After 60 years, Greek life only plans to keep growing
When Bob Planck set foot on campus in 1966, he was one of the few hundred students living on campus. He was away from home and, just like in high school, wanted to be active at the University, so he joined a fraternity.
The fraternity he joined, however, gave him a bad experience.
“I voluntarily left the group,” Planck said. “They just didn’t have the same values I had.”
And while that fraternity is no longer at UH, he said having that bad experience allowed his time in Tau Kappa Epsilon, a chapter that helped UH charter, to be full and rich.
“It was an idealistic time because in the mid-60s, we thought we’d change the world for the better,” Planck said.
That was 50 years ago. Greek life celebrates its 60th anniversary this month and the fraternities and sororities on campus are just going to keep on growing, Center for Fraternity and Sorority Life Director Jason Bergeron said.
“I have about a six-and-a-half year history of being here at the University, and we’re about 50 percent larger now than we were six years ago, as far as the amount of people,” Bergeron said. “The University is obviously growing in student population, but we’re growing at a rate that is more steep, which is great.”
Infrastructure growth and additional access to members and programs are a few reasons why Greek life has increased so much, Bergeron said.
“Fraternities and sororities typically understand pride and tradition in really fascinating ways,” Bergeron said. “Having a fraternity and sorority community on campus helps us to really wrap our heads around what it means to be prideful, what it means to have spirit, what it means to get behind something and be passionate about it.”
Chi Omega alumna Cathy Frank wasn’t sure if Greek life was right for her when she started at UH in 1976. But after joining the Cougar Dolls and meeting two Chi Omegas who served as her mentors, Frank rushed through that sorority.
“Through Chi Omega, I not only met good friends from colleges, but have made good friends through the alumni association with other women in chapters, whom I would’ve never met otherwise,” Frank said.
The strides UH has made as a University have spurred Greek life’s growth since she was an undergraduate here, Frank said.
“The better UH does academically, athletically, it does nothing but help Greek life,” Frank said. “It’s seems that many people now are looking at UH as their four-year home. When I was in school, most of the sororities had between 35 and 45 members. For us to practically double, that’s an incredible statistic, and we’re very proud of that.”
CFSL is currently in conversations with a number of groups to keep on establishing chapters at UH, Bergeron said.
“We really want groups here at the University of Houston that are going to contribute to the University mission and who are going to contribute to the mission and values of our fraternity and sorority programs, so we have the opportunity to be pretty strategic,” Bergeron said.
Bergeron said that in the next five years, there is a possibility of three or four new groups to establish chapters on campus.
“They’ve been able to come and find a place here and speak to a population of students who weren’t looking at fraternity and sorority life and who just hadn’t found an experience that spoke to them yet,” Bergeron said. “A new group has the opportunity to tap into a population of people who haven’t necessarily explored fraternity and sorority life before and engage them in our community.”
Frank said that her life wouldn’t be the same without her involvement in Chi Omega. She said that her involvement was special because it was a unique time in everyone’s life.
“When the fraternities and sororities say ‘for a lifetime,’ it really is,” Frank said. “You just have so many opportunities throughout your lifetime to make friends, make business contacts. It was so valuable to me.”