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Though it may not happen soon, there could be a time when fraternities and sororities might no longer exist on the University of Michigan’s campus, President Mark Schlissel said Tuesday.

“I don’t see it in the short term and it certainly is not my ambition to get rid of fraternities and sororities,” Schlissel said. “Unless ... the students themselves moderate some of the risky behavior ... they may naturally wither and people may want to stop joining them.”

“There is a culture problem not only among students of Greek life but significantly inside of Greek life having do with the overuse of alcohol, which really does need to be moderated.”

Schlissel made the comments to reporters after his first appearance before the Detroit Economic Club.

A member of the audience asked Schlissel about fraternities and sororities on campus.

His response was mixed. Schlissel hailed members as students who raise a lot of money for charity and who tend to have higher grade point averages than the rest of the student body.

But at the same time, the public has a perception that UM is a party school and not a serious research institution, he said.

Though he didn’t mention the fraternity specifically, UM’s Sigma Alpha Mu was banished from the campus and four of its members were charged last year after chapter members and a sorority went to a ski resort in northern Michigan and trashed it during a weekend of partying.

“It is my obligation to help them understand the risks they are taking,” Schlissel said.

On other subjects, Schlissel told the crowd of business leaders that the most important thing they can do is stress to lawmakers the importance of investing in higher education.

The UM president also spoke of themes he has stressed throughout his presidency, including the importance of using university resources to address societal problems and diversity as a key to having a world-class institution.

“We can’t be a great university without being diverse,” Schlissel said.

Schlissel is among many university presidents who have spoken before the Detroit Economic Club, which includes 3,600 members who are primarily business people.

Other university presidents who have spoken before the membership include former UM President Mary Sue Coleman, Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon and several Wayne State University presidents. The group meets regularly for lunch.

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com

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