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Pledging for Brotherhood

The University is cooperating with an ongoing review of its handling of sexual assault complaints by the Office of Civil Rights. 

That may be one reason why the administration and student leaders pressed ahead with fraternity reforms, even after parts of a story in Rolling Stone Magazine were discredited. 

Fraternity members offer many reasons for joining up.  We spoke with several before UVA began its spring rush. Jalen Ross is an ardent member of Phi Delta Theta where he finally found the brotherhood he was looking for.

“I’m the oldest of four, but my three youngest sisters, they’re all sisters, so I was happy to find 60 brothers that I could start a new life with.” 

Julian Jackson is president of UVA’s Pan-Hellenic Council, an association of black fraternities.  He boasts that Martin Luther King, Thurgood Marshall and Paul Robeson were all members of his frat – a place they could find support for their cultural values.

“It provided a lot of guidance initially. Being in a new atmosphere, meeting new people,  different types of people, you can really kind of lose yourself, and  it’s that bond, that sense of brotherhood and sisterhood that keeps you based in your morals and your values and really kind of acts as a support system while you’re here.”

Allen Au is president of the Multi-Cultural Greek Council – a group of Asian and Latino fraternities and sororities.  An accounting major, he figured joining a fraternity would expand his professional network:

“I would be lying if I said that was not a consideration most people make when they decide whether to join or not.

And at a fairly large school, he says, an Asian fraternity offers a comfortable place to connect with peers.

“If you take my own organization, Lambda Phi Epsilon, for example, it was really created because the Asian demographic didn’t  really feel like they were being properly represented in the traditional fraternity system.”

Daniel Drangstveit, a member of Phi Society, says the charitable work that fraternities do looks good on the resume.

“In addition to meeting great people, I saw it as a good resume builder, because you’re doing a lot of community service and like a bunch of fundraisers, like philanthropy.”

“Hey guys, I can take whoever is next.”

Whatever the reason, nearly a thousand guys showed up for this year’s rush week registration – about the same number as last year.  Freshman Nicholas Milkovich says he was not deterred by the bad press fraternities got from Rolling Stone and other publications. 

“I think you’re going to find out-of-control people anywhere, so I’m not put off by anything that’s been in the news.”

About half of those who showed up for last year’s informational meeting decided not to join a fraternity, and this year some guys were definitely on the fence.  Kevin Martin of Charlottesville and Massi Flici of Roanoke just wanted to join two weeks of parties designed to introduce prospective members to the school’s frats. 

“The rush process just seems like a lot of fun, and I just wanted to see what it was about.  I heard there was a lot of good food.  I’m up in the air about it, but hopefully I’ll find out here in the next few days.”

Jalen Ross says some seniors may be taking fraternity membership off their resumes as they prepare to enter the job market, but he hopes last year’s scandal won’t dissuade freshmen from joining fraternities.

"I can imagine the conversations with people’s parents going ‘There’s literally no way I’m letting you join a fraternity,’ and that’s unfortunate, because I think it’s been an incredibly positive experience in my life and for a lot of folks around here.”

Even if sign-ups are down, one thing seems likely.  For the rest of this year, Jack Carlin says fraternity members will be on their best behavior, if only to prove critics like Rolling Stone wrong.

“I mean it should be a wake up call to a lot of guys, knowing this sort of thing happens.  Don’t be the one.  Don’t do anything that could lead to something like this.  Y’know, use your head.”

Rush will culminate at the end of this month with invitations to join fraternities.  

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief
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