Greek membership on the rise

Greek-letter life at GW is not just expanding; it’s exploding.

Participation in Greek-letter organizations on campus has increased nearly 70 percent over the past five years, from 12.5 percent of the undergraduate population in 2003 to 21.2 percent this fall.

Both administrators and students attribute the growth to a positive feedback cycle, in which more and more people join fraternities and sororities because they know students who have had a good experience with Greek-letter life.

“The more people who are involved and have a good experience with Greek life the more it becomes contagious,” said Dean Harwood, director of Greek Life.

Harwood said he sees the growth as a response to the changing nature of University students. The student population is now more interested in the benefits of Greek-letter life than students 10 years ago, he said.

“If it’s popular, it generates enthusiasm,” said Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services.

Senior Amanda Gancayco, vice president of marketing and public relations for the Panhellenic Association, attributed the expansion to a blurring of lines between Greek-letter life and the GW community.

“People on campus are seeing how active Greek members are in not only the Greek community, but the entire GW community as well,” she said. “I think the University’s Greek Life staff and the students in Greek life have worked together to help facilitate the growth of our community.”

The increase in growth can also be partly attributed to the 2003 addition of Townhouse Row on 23rd Street, Harwood said. Soon after its construction, the Inter-Fraternity Council and the Panhellenic Association began adding new chapters.

The Sigma Chi fraternity and Pi Beta Phi sorority came to GW in 2006, followed by Zeta Beta Phi fraternity the following year and Kappa Alpha Order fraternity last January. This fall, chapters of the Chi Omega sorority and the Delta Tau Delta fraternity were added to the list of Greek-letter organizations on campus.

As of this fall, about 21 percent of undergraduate men and 22 percent of undergraduate women are participants in Greek-letter life. After the organizations recruit new members from spring recruitment, these numbers are expected to increase again.

Plans for expansion in the near future include the possible addition of a new multicultural fraternity or sorority.

Chernak said GW would be receptive to further expansion “as long as there’s demand.”

“We’ve never imposed our institutional will on the Greek community,” he said. “We’re really just receivers of recommendations.”

One of the main problems facing this expansion is the limitation of space on campus for new organizations.

Townhouse Row and chapter houses provide a majority of housing for members, but as more chapters are added the University will be faced with the difficulty of finding more space for them, Harwood said.

To combat the expanding housing needs of Greek-letter life, the University assigned all of International House for their use. Last year, only three floors were devoted to Greek-letter members, but now fraternity and sorority members live on all nine floors.

Harwood said the popularity of chapters has little to do with the choice to place them in housing.

He said, “The chapters that continually live up to their values and standards are given housing.”

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