Greek system largest in the world

From pamphlets and Web sites to the simple eye test, the message is clear: the University has the biggest Greek system in the world — save Greece, of course.

According to the latest numbers from the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, 6,762 students are currently active members of a Greek-letter organization on campus — almost 2,000 more students than any other school in the Big Ten. With 59 fraternities and 39 sororities, the University’s 95 chapters are the most in the world, though Greek letter organizations are fairly exclusive to North America.

Some of those involved with the system said the expansive size of the Greek community does have an effect on interaction among the Greek councils, individual chapters and the University.

Tommy Carrato, president of the Interfraternity Council, said leaders from the four councils make the most of the size for communication and service.

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“While the sheer size of the University of Illinois fraternity and sorority community can make collaboration difficult, our four councils have worked together to plan service and philanthropy events around which we can all unite,” Carrato said.

Andrew Hohn, assistant director of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, echoed Carrato’s thoughts on the synergy between councils and the University.

“Our office really utilizes the councils, and tries to utilize the council officers and council leadership in order to communicate with the chapters and the students,” Hohn said.

Carrato also emphasized that the statistics alone don’t necessarily capture the essence of Greek life on campus.

“It is important to remember that while we are a community, each of our organizations is different from the next,” Carrato said.

While each chapter is able to differentiate itself and develop individuality, it can sometimes be the mere number of Greeks on campus that brings in students.

For Barbara Davidson, junior in LAS, it was the prevalence of Greek culture on campus that initially drew her toward recruitment.

“I’d say that the fact that our campus is so Greek-oriented was a big motivator for me,” Davidson said.

The Princeton Review backs up Davidson’s claim: The University earned a spot at no. 13 for “Major Frat and Sorority Scene” in its 2010 rankings. Interestingly, Pennsylvania State and Iowa — Big Ten schools with fewer active Greeks, fewer chapters and a lower percentage of students involved — appear above the University in the rankings.

Hohn said most of it comes down to nothing more than supply and demand.

“I think the fact that it is so large shows that there is a want for that membership,” Hohn said. “The organizations wouldn’t be there if the students didn’t want to join them, and I think that’s a driving factor. The students want to be a part of these organizations and that is why we have so many of them on this campus.”