With three fraternities and five sororities slated to move into GW’s new Townhouse Row in the fall, leaders in the Greek-letter community said they are looking forward to an increased presence on campus.
Currently, 14 percent of students are involved with Greek-letter life, said Michael Gargano, associate vice president for Student and Academic Support Services. He said GW would “eventually” like to see the number rise to 25 percent.
“I think being a member of Greek life helps a student to mature,” Gargano said. “You learn good time management skills, how to communicate, diplomacy skills, when to lead and when to be led and you learn to make decisions and be responsible.”
GW will have eight sororities governed by the Panhellenic Association and 13 fraternities governed by the Interfraternity Council on campus this year, including the recent additions of Alpha Epsilon Pi and Pi Kappa Alpha fraternities.
Townhouse Row, located on 23rd and G streets, will be ready to house members of the Pi Kappa Phi, Phi Kappa Psi and Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternities, and the Alpha Delta Pi, Delta Gamma, Sigma Kappa, Alpha Phi and Kappa Kappa Gamma sororities in the fall.
More than 300 students will live in the $16 million townhouse complex.
Student leaders said they are excited about the addition of Townhouse Row and believe GW is taking positive steps to encourage Greek-letter life.
“It’s awesome to know our school is doing the opposite of what most other schools do – which is look at Greek life as a liability,” said Brian Taylor, president of Pi Kappa Phi. “GW says if we give you an inch, we know you’re not going to take a mile. It’s important to have University officials on our side.”
Miguel Ayala, student assistant for Program Coordination for Greek Affairs, said approximately 1,200 students were involved with Greek-letter life last year.
Six new multicultural Greek-letter organizations will also join GW’s existing four in the fall. The University will welcome Kappa Alpha Psi for black men, Sigma Lambda Upsilon for Latino women, Pi Delta Psi for Asian men, Sigma Psi Zeta for Asian women, Sigma Beta Rho for South Asian men and Delta Phi Omega for South Asian women.
Officials said members of Greek-letter organizations take an active role in the community through philanthropy events around the city. While some Greek-letter organizations are required by their national headquarters to perform community service activities, members of fraternities and sororities which do not said they choose to participate in community activities as a group.
Leaders said the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association also do not require Greek-letter organizations to perform specified amount of community service.
“Some fraternities have national regulations that they must have a certain event, whereas with others the individual fraternity decides what they will do,” said Kris Hart, president of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, adding that the same holds true for sororities.
“Greeks raise the highest amount of money for philanthropy and provide the most hours of service,” Ayala said. He said he did not have an exact figure available.
Clifton Coffey, president of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity, said the fraternity’s national event is “adopt-a-school,” and that fraternity members coach Little League baseball and mentor members of the team.
Aside from going out into the community, members of Greek-letter organizations said fundraising for charity is crucial. The Sigma Delta Tau sorority donates funds to prevent child abuse, the Alpha Delta Pi sorority gives to the Ronald McDonald House and the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity donates money to help fund a Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial, which city officials are currently planning.
Officials said Greek-letter organizations regularly work together in holding creative fundraisers, often based around athletic events. Ayala said each group pays a fee to participate, and the money goes to philanthropic organization.
Officials also said members of Greek-letter organizations tend to be well-rounded students. Ayala said the University-wide average GPA for fall 2002 was 3.216. The average GPA for sorority members was 3.259, and for fraternity members was 3.103.
“We participate in a lot of things that go on around campus,” said Kim Brownstein, president of Sigma Delta Tau. “We have girls that play sports and others that write for The Hatchet. Everyone is involved.”
Members said students considering joining a Greek-letter organization should not feel anxious about hazing, which Ayala defined as “any physical or mental abuse, either voluntary or involuntary.” The University forbids all types of hazing.
“Our policy is no hazing,” said Isaiah Pickens, vice president of Alpha Phi Alpha, a nationally black fraternity. “It was outlawed by the national in our organization in 1991. Our policy on members getting in is just to study their information that’s provided through the national organization.”
Administrators said they take hazing very seriously.
“There may be a perception that hazing can be if a sorority or fraternity requires you to dress a certain way or carry a paddle, for example. We’re less concerned with that then we are with any type of harassment … we have zero tolerance for that,” Gargano said.
The Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity lost University recognition in 2001 following hazing incidents. After a two-year suspension, the fraternity regained its recognition this April. The new group of men includes no former members of Alpha Epsilon Pi.
Some former members participate in an off-campus fraternity dubbed “APES.” GW students operate two other “underground” fraternities – Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Sigma Alpha Mu. The fraternities have no affiliation with GW and follow their own rules and regulations.