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The way of the Greeks

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It’s no secret that the Greek way of life is hardly a mainstay of UM’s college scene. Evidence of that fact planted itself in the front yard of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity house on University Avenue recently, in the form of a for-sale sign.

According to Robert Biggs, vice president of Phi Delta Theta International, low enrollment and financial uncertainty plagued UM’s chapter for years. “We instituted a temporary close in May, 2002. We made an effort to recolonize…with a new group of students, but our efforts were unsuccessful,” he said.

UM student participation in the fraternity/sorority system is abysmal. A Dec. 8, 2004, memo to University President George Dennison from Bernd Schulte, spokesman for the Greek Alumni Task Force—a group assisting the University in increasing student Greek numbers—stated that only 285 students are currently members, a single-digit percentage way down from the 25 to 30 percent participation of the 1950s and ’60s.

In a reply memo dated Feb. 10, 2005, President Dennison stated that UM wants a revitalized Greek system. “[T]he administration and faculty of The University of Montana share your commitment to revitalize and thereby rebuild the Greek System. We know that a strong Greek System enriches the educational experience of all students,” he said.

Makes sense. The University has a vested interest in taking care of those who take care of them. “The Greek Alumni are very generous with their time and money,” said Bill Johnston, UM alumni association director. “It appears they give at a higher rate than their non-Greek counterparts. I cannot speak to an amount, but it is significant.”

Dennison’s promises to Greek alumni include increased marketing and scheduled time during orientation “that exposes freshmen…to critical information about the option of ‘going Greek.’”

Bill Wyckman, UM Phi Delta Theta alum and the Lambros agent selling the property, doesn’t think the University Avenue neighborhood is particularly sad about the closure. “No one’s called me and said, ‘Gee I’m glad you’re selling it,’ but I know they’re saying it. Used to be that sororities and fraternities were good neighbors. That’s just not the case now.”

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