Greek populations down across state

by Laura Dillavou

Senior Holly Hanson was a believer.

When she stepped on the Simpson campus four years ago, shebelieved many stereotypes about Greek life. Later she realizedthese stereotypes closed her mind and her faith in what theseorganizations could offer a student.

“I thought the students in Greek life were very cliquey andbasically bought their friends,” Hanson said. “Though they werefriendly, I thought it was fake.”

Hanson was not alone in her opinion. Schools in Iowa such asLuther College in Decorah, Central College in Pella and Coe Collegein Dubuque are experiencing more and more students who come intocollege with a skewed vision of Greek life.

Amy Long, Inter-Greek Council adviser for Luther College, hasbeen battling negative attitudes since she accepted the job fouryears ago.

“I think the campus has [been] changing perceptions of our Greeklife program,” Long said. “Three years ago, we had a really badreputation, but with campus involvement, we are working to changethat. Right now, we have a 16 percent Greek population.”

Campus involvement is not only required for Greeks at someschools, but is also a way for independent students to see thephilanthropic or active side of Greek life.

In addition, most chapters are committed to a non-profitorganization and participate in fund raisers.

“I saw Greeks in medium to high campus involvement,” Hansonsaid. “Now, I realize they were probably around me all along; Ijust didn’t realize it.”

At Coe College, 45 percent of their student body is Greek,according to Tammy Edwards, assistant to the vice president forstudent affairs. This number has always been high, as Greekinvolvement is a major part of campus life.

“Our Greek organizations are getting more and more involved incampus life, and becoming more well-known,” Edwards said.”Different sororities and fraternities sponsor concerts, floor orhall activities or campus activities like a casino night.”

Despite the push for campus involvement, recruiting numberscontinue to dwindle on most college campuses. There are a number ofreasons to explain the low numbers, but as Greek advisersspeculate, much of it has to do with lack of interest and negativestereotypes.

“Currently, we have about a 10 percent Greek population oncampus,” said Lisa Hetzel, director of resident learning at CentralCollege. “I don’t think students are very familiar with the Greeksystem, or they wonder if the images on TV or in the news are whathappens here.”

The dropping numbers at Simpson can be attributed to thepriorities of incoming freshmen. Academics, sports and communityliving are integral parts of the college experience, and somestudents see Greek life taking time away from those things.

At Luther, recruitment takes place during the sophomore year. Achange from the traditional freshman recruitment, this strategyallows students to settle in and become familiar with themselvesand the campus, according to Long.

“The process of recruitment and pledging can be stressful andtime consuming,” Long said. “We want students to have that firstyear experience and then decide what’s right for them. Withpublicity and campus involvement, those students see something theywant to be involved in.”

The recruitment strategies at Simpson have also undergonechanges in the last year. Now recruiting begins one month afterschool. This is the same theory as Luther’s – give students achance to get settled and see Greek life for what it is.

However, in some cases, Greek chapters are the ones thatcontinue the stereotyping.

“We have two underground fraternities and one undergroundsorority at Luther,” Long said. “They tear apart the goodreputation we are trying to build and focus their activities arounddrinking. It is really hard to sway students after they seesomething like that.”

Simpson has maintained a healthy Greek image through responsibleprogramming and advising.

“Sometimes it feels like we [Greeks] have declining enrollment,but I also think that has to do with the negative stereotypes,”Hanson said. “I wish people would appreciate the Greek communitymore. It is a big part of this campus and an even bigger part ofpeople’s lives.”

Jennie Cisar, director of Greek affairs at Simpson, cancelled aninterview for this story with The Simpsonian late last week and wasunavailable for further comment despite several attempts by TheSimpsonian to reschedule the interview.