This week, the University of Maine held elections for both the Interfraternity Council (IFC) and Panhellenic Council. After hours of voting, the Panhellenic Council slated their new executive board members, just before UMaine’s IFC declared Morgan Ford of Alpha Tau Omega as president of the IFC. Ford will be replacing former president Andrew Arsenault.
Ford, a third-year kinesiology and physical education student, said in a campaign announcement post on Facebook that he hopes to “destigmatize the negative atmosphere surrounding Greek life here at the University of Maine through positive public relations in our community.”
Ford’s campaign hopes to address the negative stigma and stereotypes associated with Greek life. Even though approximately 13% of UMaine students participate in Greek life, the community still struggles to overcome negative perceptions due to associations with hazing, discrimination and the “party lifestyle.”
The recent elections of the IFC and Panhellenic Council have inspired discussions that challenge these stereotypes. Stephanie Poirier, president of the University of Maine’s Panhellenic Council and a member of the Tri Delta sorority, pointed out that Greek life inspires students to work harder and become better community members.
“The goal of fraternity and sorority is to help members grow into well-rounded community members before they graduate. We accomplish this by providing brotherhood/sisterhood, academic support, leadership opportunities, financial assistance in the form of scholarships, athletic opportunities (intramurals), philanthropy and community service and career networking,” Poirier noted.
Poirier and other students found several social and academic benefits to Greek life. Many see Greek life as an opportunity for brotherhood or sisterhood, as well as engagement in philanthropy and fundraising efforts.
Since every sorority and fraternity on campus is connected to different charities, almost every member that pledges into Greek life has the opportunity to interact with and participate in philanthropic fundraising events. Some of these charities and networks include the American Red Cross, the Humane Society, Aware Awake Alive, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Make-A-Wish, Children’s Miracle Network, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and many more.
In addition, most fraternities and sororities at UMaine require its members to engage in a certain number of community service hours per semester. This encourages Greek life members to uphold the UMaine values of honesty, accountability and commitment to the betterment of the community.
Ford found this commitment to community, an important part of the recruitment process, as well as a good representation of Greek life. As a matter of fact, Ford centered his campaign around creating a more positive Greek life atmosphere in order to boost recruitment numbers.
“Most of my ideas are based around better communication and public relations. I think that these are the best ways to show people the good that comes through this community, and boost recruitment numbers,” Ford commented in an interview with the Maine Campus.
Ford stated that his other goals as IFC president include recognizing members of Greek communities for their accomplishments and hopes to “bring the Greek community closer together.”
Poirier noted that the Panhellenic Council had yet to set their new goals, however, Poirier still harbors hope for the future of Greek life. Poirier also found a strong sense of community within Greek life. She especially believed the sibling-like bonds of different Greek members are extremely significant to creating a welcoming environment that retains community values.
“Even though every chapter is a little bit different in their values and founding principles, we all have the same objective to leave UMaine better than we found it, and that brings us closer together and more like a family,” Poirier commented.
While some still remain critical of sororities and fraternities at UMaine, many people find value and community within different sororities and fraternities on campus. The recent Panhellenic Council and IFC elections sparked an important conversation about the benefits of community, philanthropy and service in UMaine’s Greek community.