Last year when Danielle Comarow first set foot on the University of Delaware campus in Newark, she thought she had a pretty good idea what fraternities there were all about.
"I thought they were all preppy, drunken, raping boys," she says. "But this year I went to a few parties and I've changed my mind. I think their reputation is not deserved. I don't drink and I had a good time."
In order to change fraternity culture, perceptions and expectations must change among non-Greeks on campus as well as within fraternities themselves, says Noel Hart, Greek coordinator at Delaware. And the view that fraternity houses are more sober and responsible, does seem to be catching on among non-Greeks here.
"The good frats are no longer the ones throwing big parties," says Derek Stoner, a junior majoring in natural resources management. "It's the ones doing charity work and helping out around campus."
Though he has no desire to join a fraternity himself, about a third of Mr. Stoner's friends are in fraternities. They like being members, he says, because it helps them discipline themselves to study so the house can get a good academic rating.
Stoner lauds the new five-star system as a useful "consumer reports" guide for freshmen to know more what they're getting when considering membership. Some are still attracted to the party image, he says. But he believes that's changing. "I don't think fraternities will always be about parties and drinking," he says. "Some have even thrown alcohol-free parties. I'd be a little more tempted to join now if I was a freshman."