I have been part of the college scene for over four years here at Western, so it is not unusual to see the Greek men and women across campus wearing their Greek letters all year. I would hear about Greek events. I, as well as many other students, only knew what we had observed. Having never been a member of a Greek organization, I was curious to find out more about this student population at Western. And with Rush Week in full force, it was the perfect time to get some questions answers.
To get the answers, I sought out Luke Vander Pluym, President of Interfraternity Council (IFC). “Being Greek opens up so many doors,” he explained, “You develop that close bond, make lifelong friends, and make great connections. It was the most life-changing thing for me, and I have memories I am very proud of. I would not be who I am today without it.”
As the President of IFC, Vander Pluym takes on many responsibilities within the fraternities. “I serve my constituents. My job is to be [the fraternities’] voice. I’m not just the face for my council, but I reach out to other organizations on campus. I make sure the fraternities stay on task. If they are behaving poorly, I’ll address them. If they do something well, I’ll be there in person applauding them,” he said
Greek life itself has gone through immense changes within the past two years, explained Vander Pluym. “[Fraternities] basically had to follow three rules: no girls, no alcohol, and no hazing; those were our main rules. Recruitment numbers were going down, communities were splitting, and competition between fraternities were skyrocketing,” he said. “Therefore, the [Greek] constitution was re-written. The recruitment system was changed.”
Since new rules were implemented, recruitment numbers have been steadily rising. Greek recruitment has changed in that potential new members register online. From there, his or her grades are sent to the prospective chapters. “We have fraternities reporting that over twenty people are interested in pledging. Online we have a registry for people that are interested in going Greek. We have over 300 people listed,” Vander Pluym said.
Carmen Nunez, a senior business marketing major, is rushing Phi Sigma Sigma. “I was interested in joining a sorority because I wanted to know what all the excitement was always about. I’m always trying to do things that set me apart from my family and home surroundings,” she said. “I’m always looking to have the best college experience, and thought this might be part of that concept.”
Rush Week, which occurred last week, has also changed, Vander Plum explained. “Fraternities are now allowed to self-promote by wearing [Greek letters]. We ask fraternities to send representatives to events such as the Greek fair and the Activities Fair. We’ve been doing a lot more educationals explaining why someone should go Greek before Greek Week begins. It’s only fair to the person to see what fraternities do before they are thrown into it,” he said.
After a student attends a few rush events, a bidding process begins. “We usually interview the individual at some point,” Vander Pluym said, “After bidding, there’s pledge pinning, then after that there is an eight week probationary membership. By Thanksgiving, chapter’s have initiation and that is when you will be formally initiated as an active.”
Nunez gave her firsthand experience what it was like to be a part of the bidding process. “The night of the final bid, I was contacted by multiple members of my top sorority choice. They talked about my worries about joining and reassured me that they would be as open as possible in helping me become part of their sisterhood. That is when I agreed to be a part of Greek life.”
Greek Life offers many positives for a student, but that doesn’t go without tackling some myths about fraternities or sororities. “How we go about dispelling Greek life myths,” Vander Pluym began, “is by having big positives and many successes. Alpha Gamma Rho cooks a hog every year and it brought $15,000 for a charity. For Homecoming, we see overwhelming Greek support. It makes our image go up; it helps dispel myths.”
By being a part of Greek life, Nunez says she wants to be able to look back on her Western days and know she took on many opportunities. “When I leave college, I want to have a sense of accomplishment in knowing I took advantage of all that was possible for me here at WIU.”
Two more fraternities are expected to come to Western’s campus within the next year, said Vander Pluym. Pi Kappa Phi will start up in October, and Beta Chi will organize a chapter next fall. He says these additions are proof that fraternities are adapting to the needs of today’s students. “Fraternities are growing. Some were floundering for a while, and now they are thriving. They are recruiting the genuine members, members that need to be Greek. We don’t have Animal House boys anymore. We had that problem, and we don’t anymore.”
If you are interested in further information about Greek life on Western campus, visit http://www.wiu.edu/student_services/greek_life/index.php.