Greek life, enrollment increase pave way for change

Kara McIntyre

Economic developmentEnrollment | Budget | Nursing | Housing | International enrollment | Crime | Greek life

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Members of Chi Omega take a picture with the winning team, Fab 5, of the Swishes for Wishes basketball tournament championship game.
Members of Chi Omega take a picture with the winning team, Fab 5, of the Swishes for Wishes basketball tournament championship game.

In the 1960’s, Pinto and Flounder, characters from the movie animal house epitomized what it meant to be a fraternity man: drinking beer, hazing pledges, hooking up with handfuls of girls, and stealing the answers to upcoming tests. College deans, like Vernon Wormer, dean from animal house for example, wanted Greeks removed from campuses across the nation due to poor conduct and low grade point averages.

Gamma Tau chapter of Sigma Kappa sorority and Theta-Gamma chapter of Kappa Sigma fraternity were the first Greek organizations on campus, followed by three more Panhellenic sororities and five more Interfraternity Council fraternities. Today, seven percent of undergraduates are Greek.

Since Kevin Bazner, assistant director of student development and orientation, was hired in Jan 2010, MSU has seen an increase in the number of students participating in the Greek community.

“We’ve seen growth that is a little ahead of what we’re seeing in regards to an increase in enrollment. I think a lot of that has to do with us as an institution recruiting more first time, full-time students and also to more students that Midwestern is their first four-year experience,” Bazner said. “The likelihood of those students actually participating in a fraternity or sorority chapter or organization goes up.”

Student enrollment increased by 169 students this fall,something he said was related to the increase in involvement

“Recruitment is heavily dependent on enrollment numbers,” Bazner said. “As long as admissions and enrollment numbers increase, particularly in the realm of first-time, full-time students or the traditional age students, the likelihood of seeing increased chapter sizes will continue to go up.”

This fall, the number of first-time, full-time students at MSU was 794 students.

Bazner said the sororities have reached maximum member capacities for their chapter room fire codes, leading to the inability for them to use their rooms in Fain Hall for full meetings.

“There were some recommendations that came out of the study we did regarding Greek housing for different locations and things of that nature,” Bazner said, “But moving forward as an institution, we are certainly looking at organizational space, renovating existing space, or looking at what can be done with new space that may come online.”

This led to talk of replacing Fain Hall, the campus building where Greek members hold their meetings and activities.

“The study came back with an overwhelming response of ‘We need meeting space,’ not so much on the bed space side,” Bazner said. “It was more of ‘We need space to hold meetings and hold functions of our organization.’”

Anne McGaha, Chi Omega’s forms and recreation adviser and MSU graduate student, has been involved in Greek life for more than 15 years.

“Greek housing would help us exponentially because when people come to visit campus, they’ll see those houses and say ‘I want to join that,’” McGaha said. “Midwestern State has so much to offer, but there’s a hole, and we’re trying to fill that hole.”

Not having enough space for the four sororities limits the opportunities to add additional chapters on campus. The current sororities would have to approve an extension. The 26 national sororities could then investigate whether or not they have alumni that would support the chapter and decide if they want to open a chapter.

spence“Last year, we voted down the opportunity for extension,” Chi Omega’s personnel adviser, Joellen Tritton, said, “There’s not any place for us now, and we desperately need a change. None of the sororities can hold meetings in our chapter rooms anymore because of our growth, which is not a bad problem to have.”

The fraternities used to have houses off campus, but there were lots of problems with that, according to Tritton. Senior administrators encouraged them not to keep those houses, so now all of the Greeks have to find spaces on campus for chapter meetings.

“The number of spaces that can be used by student organizations outside of the classroom space is limited, so we also want to be mindful of what rooms can be reserved for organizations to take advantage of meeting space and function space for different events,” Bazner said. “All of those things need to be considered for the overall health of both the fraternity and sorority communities and the other student organizations.”

Bazner said the possibilities for this kind of change regarding Greek housing are technically endless. From the institution’s perspective, it is just a question of financing.

“Greek housing creates more of a sense of community within an individual chapter or within a fraternity or sorority community in general, which can lead to increased production and increased visibility,” Bazner said. “It comes down to ‘Who bears the cost and at what amount?’ But nothing is really on the table for sure; anything is possible.”

After 20 years of watching Greek life at MSU grow into what it is today, Tritton smiled and clapped her hands together when she explained why it is important to student life.

“It’s especially important on MSU’s campus to have a group of friends you can be associated with and be proud to be associated with,” Tritton said. “The Greeks portray something that other young men and women would like to emulate and makes them interested in having that group of friends.”