F raternities and sororities at the University of Colorado are booming.
Five years after the Greek system at CU took a hit following the alcohol-poisoning death of a freshman fraternity pledge, nearly 2,000 men and women turned out for fall rush earlier this month.
A record 976 women participated in fall recruitment activities for CU’s nine sororities, said Courtney Krebs, a CU senior and the Panhellenic membership recruitment coordinator. Of those, 700 accepted bids to join a house, bringing the total number of sorority sisters at CU to 1,833, she said.
Last fall, there were about 1,200 CU women in sororities, Krebs said.
“It’s the biggest, most successful recruitment the University of Colorado has ever had,” she said.
Membership in fraternities is also on the rise. About 940 men attended at least one fall rush activity, said Marc Stine, a Greek advocate who works for the 14 off-campus fraternities. At the end of rush week, 338 men were invited to join a fraternity; another 360 did not receive an invitation, he said. That’s 300 more than last year, when 60 potential pledges were turned away, Stine said.
Today, there are 1,184 fraternity brothers in Boulder, a number that will likely increase this week because potential pledges have until Saturday to decide whether to accept the fraternities’ invitations, Stine said. That’s up from 2006 — the first year for which Stine has data — when there were 903.
“There are people who say fraternities are passe, they’re old-fashioned,” said Stine, who works for the Interfraternity Council. “The fact is, we’re growing. And we turned away more guys without bids this year than the number of guys who received bids totally in the fall of 2006.”
The Interfraternity Council is not affiliated with CU because it rejected a series of reforms — including a delayed spring-semester rush — in 2005. CU’s sororities agreed to the reforms and retained their affiliation, but they were allowed to hold fall recruitment again starting last year, after their numbers declined.
Greek leaders partly attributed this year’s success to the fact that the fraternities and sororities recruited during the same week in early October. Last year, the fall rushes didn’t overlap, they said.
“(The Panhellenic Association) has been working really closely with the IFC and we decided to have recruitments during the same week so that it created a really big buzz in the dorms and across campus,” said Becca Levin, a CU senior and recruitment counselor coordinator for the sororities.
Scott Greenwood, a CU senior and president of Kappa Sigma, put it more plainly: “When all the girls go, a lot of the time, the guys will follow.”
Patrick Shortall, president of Sigma Phi Epsilon, said hundreds more men filtered through his fraternity’s house during the two open-house nights of rush week this year.
“It was literally just like waves,” said Shortall, a CU junior. “There were so many people in our house having food and watching football that it was exhilarating. .. I was beyond excited.”
He said it was a challenge to interview so many potential recruits — a problem he’s happy to have. When brothers asked potential recruits why they wanted to join, many said they were looking for a group that shared their values and provided camaraderie, not because they like to party, Shortall said.
“The brothers were just beyond impressed with our new class,” he said. “A lot of us joke that had we been in this class, we wouldn’t have gotten in. They’re the coolest kids we’ve ever had.”
To meet the growing demand for spots in fraternities, the Interfraternity Council hopes to add a new fraternity every semester for the next two years, Stine said.
Phi Gamma Delta, which closed its CU chapter in 2005 due to alcohol-related violations, is in the process of reestablishing it now.
Representatives from Phi Gamma Delta, also known as “Fiji,” started recruiting “founding fathers” last week, a process that’s expected to take six weeks, according to fraternity officials. Fiji has been given a list of the 360 men who didn’t receive invitations from fraternities this fall, Stine said.
Phi Gamma Delta was one of several fraternities to close down following the drinking death of Lynn Gordon “Gordie” Bailey Jr. Bailey’s own Chi Psi house closed, as did Tau Kappa Epsilon and Phi Kappa Tau. None of the others have returned.