Image conscious fraternities tell a different story
By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
Fraternities at the University of Alberta have decided to combat their Animal House image by going into the newsroom to try and change public opinion.
The growing trend to re-vamp the image of fraternities and sororities across North America will soon be more prominent in the media if David Prenoslo, VP-external for the Interfraternity Council at the University of Alberta, has anything to do with it.
Prenoslo said he believes all campus papers are very critical and, therefore, he proposes to take more of a public relations approach to the current image problem by integrating fraternity members and newspaper staff in an attempt to bridge communication between the two groups.
"I have never heard of a pro-fraternity newspaper," he said. As such, Prenoslo said the council hopes to introduce the two worlds. He added this will be a very big job because bad feelings go both ways.
A few factors have created this change, including more pressure from headquarters to maintain certain levels while students have begun to realize the economic reality that they can't just waste four years partying, said Doug McLean, former vice-president of the Interfraternity Council in Alberta.
Prenoslo said people only know about fraternities from what they see on television but very few people actually know what is really going on. By trying to have fraternity members involved with the student papers, myths will be contradicted and dispelled.
Lisa Skierka, Editor-in-Chief at The Gauntlet, the student paper at the University of Calgary, said they have had fraternity members on the paper before, but as far as she knows there has been no organized infiltration by fraternities.
The Gauntlet has received some backlash about a Frosh week article which alluded to the bad reputation of fraternities, yet Skierka said it was all done as tongue-in-cheek. "When people are perceived as being persecuted, they may begin to stereotype others."
Scott Graham, president of Western's Interfraternity Council, said the Alberta initiative is absolutely the wrong approach to take and fraternities should be committed to more charity-type events while eliminating alcohol abuse."If fraternities screw up, it will still be in the paper," he said.
The only way this idea might work is if a fraternity member working for a student paper is able to place more emphasis on a story which could highlight the positive aspects to the organization, he said.
Changes in place for fraternities at Western include introducing a new risk management person into the Interfraternity Council which Graham said he believes should help manage risk rather than ignore it. Fraternities are also working towards "Select 2000" which will have all fraternities alcohol-free in the next three years.