Urban campuses might be known for having more subdued fraternity and sorority scenes, but GW’s list of Greek-letter groups is growing.
Three new chapters, fraternities Sigma Chi and Kappa Alpha Order and sorority Pi Beta Phi, will hold recruitment events for the first time this fall.
About 15 to 18 percent of the student body belongs to a Greek-letter group. GW has nine sororities in the Panhellenic Association and 14 fraternities under the Interfraternity Council, in addition to 12 multicultural Greek-letter groups. The multicultural groups fall under two governing organizations, the Multicultural Greek Council and the National Pan-Hellenic Council, which oversees the University’s historically black fraternities and sororities.
“The current growth is related to the increase in the undergraduate population in recent years. In some ways, the Greek community is catching up with the overall growth of GW,” said Dean Harwood, Greek adviser for the Student Activity Center.
Harwood added that the administration has also supported bolstering GW’s Greek-letter community. In 2002 the University built Townhouse Row, an eight-unit Greek-letter housing complex located on 23rd Street between F and G streets.
The process of selecting a new fraternity or sorority chapter is lengthy. An extension committee is formed of students and advisers who analyze and decide which new chapters fit in well with the student body.
Last fall, when the Panhellenic Association extended an application invitation to sororities interested in coming to campus, 15 of the remaining 18 National Panhellenic Conference chapters that are not yet on campus applied. The applicant pool was eventually narrowed to three finalists, Pi Beta Phi, Chi Omega and Kappa Alpha Theta.
“After attending all three of the final presentations, the extension committee met for a final vote,” said senior April Black, president of the Panhellenic Association. “The student representatives delivered the vote for their respective chapter on March 2, and the vote was unanimous for Pi Beta Phi.”
Pi Beta Phi sorority will begin establishing its new chapter in early October.
While GW has expanded over the last year and will likely continue to do so in the future, GW has a rich history of Greek life.
Harwood said the first fraternity was established in 1861 when GW was then known as the Columbian College. He said several Greek organizations on campus now had chapters that were initially founded as many as 145 years ago.
The first sorority instated at GW was Pi Beta Phi in 1889. This corresponded with the beginning of admission for women to the Columbian College. Greek life slowly faded at GW in the early 20th century until about 25 years ago, Harwood said.
A reemergence of Greek life at GW began in the mid to late 1980s, Harwood said. Since then, seven Panhellenic sorority chapters have established or reestablished their chapters at GW. Several fraternities have also reestablished chapters or grown significantly since that time.
With the addition of the Multicultural Greek Council and the National Pan-Hellenic Council in the last five years, Greek life at GW has become more diverse. Harwood said that in the coming years the office of Greek life aims to have 20 percent of the student body involved in Greek life.