Fraternities look to rebound in numbers

McDaniel College Greek organizations pose for a photo outside Hoover Library during Greek Week 2016. Photo courtesy McDaniel College Office of Student Engagement.

The tolling of bells atop Big Baker Chapel rings in a new semester on the Hill. From the steeple, vehicles appear to be miniature toy cars cruising in and out of campus as hundreds of feet shuffle into McDaniel’s various residential buildings. As the alma mater chimes above, students return for the spring semester with opportunities available in study, athletics, art, and for some, brotherhood.

Along with academic studies, the spring semester beckons back formal recruitment for both fraternities and sororities. As formal recruitment approaches, Greek organizations look to draw in new recruits to the brotherhoods that McDaniel offers. Tallying at seven total social fraternities, the choice to commit to one brotherhood is a decision some have turned away from.

Highlighted in an article published last spring, Greek life at McDaniel experienced a decline in interest among incoming students, as over 50 percent of Greek life was upperclassmen. With low numbers across Greek life, a fear of a void being created was in the works.

However, fraternities on campus feel secure in interest returning in part due to McDaniel welcoming the second biggest class in school history with the class of 2021.

“It’s a really big class this year and we did a really good job recruiting,” Phi Delta Theta recruiter Frankie Kratovil said.

The incoming class arrived with a staggering total of 452 students. Since move-in day in August, incoming freshman have been involved with other organizations on campus as well.

With numbers spread across various clubs and organizations, one towering outlier of freshman involvement stands in athletics.  No matter the sport, freshman involvement dominates in athletics in comparison to other on-campus organizations and has led some down a path to Greek life.

“It is interesting to see more athletes coming in and I think that correlates with the amount of people who join Greek life,” Will Giles of Alpha Sigma Phi said. “It is like a pipeline that funnels into [Greek life].”

For those who are involved with any organization on campus, a GPA requirement is upheld: GPAs must be kept over 2.0 – 2.5 depending on the organization. For Greek life, the GPA stretches to 2.5. The enforced GPA requirements pose issues for some to go Greek. In addition, other policies limit interested students to take the pledge going Greek.

“Our school makes it hard for Greek life to function on campus,” Kratovil said. “There is a strict GPA requirement and freshman aren’t permitted to join until the spring.”

Deferred recruitment may be an obstacle for Greek organizations, but the decision for incoming students to defer from fraternities until the spring semester has been implemented at McDaniel for quite some time. The policy is in effect with McDaniel students’ best interest as the first priority.

“A lot of it is making sure that students aren’t overcommitting and get to know the institution more to make an informed decision on if fraternities are right for [them],” Assistant Director of the Office of Student Engagement, Paige Cook, said.

Despite McDaniel’s policy, there is an evident interest in helping those who wish to go Greek from an academic viewpoint.

“We reach out to interested guys and say, ‘If you need help you can come do scholarship hours and we will help you study,” Sigma Alpha Epsilon recruitment chairman, Wade Bishop, said.

Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of fraternity life is brotherhood that stretches beyond borders. While in Europe together, Giles and Bishop crossed paths by chance with students from fellow Centennial Conference school, Gettysburg College.

“One of the guys zipped down his jacket and showed us his SAE letters,” Giles said.

Whether abroad or on the local campus, McDaniel’s Greek life has established a welcoming culture in which coexistence among organizations is of little issue in comparison to feuds that are active on other campuses.

Those who pledge into brotherhood at McDaniel are given what is expected. To commit to an organization offers common themes of friendship and support in a way unique to fraternity life.

“I did not want it to be something that I was paying for friends,” Giles said. “I wanted that group that I could always go to no matter what.”