. Theta Nu Xi is currently trying to recruit new members.
For information about specific fraternities/sororities, visit www.greeks.utah.edu.