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Greek Life coming soon to CU Denver

Programs to focus on diversity and inclusion

Greek Life Coordinator Courtney Kristan addressed students on Feb. 6.
Photo: Marianna Caicedo · The Sentry

On Feb. 6, CU Denver’s Office of Student Life and Campus Community hosted an information session on the newly launched sorority and fraternity program.

“We’re starting a community from scratch, which is incredibly exciting,” Courtney Kristan, the Greek Life Coordinator at CU Denver, said.

Kristan added that she herself was the President of Sigma Delta Tau at State University of New York at Geneseo. She later spent a year as a leadership consultant for the organization. This experience allowed her to travel around the country and see how Greek chapters vary from campus to campus.

According to Kristan, CU Denver Greek Life plans to “implement an innovative model of Greek Life focused on the overseeing and management of Greek organizations through the lens of transparency, accountability, and inclusion.”

Over the course of the Spring 2019 semester, Greek organizations will be able to apply to set up a chapter on campus. These organizations will need to be approved before they can begin the process of recruiting students. Kristan believes that the recruitment process will likely start by the end of the Spring 2019 semester.

Kristan added that a group of students can also form “interest groups” if they have a particular organization in mind that they would like to come to campus, and students can meet with her personally to discuss this option.

Though CU Denver Greek Life has not publicly revealed which Greek organizations have reached out to the CU Denver campus, Kristan said that some organizations are already expressing interest.

“I spoke with a lot of different organizations who were very excited,” Kristan said.

Henry Duong, the Assistant Director of Student Organizations, also helped organize the information session on Feb. 6. Duong discussed a feasibility study for Greek Life that CU Denver conducted in Spring 2015.

According to Duong, the results of the feasibility study indicated that a majority of students on the CU Denver campus are interested in Greek Life and thought it would be beneficial.

“I’m just excited that we’re going to be able to form a community that wasn’t previously offered,” said Duong, adding that the introduction of Greek Life is an opportunity to “actualize the wants and needs of students.”

Matthew Kriese, President of CU Denver’s Student Government Association, has also been involved in the implementation of Greek Life over the last few years. Kriese previously chaired the Non-Traditional Greek Life Initiative, where he was involved in negotiating funding for a Graduate Assistant Greek Life Coordinator and helped create a Greek Life manual, which “explained every process of how Greek Life would function on this campus.”

Kriese is optimistic about what Greek Life will bring to campus, stating, “I feel very good about Greek Life’s expansion onto this campus, so long as the model of Greek Life developed is representative of our student body, inclusive of students from all gender identities, and upholds the value and practice of community service and philanthropy.”

Some students at the information session expressed that introducing Greek Life could bring more of a sense of community to CU Denver, which is mainly a commuter campus. Zoe Vavrina, a student who attended the session, said having Greek Life could “help create more of a social atmosphere” on campus.

Kristan also addressed some concerns students may have about introducing Greek Life on campus, acknowledging there are “certain stereotypes in the media.” Kristan added, “We want to address these issues head-on.”

Films like 1978’s Animal House and 2014’s Neighbors have contributed to a cultural perception of members of Greek organizations as irresponsible and hard-partying. Additionally, according to a 2008 study from the University of Maine, 73 percent of fraternity and sorority members have experienced hazing. Hazing includes being pressured to participate in drinking games and physical abuse, as well as verbal abuse or being subjected to humiliating rituals.

Others are concerned about the rates of sexual assault within Greek organizations. In 2015, The Guardian reported that women in sororities are 74 percent more likely to experience rape than other women in college, and men in fraternities are 3 times more likely to commit rape than other male students.

Furthermore, according to sociologist Matthew Hughey in a 2018 interview with NPR, many Greek organizations were established when universities were only accessible to wealthy white students, which raises concerns for some about diversity within Greek organizations.

Kristan clarified that Greek Life at CU Denver makes “socially responsible leadership” a priority. All Greek chapters at CU Denver will be required to have hazing prevention and anti-discrimination policies. Additionally, Greek chapters at CU Denver will not have on-campus housing, which could prevent some safety issues from arising.

“From my experience, I have seen the chapters that have issues with hazing are typically fraternity and sorority communities that have housing and have been around a long time, “ Kristan said, adding, “I believe not having housing on our campus is a huge bonus for averting the typical negative experiences associated with Greek Life: hazing, substance abuse, and sexual assault.”

Kristan also believes that newly established chapters are more proactive in addressing potential issues. “National organizations are very involved when starting new chapters, which helps thwart any potential hazing,” she said.

Additionally, Kristan said the Greek Life program at CU Denver has a “commitment to diversity and inclusion,” as well as “cultural sensitivity.”

The campus will have an Expansion Review Committee which will decide which organizations will start chapters on campus.

“We have members on the committee, such as a representative from the LGBTQ and Center for Identity and Inclusion specifically, to look at applicants with an inclusive lens,” Kristan said.

CU Denver Greek Life has also stated that they are committed to “honoring and supporting students of varying identities, specifically underrepresented persons/groups in the areas of race, culture/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, socioeconomic status, religious/spiritual affiliation, and veteran status.”

Regarding chapter fees, which could potentially make Greek Life inaccessible to many students, Kristan said organizations at CU Denver will have the option of fundraising for chapter dues to alleviate costs for students. This option is projected to make Greek Life available to a more diverse group of students.

From her own experience, Kristan said being part of a Greek chapter creates “lifelong relationships,” as she recently visited friends from her chapter over winter break.

“I would say the friendships formed during my sorority experience are truly for a lifetime,” Kristan said. “My ‘little’ will undoubtedly be in my future wedding.”

Additionally, Kristan believes being a member of a Greek organization can provide “plentiful” possibilities for professional development. Before serving as president of her chapter, she was the Public Relations and Social Media chair.

According to Kristan, these types of one-year positions held within a Greek organization as a student are “great resume builders” and provide work experience that can be applied in the professional world.

Those interested in learning more about CU Denver Greek Life can send an email to greeklife@ucdenver.edu or stop by Tivoli #301.

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