School year sees fewest number of new greeks in 7 years

However, community leaders are optimistic for growth.

Though the 2008-09 academic year has so far seen the fewest new members joining University of Minnesota fraternities and sororities in seven years, leaders in the greek community are not concerned. According to data maintained by the Panhellenic and Interfraternity councils, 564 students have joined greek organizations this academic year âÄî a 9 percent decrease from last year. Of that, 321 students have joined fraternities, down 24 from last year, and 243 joined sororities, down 43 from last year. However, sororities have a cap of 75, meaning recruitment numbers could be affected as houses become full. Fraternities do not have caps. However, Interfraternity Council President Chris Hodge said itâÄôs normal for member numbers to fluctuate. âÄúNumbers tend to go up and down,âÄù Hodge said. âÄúIFCâÄôs spring classes this spring are higher this year than they were last year.âÄù New memberships have significantly increased since the late 1990s and early 2000s. In the 1999-2000 school year, there were 477 new members. Both Panhellenic Council President Sarah Shook and Interfraternity Council President Hodge say that revamped and expanded public relations campaigns, participation at Welcome Week and an increased presence on campus have kept new memberships relatively stable. âÄúOverall weâÄôd like our numbers to get back to pre-90s,âÄù Hodge said. âÄúI think 2,000 [members] is an exceptional goal, at least more than the 4 percent [of the student body that] we have right now.âÄù There are currently 1,585 students in greek organizations on campus. When Chad Ellsworth, coordinator for the Office for Fraternity and Sorority Life, started in 2004, he said the University had one of the smallest greek communities in the Big Ten . âÄúBeing one of the biggest schools in the country,âÄù Ellsworth said, âÄúwe had a tremendous opportunity for growth and we have been able to capitalize on that.âÄù The IFC had its first-ever house tours during recruitment this year, something that helps possible new members learn more about the houses they are considering joining. Hodge said the IFC was considering continuing the tours for next yearâÄôs recruitment because he said he believes it contributed to success this year. Sororities have a more formal recruitment process, which has included house tours for many years. âÄúThis [coming] year is a really re-vamped recruitment process, and we are excited for that,âÄù Jake Schwartz, IFC vice president of public relations, said. During formal recruitment, houses are allowed to go over capacity. However, houses at or above capacity after fall recruitment are not allowed to participate in the less formal spring recruitment. Because of this, Shook said the Panhellenic Council was considering raising the cap. National headquarters for the sororities on campus set the cap, and would have to agree to raise it before changes are made on campus. âÄúWhat we have heard from nationals is that they would want to see more of a trend,âÄù Shook said. âÄúThey want to make sure that we can sustain that before we raise it.âÄù