B oulder fraternity members and advocates said that their relationship with the University of Colorado is improving, nearly seven years after the death of a new recruit.
CU severed ties with the fraternities after freshman Lynn "Gordie" Bailey Jr. died of alcohol poisoning during a hazing ritual while pledging for Chi Psi fraternity in 2004.
Marc Stine, Interfraternity Council's (IFC) Greek advocate, said the split forced members to take responsibility for their chapters and begin taking steps toward repairing the community's faith in the Greek system.
This year, the fraternities were invited by the university to help with dorm move-in, for the first time since 2004, Stine said. About 140 men helped move freshmen into the dorms in August, a monumental step toward restoring trust, he said.
"I think this might be a transitional year in bringing together all parties and creating agreements that are more community-based and collaborative," Stine said.
In 2005, CU offered to reconnect with fraternities if they signed an agreement that included omitting fall rush. The fraternities declined and have since increased their membership to an all-time high, Stine said.
Fall rush begins Sunday and Stine said he anticipates a record year for new recruits based on early registration numbers.
Recruitment registration is up 34 percent over last year with more than 600 students expected to rush, Stine said. About 140 additional students have already pledged with a chapter. The IFC is expecting between 450 and 500 recruits to join a fraternity by the end of rush next week, he said.
Among the fraternities seeking new members are the men of Phi Kappa Tau, who are hosting their first fall rush since shuttering for bad behavior in 2005.
The fraternity's six members are excited for their first official rush as they look for quality men to help rebuild the new chapter, said Donovan Gibbons, Phi Kappa Tau president.
"I never thought I was a fraternity man," Gibbons said. "But this is a chance for freshmen to get in early and help shape the chapter to be what they want."
The six members are all new to the fraternity and hoping for a fresh start.
"Between the incidents in 2005 and movies like 'National Lampoons' and 'Animal House,' people think that's what fraternities are about," Gibbons said. "But we are looking for quality men who share our values."
Stine said while all of the chapters remain focused on restoring their relationship with CU, their goal is not necessarily to become reaffiliated.
"I don't foresee a time in the near future when we will ever go back and do it the way we did it before," Stine said. "We've moved beyond that and found other ways to work together."
Gibbons agreed that building community with CU was a priority, but said that may not include formally reconnecting with the school.
Carlos Garcia, director of the University Memorial Center and IFC liaison, said the good feelings are mutual.
"The university is pleased with the progress the IFC has made in holding the chapters accountable when issues arise -- and they do arise -- but the IFC has been quick to respond," Garcia said.
There is no talk of reassociation at this point, but if the fraternities continue to progress CU is "open to the discussion," Garcia said.
"I think it could be mutually beneficial for the two of us to be associated again but I'm not sure when that would happen," Garcia said.