AMHERST, Mass. (AP) – Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority member Pam Melander looks at college life at the University of Massachusetts much differently than when she was an freshman, the first person in her family to attend college and longing for the self-confidence she saw in others.

That was three years ago. Now Melander, 20, is president of the UMass sorority council and the ideal campus leader for many institutions – a student with solid grades who plans to send money to her alma mater once she graduates.

After years of conflict among fraternities, sororities and college administrators, officials at UMass and other large public universities are encouraging Greek life to boost student leadership and loyalty among students, The Boston Globe reported Saturday.

“It could do nothing but benefit the community,” Melander said.

“I’m a big believer in Greek life,” said Mike Gargano, vice chancellor for student affairs at UMass-Amherst. “When you talk about developing student life on campus, the Greek community can play an important role.”

Currently, 3 percent of UMass students are members of fraternities or sororities, but administrators hope the numbers rise.

Administrators gave student leaders $10,000 to expand Greek recruitment in the fall. They’re also courting national fraternities that lack UMass chapters and the university plans to pay for full-page ads promoting Greek life in the student paper.

School officials at the University of Maine in Orono want to double fraternity membership. At the University of Connecticut of Storrs, the state has funded a $12 million townhouse development called “Husky Village” for 13 Greek chapters.

Opinions on Greek life is subtly shifting from those who were skeptical of the organizations’ purposes to the idea that the groups “could constructively contribute to the campus environment,” said Richard McKaig, director of the Center for the Study of the College Fraternity at Indiana University in Bloomington.

UMass-Amherst had its share of high-profile problems related to Greek life in the late 1980s, including a racial brawl outside a frat house, drug trafficking and reports of hazing, all of which resulted in penalties for the fraternities involved. UMass lost 10 Greek chapters between 1993 and 2004.

The decline of Greek life at UMass in the last 20 years reflected a national drop in fraternity membership as national concern increased regarding student drinking and hazing.

Now, with strong competition among colleges to attract students, UMass-Amherst Chancellor John Lombardi has included an initiative for well-managed fraternities in his plan to improve the school’s image.

Among the attractions of a Greek revitalization: the emphasis by national Greek organizations on community service, belief that high Greek membership boosts graduation rates and donations of Greek-affiliated alumni.

AP-ES-05-29-04 1233EDT



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