After several years of controversy surrounding multiple fraternities, Greek Life participation as a whole has decreased at the UofM. Some students who participate attribute the decline to the controversy and increased regulations brought on by the university.
Alpha Tau Omega (ATO), Pi Kappa Alpha (Pike), and Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) were all punished by the university and their national boards for violations including hazing, possession of alcohol, dangerous conduct and other breaches of student conduct rules.
After the series of suspensions, the UofM implemented an education plan that requires all active members and potential new members of fraternities to attend seminars for hazing and sexual assault.
The university changed the way students go through rush week. In the past, each fraternity would hold their own “informal cookouts” where potential members could go to the fraternity’s house to meet the brothers, play games and relax. The UofM has now implemented a formal rush that takes place in the University Center. This system gives potential new members limited time to spend with the members of each fraternity in a closed-off room.
Conner Earnest, a member of Lambda Chi Alpha, said the new system has pros and cons.
“Cookouts were a lot better because there was more to do and it was just a more relaxed environment, but the new way is better for our fraternity because when we only had cookouts, some people did not want to come to our house since it was smaller than most other fraternities. Formal recruitment allowed new members to talk to us and get to know our brothers before they judged us on our house.”
The formal rush system is too new to have data regarding if it brings in more or fewer interested students compared to the old informal rush.
Along with the new rush system and seminars, the university has implemented stricter rules on parties and the appearance of school-owned fraternity houses.
The sororities at UofM have not gone unscathed either. While the recruitment system for them has not changed, they have been affected by the university’s stricter rules. Much like the fraternities, their members are expected to attend seminars regarding hazing and other issues.
Memphis began requiring all fraternities and sororities to make guest lists to all their parties and events that included student ID numbers and license numbers for non-students. This makes events harder for students to attend, especially those not affiliated with a chapter.
Emily Wheeler, a recent graduate and member of Kappa Delta, said she believes Greek life at the UofM has declined more with sororities.
“I think it has slightly decreased in the last few years,” Wheeler said. “I think it has decreased more with sororities than fraternities.”
Wheeler stated that a negative connotation had been attached to Greek life at UofM due to recent events. She also said she thinks it’s affecting the opinions of girls who might be considering going Greek more than it affects boys.
Kirt Jenkins, a Lambda Chi Alpha alumnus, said he would not be surprised if Greek life is gone from Memphis within the next decade. He said that people at UofM do not care about Greek life as they do at other major state schools and that the system was in decline even before fraternities started getting kicked off-campus.
“I think that the idea of fraternities and sororities isn’t what it used to be,” Jenkins said. “You don’t hear about all the good they do, you just hear about the parties, rapes and hazing. Younger generations don’t want to be a part of that.”
Jenkins said that Greek life at UofM does not have much of an impact on campus and even the people in charge do not support the system and the numbers show that.
According to coordinators, the number of active students in Greek life at UofM rose from 1,325 in 2016 to 1,530 in 2017, but after 2017 that number fell by 425. As of 2018, there are still about 1,105 active students, which is a little less than 5 percent of the school. Whereas, about 21 percent of students at the University of Tennessee are Greek life affiliated.
Earnest said that he feels Greek life at UofM has just changed or evolved.
“I think they have done a great job with adapting to the new environment and that it will keep rising in the future,” Earnest said.