UI Greek life sees growth


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In line with a yearly pattern, Hubbard Park was crowded Monday afternoon with current and prospective sorority members, signaling continued growth for the University of Iowa’s sorority community.

Following several weeks of hard work, the hundreds of new members ran to meet their respective sisters, eagerly clutching their much-awaited chapter invitations.

In all, the UI Panhellenic Council — one of four greek council chapters on campus — presented 672 fall formal recruitment bids, the largest such group since 2005.

From 2005 to this fall, the number of women who have joined chapters in fall formal recruitment has more than doubled.

In 2012, 593 received fall formal bids.

In the Sept. 2 fall formal process, 907 women had signed up with intentions of joining, up from last year’s 872. However, 51 of those didn’t show up at orientation, lowering the number to 856.

“I know that the greek community has been large in the past, and so I don’t know if I’m comfortable saying ‘the highest ever,’ but it’s definitely the highest in recent years,” said Leslie Schacht, the coordinator for fraternity and sorority life at the UI.

Dan Wrona, the interim associate director at the Center for Student Involvement & Leadership, said greek communities have been growing consistently throughout the nation over the last couple of years, and the UI is no different.

Nationally, the number of undergraduate members rose 15 percent from 2008 to 2011, according to the National Panhellenic Conference Annual Report, which includes 26 national and international sororities.

In 2012, the number of undergraduate members stood at 302,792, up from 285,543 in 2011.

Both Iowa State University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, for example, have also coincided with this trend.

Although ISU’s official numbers for 2013 were not available as of Tuesday night, Billy Boulden, assistant dean of students and director of greek affairs at ISU, said officials expect to see a 2 to 3 percent increase from last year.

Wrona said that he thinks the UI may be separate from the national trend, observing increases in numbers at a more rapid rate.

“I can’t say we’re not benefiting from the nationwide growth, but I think the growth that we’re seeing here is that, plus some,” he said.

Nebraska’s growing sorority-recruitment numbers may challenge that.

“Our open-house round was 1,023 women,” said Linda Schwartzkopf, the director of greek affairs at Nebraska. “We had 617 that were matched [with a sorority] this year.”

Wrona noted that the Panhellenic Council is not the only UI council that is experiencing growth.

“[The Multicultural Greek Council] is also growing,” he said. “It’s the fastest growing part of the community even though the sorority life is the one that is visible.”

Since its beginnings in 2009, the council has grown from two groups to eight.

‘There’s a lot of interest in culturally focused fraternities and sororities,” Wrona said.

The UI’s Interfraternity Council has also seen gains, albeit by a significantly smaller growth scale.
While membership numbers fluctuate, Schacht said as of 2 p.m. Tuesday,  344 men had signed bids at the 17 traditionally housed chapters, a slight knock up from the 334 who joined in 2012.

“We know that our chapters are growing at a sustainable rate and the interest is still there at the same rate as well,” she said.

But Rachel Barr, Panhellenic Council vice president for recruitment, said with sorority growth, challenges arise for chapter members who are doing the recruiting, including remembering the names of the several hundred women each chapter meets and establishing a personal connection.

“Numbers do have an impact on our chapters, and some chapters may need to make some adjustments to better accommodate more members,” she said.

For UI freshman Katie Kratt, who joined Delta Delta Delta, the large numbers made the process more difficult on the incoming women.

“I feel like there was more pressure to get a bid from a certain house,” she said. “[Women] thought that they couldn’t get a bid because there were so many other girls going for it.”

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