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WRITERS: MELVIN O. SHAW, MARTI TIEDEMAN
CONTACT: MELVIN O. SHAW
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0010; fax (319) 384-0024
e-mail: melvin-shaw@uiowa.edu

Release: Aug. 16, 1999

Rush participation shows that Greek life is still attractive to some students

IOWA CITY, Iowa--Student grades are up and so is participation in Greek life at the University of Iowa. That combination is slowly softening the perception that Greek members are more interested in late-night parties than academics, says Jason Lettman, president, Interfraternity Council.

Beginning Monday, Aug. 16, some 560 young women and 210 young men will participate in Rush, the seven-day formal event whereby prospective members — new UI freshmen — are introduced to current members of the UI’s recognized 18 sororities and 21 fraternities. Rush Week activities allow prospective members, through a series of visits to chapter houses, to query current ones about what their Greek organization has to offer in the way of scholarship, leadership, service and athletics opportunities. The goal is to help the prospective member find an organization that best jells with his or her interests.

Jason Lettman, president of the Interfraternity Council, the student organization which governs fraternities, says Greek society members reflect the makeup of the UI student body: the typical Greek student wants to achieve academically, is socially skilled and often assumes leadership roles in student groups and activities.

Overall participation in Greek life at the end of the 1998-99 academic year was 2,250. The number of males participating this year is up from 198 last year; 597 women participated in Rush events in 1998.

Lettman believes men’s improving grade point average is an indicator that should help debunk negative perceptions about student participation in Greek life.

In spring 1999, the men’s overall grade point average rose to 2.75; in fall 1998, the overall g.p.a. was 2.6. Lettman says Phi Kappa Psi fraternity improved to an overall 3.02 g.p.a., its highest overall average in 35 years.

"These jumps may seem small, but they show a large community making progress. In addition, students who participate in Greek life remain enrolled at the UI, and more than 47 percent of Greek freshmen go on to graduate," Lettman says.

Adrienne Clark, president, Panhellenic Council, the female counterpart to IFC, says the Greek organizations have quietly been working on Greeks Advocating Mature Management of Alcohol, an initiative started last year that teaches alcohol education and helps organizations develop alternative social programs to alcohol consumption.

The event takes place roughly one month after Rush, and works in tandem with other programs like Freshlook: Greek 101, which outlines for new members, general expectations of the Greek community, information about academics at the UI, and how to be responsible for one’s own actions.

"We want to have a support system so that when new students come here, they don’t think the UI is a free-for-all," but a place to learn, be socially responsible and active, Clark says. Clark says the public’s perceptions do matter, especially when it’s negative.

"We can change that negative perception, especially when we are unfairly chided, by offering programs and amenities like substance-free housing," a no-alcohol policy restriction, which the UI and Greek leaders agreed this week to temporarily relax for members who are at least 21. The policy would have prohibited alcohol possession in chapter houses by Greek members, regardless of age. Clark says the policy was designed to make the chapters more reputable and to make them a good example for other universities.

Mary Ellen Gillespie, assistant director, Office of Student Life, says the UI Greek community is among the smaller of those in the Big Ten but is considered strong in term of leadership, change, and "modeling the way," and that the UI has high expectations of its recognized chapters.