University of Wyoming officials expect the campus to grow in a number of ways throughout the next five years between the development of more aggressive recruiting efforts and construction projects both planned and nearing completion.
The student body will also grow to include four new fraternities by 2022 and UW’s fraternity and sorority coordinator, Erik Kahl, is hoping to attract other and more diverse Greek organizations in the coming years.
“The goal is to grow the fraternity and sorority community,” Kahl said. “My goal right now is to support President (Laurie) Nichols and upper administration who are really trying to shoot for about 1,000 students in the (fraternity and sorority life) community by 2020.”
Approximately 640 UW students are members of one Greek organization or another, though Kahl said that number will likely jump closer to 680 once the ongoing recruitment period is complete. Of the 13 organizations which operate chapters at UW, eight are fraternities — six of which have houses — and five are sororities — three of which have houses.
With the exception of the 2020-2021 academic year, each fall semester from now until 2022 is slated to see a new fraternity open a chapter on campus, though these organizations will not be housed at first.
“The first priority when an organization gets here is to make sure that they can be viable long-term and really truly provide a benefit to campus and find quality — in this case — gentlemen to be a part of that organization to make sure they can manage themselves as a chapter and as an organization first,” Kahl said.
In addition to the operational difficulties of adding facility maintenance to a Greek organization’s responsibilities, he added, space on campus is limited, with just a couple of open lots and the empty Tobin House available.
Kahl said the Tobin House — the former Pi Beta Phi House — would require renovations before any organization would be able to move in.
“Right now, some of it comes down to space and overall cost,” he said. “I want to make sure that if we’re going to provide that live-in experience for some groups, that we’re doing it well and right to begin with and that they can provide a strong, positive, supportive experience for the members.”
Kahl said he is also looking to increase the number of sororities on campus, but is just starting that process, which is managed by the National Panhellenic Conference.
“There’s is a more … time-intensive process, so we’re trying to get that moving now,” he said. “We’re hoping to start that conversation.”
There might be other opportunities to increase Greek life offerings at UW, Kahl said.
“We are in conversations with organizations that are more culturally based organizations or heritage-based organizations about expanding here as well,” he said. “So, I’m really trying to look at the demographics of the institution as well as the different types of culturally-based fraternities and sororities that could really thrive here based on existing demographics.”
These organizations could include historically black fraternities and sororities, or organizations designed specifically for Latino or Latina, Native American or LGBT students.
“I want to make sure that we have a diverse community for all students to be able to be a part of and find an organization that fits well with them and their needs and interests and potentially their heritage,” Kahl said.
He added members of Greek organizations are often heavily involved in service projects on campus and throughout the community and serve as student leaders, so the campus and wider Laramie community can expect to see more of those benefits as fraternity and sorority life grow.
“Those organizations are values-based organizations, so you have a core set of values that connect all the members together,” he said. “And members are expected to demonstrate those values every day.”
While fraternities and sororities might have a reputation for throwing wild, or unsafe, parties — a party bust at UW’s Sigma Phi Epsilon house in October resulted in 21 underage-consumption-of-alcohol citations — Kahl said he also wants to ensure that Greek life at UW grows responsibly and in a manageable way.
“I would argue that the organizations that are in the news for the wrong reasons have drifted away from those values in the first place,” he said. “So, my role here in advising and supporting those groups is to make sure those values stay front and center to everything that we do.”