Greek system stresses philanthropy

by Kyle Feldman

Interfraternity Council President Mike Oldenburg has taken on one of the tougher jobs on campus.
In addition to providing leadership to the 20 residential fraternities that his organization represents, Oldenburg carries on his shoulders the burden of dispelling stereotypes about greek life.
Most people’s conception of greeks stems from John Belushi’s appearance in Animal House more than 20 years ago, brandishing his now immortalized “college” shirt and demonstrating an insatiable appetite for debauchery.
“It’s frustrating because the most visible part of greek life is `Frat Row,'” Oldenburg said. “People might come by after Homecoming and see beer cans on the ground and general untidiness.
“What they don’t see,” Oldenburg added, “is all the members of a chapter reading to kids at a local school.”
Philanthropy and community service is just one of the four pillars forming the foundation of each of the 32 residential fraternities and sororities on campus. Each chapter also stresses scholarship, leadership and brother/sisterhood.
About 1,400 University students have become members of greek organizations, many of them choosing to live in the chapter houses lining University Avenue and Fourth Street Southeast in Dinkytown. Each house can hold between 40 and 60 students, and many feature amenities such as cooks, computer labs, study spaces and old test files.
Oldenburg sees living together as an opportunity to strengthen bonds among members.
“For people that don’t come from the cities, the houses often get to be a second home,” he said.
Residential fraternities and sororities often differ most prominently in the interests of their members. There are also greek organizations that serve as professional or honors societies.
The chapters strive to change the perception that they are elitist organizations.
“I’ve never seen a house turn anyone down,” Oldenburg said. “What they might do is refer you to a different house that might better suit you.”
The process for joining a greek organization differs between fraternities and sororities. Oldenburg suggests incoming students look for ads in the Daily early in the school year for information about becoming a member.
Upon joining a fraternity or sorority, members usually undergo an initiation process that involves weekly meetings and learning about the chapter and its history.
For more information on fraternities or sororities on campus, contact the Interfraternity Council or Panhellenic Council at (612) 626-3597.