Greek letter sororities, frats making steady, quiet comeback on campus

The Greeks. They seem to be making a comeback on the UND campus. Quietly. It's different from past decades, when rush week was a big hullabaloo with women students reporting in a week early for rush or "membership selection" at the sororities. Di...

The Greeks. They seem to be making a comeback on the UND campus. Quietly. It's different from past decades, when rush week was a big hullabaloo with women students reporting in a week early for rush or "membership selection" at the sororities. Different, too, from the times fraternities were pictured as wild scenes where hazing and alcohol were the norm.

Cassie Gerhardt, who is adviser for UND student activities, doesn't call it rush week. She calls it recruitment, and she reports the six sororities on campus now have 426 members and the 13 fraternities have 508 members. That means that about 10 percent of undergraduate students are members of the Greek fraternities and sororities.

Delta Tau Delta celebrated its 75th year on campus this fall. Next year, both Alpha Phi and Kappa Alpha Theta sororities will mark their 100th year at UND.

The roots run deep. The loyalty runs strong. The tradition at UND dates back to 1902 when 10 young men on the campus of the "University of the Northern Plains" came together with a common bond -- their girlfriends rejected them. They became the Bachelors Club and vowed they were bachelors forever. But their club dissolved in 1913 when it became one of the chapters of the national Phi Delta Theta fraternity. The first Greek letter fraternity on campus was Sigma Chi in 1909. It grew out of the Bungalow Club.

Greek houses are a home away from home for members. They focus on scholarship, friendship. Most have philanthropic projects through which the Greeks give back to communities. The Alpha Phis support heart projects. Delta Tau Delta supports the national movement for blood donors. The causes are numerous as the Greeks step forward.


Lifelong members of the Greek fraternity system often say that their life in a sorority or fraternity helped them to bond in a family of friends that has lasted a lifetime. It has been said that when the administration needs something done, they turn to the Greeks -- although there are many campus organizations that devote their efforts to service projects around Grand Forks and on the national level.

There was a downturn in recent decades when the Greek membership kept slipping. In the past few years, the trend seems to be turning and membership is moving up. Gerhardt said the increase is better than it has been for 14 or 15 years. She speculates it might be that Greeks of the 1980s now have offspring joining fraternities and sororities.

For one thing, the fraternities are moving away from the image of alcohol. No alcohol is allowed at parties where they are recruiting new members. For another thing, the image of hazing during initiation is becoming a thing of the past. Information from UND to prospective students is clear on the prohibition of any discomfort or demeaning acts and asks that any violations be reported to the administration.

Bethany Martindale, a senior from Fargo, said she was looking for a home away from home when she went through recruitment. She visited several sorority houses.

"I dropped the houses where I didn't feel I would fit in," she said. She made more visits and felt at home in the Kappa Alpha Theta house on University Avenue. She said it was easy for her to make her first choice, and she was happy to be accepted. She recommends every member should have the experience of living in the house -- even though life with 44 young women can get a bit hectic.

She loves the times when the Thetas occasionally share their triumphs by sitting in a circle at the end of day and passing a candle. She appreciates the quiet hours that are enforced during finals and the fact that her sorority sisters might be able to give her tips on studying for exams. Martindale is a junior majoring in political science with plans to go on to law school.

The sororities and fraternities have a formal dinner Monday night before their weekly chapter meetings. This is a time when they dress up. In this day and age, that means no jeans, no flip flops or tennis shoes. Occasionally, there are talks on etiquette by Greek alums from Grand Forks. Mae Marie Blackmore, a Pi Beta Phi alumna, has given pointers on table manners.

Chapters that do well on campus often have strong support from alums. Tom Hanson, an engineer with Webster, Foster and Weston, helped out for more than 25 years at Delta Tau Delta. He was an active member while he was a student. He said the fraternity helps develop leaders. After all, they are running a small business with their houses and membership.


Don Piper, a professor emeritus of education, had no interest as a student in joining a fraternity. He hesitated to accept an invitation from the fraternity to be an adviser -- until he and his wife attended a scholarship dinner. There he was amazed to find out the majority of the members had grade point averages above 3.0. And the fraternity requires a 2.7 or better average.

Eunice Greicar has been housemother for the Alpha Phi sorority for 24 years and treasures her involvement with young people. She has private quarters in the sorority house on University Avenue. But she eats with the members and makes sure there is cereal and juice ready for them in the morning. Most of the Greek houses have a house board, usually alums, who work with the finances. And the cost of living in the houses is generally comparable to that of living in university housing. However, the Greeks do pay annual dues to the local and national organizations. Kathy Asche and Barb Hinnenkamp are on the house board for Alpha Phi. Then, there are other advisers who visit the chapter and help with social events.

Now entrenched as house mother, Greicar remembers when sororities were far too expensive for the average student and seemed to have an elitist reputation. She finds that impression is long gone. She notices the members seem to have friends forever. She said she can see there is always someone around to help another. "They share the good and the bad news. It's a real tight bond."

Reach Hagerty at or (701) 772-1055.

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