Greek Life on the Table at UC Merced

One of the benefits of a brand-new university is getting to start your own clubs and organizations – and learning from other universities’ experience to get it right.

That’s part of the charge of the Greek Life Task Force, a group of students, faculty members and administrators tasked with researching and reporting on all aspects of Greek life so the Chancellor’s Cabinet members have information to help them decide whether UC Merced will have sororities and fraternities.

The task force formed in November and its report is due in the middle of this month (May 2007).

The main questions under consideration: Is Greek life compatible with the mission and goals of the university? Should UC Merced move toward having Greek groups? If not, what other social opportunities can the university offer students?

Student task force member Jacob Croasdale said he sees the argument from both sides.

“Personally, I feel there is great potential for Greek life here as long as high standards are enforced and the campus as a whole is educated on the true purpose of fraternities and sororities,” he said.

Task force member Norma Cardona, a freshman, said Greek life could benefit the campus and the community, because Greek organizations are supposed to be community-service oriented.

But she understands the potential problems, too.

Nick Nakamura, also a student member of the task force, said he and some friends began a petition to show interest in Greek life on campus.

“If it’s started appropriately, we are capable of avoiding most of the major issues other campuses are facing,” he said.

Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Charles Nies said the big issues are alcohol and substance abuse, hazing and the inappropriate behavior that seems to plague fraternities and sororities disproportionately.

However, the Greek system does help students get that sense of belonging and creates social support, which could be critical to first-generation students’ success. First-generation students make up half the student population here.

Also, some people believe fraternities and sororities would jump start a campus social scene, including inter-chapter competitions, community service and social events.

But the task force’s research so far shows themed-learning communities in residence halls build more positive networks of students and complement intellectual development.

“We are now at a point when we will make a decision to move forward with Greek life or not,” Nies said. “If we decide no, we will develop alternatives to fill the perceived void Greek life would have filled. If yes, we will set minimum expectations on policies and practices of chapters at UC Merced.”

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