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At the University of Utah, fewer students nowadays are opting to go Greek.

Delta Delta Delta has been told it must increase its 25-person membership or the sorority's governing organization will pull its charter April 30, although the sorority is appealing the closure decision.

And campuswide, membership numbers are grim.

The number of students participating in fraternities and sororities has declined 36 percent from 970 in 2000 (448 for women; 522 for men), to 625 this year (352 women; 273 men).

A similar trend is evident at other Utah schools and nationwide.

Membership at Utah State University has declined 19 percent to 237 this year compared with five years ago. At Weber State University, declining membership in the past two years has reduced the number of fraternities and sororities on campus from six to four.

Nationwide, colleges reported a 34 percent decline from 1997 to 2000 in sorority members and a 31 percent decline in fraternity members, according to the Center for the Study of College Fraternity in Bloomington, Ind.

Officials cite a number of contributing factors.

Significantly, participation in civic organizations of all types is declining due to changes in work, family structure, suburban life and technology, says Robert Putnam, a Harvard University professor and author of the book, Bowling Alone.

At the U. specifically, some also argue cost is a cause. Fraternity and sorority members often are expected to spend as much as $1,000 during the semester in which they pledge and $400 to $600 for every following semester.

Others say U. Greeks are losing members to campus fraternities and sororities operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The LDS Institute near the U. has at least 13 chapters under its Sigma Gamma Chi fraternity. There are approximately 17 under the Lambda Delta Sigma sorority.

The number of members in those chapters was unavailable, but Rusty Cannon, a Sigma Chi adviser, said the LDS Student Association (LDSSA) "severely hurts [Greek] recruitment efforts" among LDS students. U. Greeks are required to announce their rush week - the week focused on adding members. LDSSA faces no such requirement and has scheduled its recruitment well ahead of the Greeks.

"We see many people who we would love to have join our house go to LDSSA before we can introduce them to what we have to offer," Cannon said, adding that more than 60 percent of Sigma Chi members are LDS.

But Taylor Morgan, a member of both Sigma Chi and an LDS fraternity, said LDS fraternity membership is growing due to better marketing and lower dues.

As a Sigma Chi member, Morgan pays about $475 per semester in dues. For his membership in the LDS fraternity, he pays $50 per year.

"It's expensive to join the Greeks," said the 26-year-old political science major.

Sagging membership isn't the only challenge facing the U.'s Greek system. Hazing incidents, alcohol abuse and complaints from neighbors also are factors.

In January, Phi Delta Theta fraternity lost its charter following a hazing incident involving a new recruit. In 2002, Kappa Sigma fraternity members were forced out of their house after a keg party resulted in 54 alcohol violations, including 40 underage drinking citations.

After a three-year absence, Kappa Sigma is back with all new members, according to Misha Neve , an executive assistant in the U. Greek Council office, which oversees fraternities and sororities. The fraternity is in the start-up, or colony, stage and has 18 members, she said.

The new Kappa Sigma colony is getting off to a good start, said Kevin Madsen, recruitment manager for the fraternity. Some of the recruitment efforts have not "yielded staggering results, but the group is a firm believer in the fact that every quality man counts," he said.

Still, headlines about sophomoric pranks and rowdy keg parties have left a stain on Greeks, especially fraternities. People often remember the headlines and unsavory fraternity behavior depicted in the 1978 movie "Animal House," starring the late John Belushi.

"It's a hurtful stereotype that continues to persist," said Kappa Sigma President Shelton Baumgartner. "Fraternities are not what people see in the movies. There are lots of good things we do that don't get media attention."

That's the message Greek leaders and U. administrators want to get out.

Although only a small subset of the U.'s 29,000 student population, Greeks bring a learning and social community to what is largely a commuter campus, said Barbara Snyder, a U. vice president.

U. student body president Ali Hasnain estimates that 30 to 40 percent of elected and appointed U. student office holders are Greek members.

Falling numbers for Greeks translates into fewer students participating in student government, said Hasnain, who also is president of 29-member Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.

"We have an obligation to support [sororities and fraternities] and help them grow," Snyder said.

36: The percentage drop in Greek membership at the U. since 2000.

Chapters and Membership,

Spring 2006


Alpha Chi Omega (57)

Chi Omega (79)

Delta Delta Delta (25)

Delta Gamma (62)

Kappa Kappa Gamma (61)

Pi Beta Phi (68)

Theta Nu Xi (multicultural; 4)

Sorority Total 352


Alpha Tau Omega (29)

Beta Theta Pi (40)

Kappa Sigma (colony; 18)

Pi Kappa Alpha (46)

Sigma Chi (78)

Sigma Nu (24)

Sigma Phi Epsilon (23)

Tau Kappa Epsilon (colony; 14)

Fraternity Total 273