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Greeks work toward new image

Published: Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 13:09

Frats clean up 092910

SIGMA CHI MEMBERS, from left to right, Zach Mabey, Kevin McCutcheon, Bryce Parkinson, and Kurt Mantz, pose outside of their fraternity house on Greek Row. BRANDEN FONDA photo

Greek life has upped the ante on recruitment efforts and public displays of service during the first few weeks of this semester, particularly during "rush week."

    Despite this effort, 100 students who completed a survey about their knowledge and opinion of Greek life had largely negative opinions about  the organizations that are designed to build character, friendship and leadership.

    "(The values) have always been there. I just think it's now being more recognized by the general public," said Gary Hawkins, a member of Delta Sigma Phi.

    He said the Greek system makes efforts to serve and help others on both a local and large scale.

    According to the survey, students believe Greeks are notorious pleasure-seeking and riotous, a stereotype Greeks don't necessarily think accurately describes them.

    "We are very community- oriented. We work a lot with raising money for different organizations in the community, like child abuse. Sigma Chi put on a dance-a-thon Sept. 25 for cancer research. The sororities and communities each have different organizations that they support," he said.

    Hawkins said each Greek organization has a motto with associated goals to achieve its standards.

    "It's all about personal development with each member. I value the criteria we stand by," said USU alumna and Alpha Chi Omega Ashley Fraughton.

    Despite the code Greeks strive to live by, a staggering 64 percent of those surveyed said they knew little to nothing about Greek life, or that what they did know involved "alchohol," "drinking" or "partying."

    Also, 59 percent said those words are what first came into their minds when they think about the fraternities and sororities, and only 23 percent said they had previously considered "becoming Greek" themselves, though 50 percent had been invited.

    "There are a lot of social advantages to Greek life. It's like a family away from home," Froughton said.

    She said, however, that some recruitment and philanthropic efforts have increased this semester. Much of that can be attributed to the death of Sigma Nu pledge Michael Starks in November 2008, due to alcohol poisoning.  Forty-one percent of those surveyed said apart from drinking or partying, Starks was their knee-jerk association with Greek life.

    "Obviously a lot of people know about the Mike Starks incident," Froughton said.

    "That changed things. It brought us together and made us realize we needed to really define what we are all about," Fraughton said.

    She said she thinks if Greeks decide to drink, they have their brothers to look after them.

    "But it's not endorsed by the house. It's all a personal decision," she said.

    Froughton referred to a system in many fraternities where each younger member is assigned a mentor, or "older brother" to watch and protect them. There is a similar sisterhood within sororities.

    "I think the (increase in service hours) has (relation to Starks) and probably motivated us a lot," she said, adding that at the time, individual houses set up "exchanges," or activities amongst each other, and personal visits, to cope with the tragedy.

    Other Greeks, including new Alpha Chi member Jessica Lewis, said the recent intensity of Greek recruitment and events has other plans as well. Lewis said that they had a great opportunity to show their support against violence during Rush Week.

    "We want to be known on campus for service. We really want to show the campus what Greek life is about. It's all about service to the community," said senior and Kappa Delta member Corinna Gross. "We really want to brag about those things. We want to be noticed by the campus, by the community, and by various organizations nationwide."

    Of those surveyed, 73 percent said they had been invited to participate in a social activity through the Greek system, but only 16 percent of the same students said they had been invited to participate in community service. Forty-one percent accept the social invitation, while only five percent took an offer to partake in service activities.

    "I think the main reason for the reputation is the media. You've got ‘Animal House' and other media since the 1970s," said graduate student Cory Larsen, of Sigma Phi Epsilon. "I mean, this is a social environment and so we do have our share of fun, but the idea is to balance it out."

    Larsen said in his own chapter of SigEp, only "three or four" of more than two dozen members take part in social drinking.

    "As far as philanthropy goes, it's just a part of the system. I don't think it's to reverse a certain stereotype," he said.

    "I think Greeks naturally are very outgoing people. A lot of people who want to be Greek are those who want to be exposed, and they want to be involved and be where the people are. I don't think everybody is like that," said SigEp junior Travis Chambers.

    He said that character lends itself to enthusiasm and an openness to different lifestyles.

    "Sometimes when there's not values taught or certain values or laws, taught, then that can lead to partying, because they don't have as many barriers as most people do," Chambers said.

    Chambers said despite that sort of personality, the members of the chapter still maintain their own standards.

    "It's an individual decision. We still party it up, but in a different way. We're still very outgoing, but that doesn't have to involve drinking a lot," he said.

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Dickie Doble
Wed Oct 6 2010 22:16
What a crock! "Three or four of two dozen" partake in alcohol? Do these kids buy the lines they are trying to sell? When I was in college, my experience with Greek life was non-stop partying and there were maybe one or two members of the whole place NOT drinking excessively. When guys asked girls to one of their "functions" their gift to the girls was a boda bag of Mad Dog 20/20 to get the girls drunk fast and cheap. The girls would give gifts to dates of their functions, offering men shot-glasses engraved with their sorority name and flasks they would decorate filled with liquor. Keg stands, beer bongs, booze was always plentiful and free flowing and the fraternities seem to stage things in a way to encourage drinking, imagining they might have their way with some vulnerably drunk woman. ATO's famous "Fur Trapper" function for example where the entire house is dark and full of tunnels that dead-end into a mattress with some stashed booze; the name of the function implies it all. I can only imagine the pressure a young man might feel from these fraternity types to get out there and party and score broads. Greek life "philanthropies" are merely token gestures in order to justify Greek existence and attract membership while in reality, they are only minimally supporting organizations that these members won't even remember a few years after college. My advice to youth in college: THINK FOR YOURSELF AND WATCH OUT FOR YOURSELF! Don't leave yourself compromised where you have to rely on a "brother" or a "sister" because 8 deaths each year prove that your "big brother" or "sister" won't be there for you.
W. Marsh
Tue Oct 5 2010 21:57
An average of 8 students die each year from hazings that are associated with fraternity pledge. Starks may have died 2 years ago, but since then 10 others have passed away as well. The concept of a fraternity full of a bunch of "buddies" helping each other and doing their part to serve the general community is nice, but the reality is that fraternities are dangerous environments that use peer pressure to get kids who are barely out of their homes to jump through hoops to prove themselves. There may be a lot of good, upstanding young men involved with the Greeks but at times it is hard to tell them apart from the self-serving ones who take things way too far and end up killing members rather than supporting them. The death of Michael Starks will never go away nor will the deaths of the ten who have died since nor the ten who will die next. It is simply a cost of doing business for the Greek system which is prepared to pay it as their price to exist. Go away.
Thu Sep 30 2010 12:03
I personally am not a part of the greek system but having been very close to those that are involved in the greek system this article a long with the photo posted for the dance marathon makes me vomit. Just because people are just now, noticing the service work the fraternities and sororities are doing does not mean they are trying to change their image. Service has always been and will always be a part of greek life. I wish that the closed minded groups of people on our campus would stop being so naive and realize that there is "drinking" and "partying" everywhere. Once you step out of the bubble that is Utah and realize that you will be better off in your life.
By the way in case you didn't know the Starks tragedy happened a while ago, let it rest for a while.

On another note, statesmen get better unbiased writers. Im growing weary of all of the self proclaimed journalists that don't really understand what giving an unbiased opinion is.

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