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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Diverse greek life could be your life

    Kappa Alpha Theta have their official pictures snapped during Bid Day. Bid Day marks the annual selection of the sorority pledge class that will be initiated.
    Kappa Alpha Theta have their official pictures snapped during Bid Day. Bid Day marks the annual selection of the sorority pledge class that will be initiated.

    Many UA freshmen will be faced with one of the most influential decisions of their college career as soon as they arrive on campus: the choice to join the UA’s greek community.

    “”The University of Arizona might be larger than their whole town, so it gives them that extra sense of community,”” said Gary Ballinger, the UA Student Union Memorial Center coordinator for greek life. “”It’s a great opportunity to put down roots.””

    The 3,000-member-strong UA greek community recognizes chapters from 21 sororities and 29 fraternities – national organizations that promote the development of leadership, camaraderie and wellness among young men and women.

    Nearly 1,500 men and women are expected to pack this fall’s Greek Life membership recruitment drive, and many of them will have had no previous intentions of going greek, Ballinger said.

    Jon Burckle moved to Tucson from Los Angeles as a freshman with hardly any interest in ever joining a fraternity.

    But after rushing the Kappa Sigma fraternity for the fun of it, Burckle became immersed in the rites of greek life – his involvement eventually landing him at the top of his chapter.

    “”The last thing I wanted to do was join a fraternity,”” said Burckle, a sociology senior. “”I never thought I would have become president.””

    Greek life is all about connections, according to Burckle.

    “”It’s the unique network that you have – not only within your own fraternity, but throughout the system,”” said Burckle. “”It’s a real icebreaker, especially with girls. You automatically have something in common.””

    Rebecca Gerrick, president of Alpha Epsilon Phi’s UA chapter, was also uninterested in greek life at first, but said she saw recruitment as a chance to find unique acquaintances that she wouldn’t have elsewhere.

    “”I met so many people going through, and it was such a great experience,”” said Gerrick, a psychology senior. “”It’s something you have to try, because you might really be missing out.””

    While both chapter presidents admit that stereotypes exist of the greek community as predominately upper class and white, diversity on the UA campus is changing the face of greek life.

    Several chapters have emerged which are oriented toward multicultural interests, addressing ethnic, religious and sexual-orientation issues.

    “”I think what’s happening in the greek community is just a reflection of the general campus climate as well,”” said Ballinger, regarding the trend toward greek diversity.

    Last year, the UA became home to a chapter of Delta Lambda Phi, a national fraternity that provides a greek experience for gay, bisexual and progressive men, said Dan Churgin, chapter president and microbiology senior.

    “”We’re definitely not mainstream,”” Churgin said. “”We’re a fusion between a cultural niche and the traditional fraternity.””

    Along with the regular social events associated with fraternities – cookouts, playing sports and parties – the chapter has worked with Gay Pride Week and hosted last year’s fundraising drag show.

    To ensure that each chapter strengthens the notion of greek brotherhood, Delta Lambda Phi strongly discourages members from dating each other, Churgin said.

    Straight men are also welcome in the fraternity, and while a few have expressed interest, none have rushed, Churgin said.

    A national lesbian sorority, Gamma Rho Lambda, has expressed interest in a UA chapter and is watching how Churgin’s 16-man chapter progresses, Churgin said.

    “”As our group grows and establishes itself, I think it would be prime time for the girls to get together and start up a group like that,”” Churgin said.

    Regardless of differences, all fraternities and sororities are heavily represented in leadership positions throughout the UA community, including student government and charitable organizations.

    “”We look for men who want to be leaders and that carries over into life outside of the house,”” said Burckle. “”A lot of these guys discover that they like coordinating things.””

    In addition to offering leadership experiences, UA alumni affirm that the social fabric of the greek organization is often key in finding internships during the undergrad years and employment after college, added Ballinger.

    But the benefits of greek life do come at the cost of time and money.

    Fees, which pay for house staff and general upkeep, range from less than $100 per semester into the thousands, according to the Greek Life Web site.

    Many greek organizations also spend time providing community service, although it can be incorporated into their daily routines.

    “”We collected pop-tops from all the cans last year,”” said Burckle. “”We raised a lot of money for an elementary school in Tucson.””

    Most fraternities and sororities hold weekly meetings as well, but greek staffers say that only some of their activities can be mandatory – like lectures on the UA’s strict no-hazing policy – because many members live off-campus or have busy schedules.

    “”You can spend as much time with it as you want,”” Gerrick said. “”We understand that people have tests and jobs and commitments.””

    Burckle, Gerrick and Churgin all agreed that college is the time for new experiences, and they want well-rounded and open-minded individuals to give fall rush a shot.

    “”I just wanted to meet people, and I found a sorority that was perfect for me,”” Gerrick said. “”Don’t worry about everything. If it’s right, it will happen.””

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