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Greek life membership drops for first time since 2010 due to fraternity suspensions

Ohio State fraternities on 15th Ave. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Managing Editor for Design

Total membership numbers for the Greek community at Ohio State dropped for the first time since 2010 due to the suspension of four fraternities.

According to data provided by the Office of Student Life, the membership for Greek life decreased from 4,644 in 2017 to 4,371 in 2018.

The numbers are from the fall semester of each year since being under the deferred joining system, which only includes social Greek letter organizations, Dave Isaacs, spokesman for the Office of Student Life, said.

Isaacs said the decrease is due to the fact that at the time the 2018 numbers were compiled, four large fraternities had been suspended: Alpha Epsilon Pi, Phi Kappa Psi, Sigma Alpha Mu and Tau Kappa Epsilon.

Alpha Epsilon Pi and Sigma Alpha Mu were suspended in May until 2023 after violating the Alcohol, Hazing and Endangering Behavior and Failure to Comply with Earlier Sanctions sections of the Code of Student Conduct. Phi Kappa Psi was suspended in June until 2022 for violating the Hazing and Endangering Behavior sections. Tau Kappa Epsilon was suspended in January 2018 for three years after an investigation found them guilty of hazing, endangering behavior and improperly using alcohol.

Jake Severyn, president of the Interfraternity Council and member of Phi Kappa Tau at Ohio State, said the drop in total Greek life membership is just a momentary change in the numbers, and that their recruitment projections for 2019 are expected to be on par with what they have seen in previous years.

“We feel there is still that desire to join Greek life,” Severyn said. “While the total may have shifted a little bit, I don’t think [the suspensions] impacted our recruitment.”

From 2010 to 2017, the membership numbers representing all social Greek letter organizations showed an increase every year. The largest jump in membership occurred from 2015 to 2016, increasing from 4,173 to 4,623, with the smallest occurring the years following with 21 more people involved in 2017.

In terms of recruitment and increasing membership, Severyn said IFC tries to go out and talk to students about what the Greek life experience is about for those who might have never interacted with the Greek community before or are a first-generation college student.

“Greek life is about something bigger than yourself,” Severyn said. “I think the biggest part IFC has in all of that is helping communicating that to students.”

With the recent suspensions, Severyn said IFC has worked with on-campus organizations to come up with ways to advocate for safe practices in the fraternity community.

“When I look back on that suspension period, that really was a moment for us to realize what are some of the things that are happening in our community and how can we address them,” Severyn said. “It was a learning experience, and it really put into perspective what needs to change in our community.”

Severyn said that the community is looking to address the issues that have risen in the community, but it starts with understanding what they are.

“Obviously, what happened with the student conduct decisions, those are final,” Severyn said. “But we can’t just stop there. We can’t just say, ‘Oh, if this happens again, conduct will handle it, judicial will handle it,’ because as Greek men and women, that’s not who we are. We really want to be better for ourselves and for our campus community.”

Panhellenic recruitment numbers dropped for the first time in nine years in 2018 for formal spring recruitment, decreasing from 1,432 to 1,278 who registered. The numbers from 2018 to 2019 showed steady recruitment, with the numbers only changing from 1,278 to 1,277.

Maddie Entine, vice president of recruitment and retention for the Panhellenic Association
at Ohio State, said that in recent years they have seen steady numbers, and although there has been some sway in numbers nationally, Ohio State has seen an increase.

“During that time, we did lose four IFC groups, and that’s kind of [because] PHC and IFC are not coordinated but do have a group presence, so when one council is affected, it can affect other councils.”

Fraternities do not have the same registration system that sororities do, so there are not separate numbers available for them, Isaacs said.

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