Greek Life Task Force
The Greek Life Task Force, comprised of faculty, students, staff, trustees, and alumni, submitted its final report to me at the end of the Fall, 2004 semester. That report was posted on the Muhlenberg website at the beginning of the current semester.
I wish to thank the members of the Task Force for their good work, and to inform the community that I endorse, with two qualifications, all of the Report’s nine recommendations. The two qualified endorsements are:
Recommendation 5: Facilities for Greek organizations should be viewed as part of a comprehensive housing and residence life plan for the campus. While I am fully supportive of this recommendation, it is important for members of the campus community to understand that the time frame for such planning and implementation is likely to be quite extended in light of competing capital priorities. The enhancement of residential facilities called for in the strategic plan may address, at least partially, accommodations for Greek organizations, but this work will, at best, represent only a first step in this direction. In the meantime, we are committed to ensuring that College-owned Greek houses are maintained up to the College’s normal standards for residential facilities.
Recommendation 9: That Muhlenberg College strive to apply all policies and procedures to Greek organizations and their members in a manner that is consistent with its treatment of all other campus organizations and individual students. Whilefraternity or sorority membership should not jeopardize a student’s fundamental rights, I also believe the literal application of this recommendation could, in fact, do great harm to our campus’s Greek organizations. Fraternities and sororities currently enjoy a number of privileges not extended to other campus organizations or individuals – privileges entailing concomitant responsibilities and expectations. The Relationship Statement called for in Recommendation 1 should, when developed, articulate our mutual understanding of these privileges, responsibilities, and expectations.
In recent weeks I have enjoyed a number of spirited conversations with faculty, students, and alumni about the role of Greek life on campus. I am sure that the weeks and months to come will bring many more such conversations, which I hope will continue to demonstrate a spirit of open-mindedness, fairness, collegiality, and good humor – as befits the Muhlenberg community.
In the imminent future, we will be convening three working groups comprised of Greek members, faculty, and staff to implement the recommendations of the Task Force:
- Relationship Statement working group
- Accreditation System working group
- Member Education working group
Our goal is for these groups to complete their work by the end of the current semester.
I look forward to our shared efforts to make Muhlenberg’s Greek system, already successful in many ways, a model for other liberal arts colleges.
|Members of the Greek Life Task Force committee:|
The Greek Life Task Force was convened by President Helm during the spring of 2004 to gather information about the present state of Greek Life at Muhlenberg College and to make recommendations for the Greek Life system in the future.
The group first met with President Helm on May 11, 2004. A second meeting was held on June 22, 2004, with an outside facilitator on Greek life to assist the group in identifying the areas we wished to explore. Five areas of inquiry were determined and subcommittees were formed:
- 1. How does Greek Life complement the student experience?
- 2. What should the size and physical facilities of the Greek system look like?
- 3. What should the support systems for Greek Life look like?
- 4. What does Greek Life membership mean?
- 5. What is the vision for the Greek community?
On September 30, 2004, a public conversation was held with students. The inconsistent treatment of Greeks was of particular concern to the task force, including the following student perceptions: Greek organizations are held to different standards, rules, and policies than other organizations; there is a lack of maintenance in college-owned Greek organization facilities; students accused of violations of the social code are identified by their Greek organization, whereas any other student is listed by name only; and current students are tainted by the behavior of past members of their organization. The summary of this meeting can be found in Appendix A.
An email questionnaire was sent to approximately 8,000 alumni posing questions about Greek Life at Muhlenberg College. 182 responses were received. The only pattern or trend present in the responses is that people, both non-Greek and Greek, are fairly passionate about Greek Life. Individuals representing non-Greek and Greek alumni are both supportive and unsupportive of Green Life.
It is the finding of the Task Force that the Greek system at Muhlenberg College benefits students, alumni, the community, and College life and should be continued, but it also exhibits weaknesses that must be addressed jointly by the College, Greek governing councils, Alumni Boards, national organizations, and the individual chapters. This report will recommend fraternities, sororities, and the College administration implement major changes and that they work together to do so. The Task Force believes that the future success of the Greek system depends on higher expectations of the Greek organizations and commitment from the College.
The following mission statement and principles guided the work of the Task Force and this report:
As members of the Muhlenberg College community, Greek organizations and individual members will seek creative and innovative ways of engaging in campus life while serving as advocates for the shared values of the College community. The Greek community at Muhlenberg College exists to complement and support the educational mission, enhance the quality of campus life, provide opportunities and set the standards for intellectual and social interaction that result in organizational and personal growth, and prepare members for lives of service and leadership.
As members of the Muhlenberg College Greek community, each individual and organization will make commitments to:
Scholarship – Foster an environment that supports life-long learning through acquisition of knowledge, continuous learning, and moral development.
Leadership – Develop the skills and talents that enable members to have a positive impact on Greek organizations, the broader College community, and global society as undergraduates and as alumni.
Fellowship – Establish and nurture life-long relationships and friendships based on the respect, pride, and unity that characterize our College and Greek communities.
Character – Encourage members to make responsible choices and decisions, exhibit behaviors that demonstrate personal integrity and accountability to community standards, and develop individual values that form a life of service and leadership.
Service – Foster an ethic of support and caring through community service and outreach both in our local community and on a national level.
Organizational Accountability – Develop effective strategies for the organizational management and oversight of the facilities, fiscal activities, risk management, health, and safety of each chapter.
Recommendation 1 : The College should clearly and concisely spell out its expectations of the Greek chapters. Similarly, the Greek system should identify its expectations for support by the College. To this end, both parties should collaborate on the development of a “Relationship Statement” defining mutual goals and expectations.
A proposed draft of the “Relationship Statement” is found as Appendix B of this report.
Rationale: Unwritten agreements regarding housing and events to policies written specifically to address Greek activities without acknowledging that other non-Greek groups engage in similar activities has resulted in inconsistencies in how the College treats and supports the Greek chapters.
Action - The Director of Greek Affairs, along with the appropriate members from the senior staff of the College and students representing Greek leadership, will develop a draft of the relationship statement. The Director of Greek Affairs, along with a committee comprised of student leaders, will finalize a draft and present it to the President according to his deadline.
Recommendation 2 : To assist chapters in living out their missions, values and creeds, as well as to meet the expectations of the College, the College should develop an accreditation process for the chapters.
The foundation of an accreditation process would include:
- 1. Academic Achievement (Scholarship)
- 1. Promotion of Scholarship and Intellectual Development
- 2. Educational Programming
- 2. Service (Service)
- 1. Community Service and Philanthropy
- 2. Effective Leadership Development (Leadership)
- 3. Campus Involvement (Service)
- 1. Support of College initiative
- 2. Collaborative Relationships with Faculty (Scholarship)
Each fraternity and sorority should have a Faculty Advisor who is active in the chapter. The Faculty Advisor will be the main support for the academic welfare of the fraternity or sorority and its individual members. Female faculty advisors for sororities could provide strong role models for Greek women.
- 4. Chapter Management/Education (Organizational Accountability)
- 1. Fiscal Management
- 2. New Member Education (Fellowship)
- 3. Risk Management
- 4. Self Governance (Leadership)
- 5. Conducive Living Facilities
- 6. Alumni Involvement (Fellowship)
Each fraternity and sorority should have an active and strong alumni board comprised of 6-9 members. Each alumni board should strive to include at least one young alumnus/a (representing the previous ten years)
- 7. Relationship with the National organization (Organizational Accountability and Leadership)
Rationale: There is currently no formal articulation of expectations and consequences for the Greek system.
Action - The Director of Greek Affairs, along with the appropriate members from the senior staff of the College and students representing Greek leadership, will develop the accreditation process using many of the internal assessment scales already provided by the national organization and supplementing those with scales pertinent to Muhlenberg College. A draft of the process will be presented to the President during the spring 2005 semester for review with implementation of the system by the fall of 2005.
Recommendation 3 : New member education should include the principles and values of the National organization, as well as the history and traditions of the chapter. Muhlenberg College should be a part of this training by presenting information about how the Greek organizations fit into the values and traditions of the College.
Rationale: T he process for recruiting and retaining new members needs to be organized and understood by all constituencies. The new member education process also suffers from a lack of information and coordination.
Action - All chapters will submit a written education program (dates, times and content) to the Director of Greek Affairs and to the fraternity’s national Director of Risk Management before each New Member Education period begins. Such New Member Education programs shall specify dates for new member induction and initiation and conform to the maximum pledge periods of both the fraternity/sorority and Muhlenberg College.
The Inter-Fraternity and Panhellenic Councils, in consultation with the Student Life Office, will select three educational programs to be hosted during the New Member Education period. Attendance at these programs will be mandatory for all new members and highly recommended for all other members of the chapter.
Recommendation 4 : The Director of Greek Affairs should guide the timing of elections of executive board members of all Greek organizations and offer resources for group officer transition and training.
Rationale: The chapters currently suffer from the lack of a quality transition process between officer boards that ensures values and ideals are effectively communicated. This would help train new officers and standardize the training each organization receives.
Action - The Director of Greek Affairs will prepare a standardized officer transition process for use by chapter leadership in the fall of 2005. The Director of Greek Affairs will assist chapters with scheduling necessary retreats and meetings to help facilitate the process.
Recommendation 5 : Facilities for Greek organizations should be viewed as part of a comprehensive housing and residence life plan for the campus.
Rationale: Facilities for Greek organizations vary widely. Phi Kappa Tau and Sigma Phi Epsilon are the only groups currently recognized by the College that have houses that were designed for Greek use. Other fraternities and sororities have been given college owned houses – somewhat varied in size and desirability – but none really adequate to meet their needs (including bed space, social space, and meeting space).
We believe that in so far as fraternities and sororities are regarded as contributing positively to campus life, providing an important residential life option for our students, the College should strive to provide them with better facilities – facilities suitable for their purposes and which are more equitable than at present.
Action - As the College plans residential facilities it should ensure that Greek housing meets College housing standards. Appropriate space in existing facilities should be made available with the group’s approval. An example would be the assignment of sections of existing residential halls to sororities for their use. Social space and meeting space should be included, not just individual rooms. As we construct new residences, the Greek facilities should be included in needs assessments and planning.
Recommendation 6 : It is recommended that the College not consider any expansion in the number of Greek groups on campus until staffing, student interest levels, and adequate facilities are secured.
Rationale: Current staff, student interest and facilities adequately serve the current number of four fraternities and four sororities.
Action - College leadership may revisit the question of how many organizations after the relationship statement and accreditation system have been implemented for a reasonable period of time as determined by the President.
Recommendation 7 : There should be enhanced communication between members of Greek life and other constituencies of the College community
Rationale: Students of Greek organizations are concerned with issues of communication between them and other College constituencies.
Action - The Dean of Students shall organize forums for discussion between Greek members and faculty and Greek members and administration to be held on a regularly scheduled basis. IFC and PanHel shall present educational programs about Greek Life at events like parents weekend and “Through the Red Doors” for parents and students and during the academic year for first year students.
Recommendation 8 : It is recommended that deferring rush to sophomore year be maintained so more time is available to make an educated decision regarding Greek Life. Chapters should be recruiting in accordance with IFC and Panhel guidelines.
Rationale: Successful Greek organizations are perpetually recruiting to make formal recruitment easier. Recruitment by sororities is governed by NPC. The process must be very structured and supervised by the Fraternity/Sorority Council and College officials. Chapters should be recruiting in accordance with IFC and PanHel guidelines.
Action - None needed
Recommendation 9 : That Muhlenberg College strive to apply all policies and procedures to Greek organizations and their members in a manner that is consistent with its treatment of all other campus organizations and individual students.
Greek Task Force Student Forum Summary
Double Standard – Greek organizations are treated differently and held to a different standard than other Muhlenberg College organizations. For example, other organizations have been known to haze their new members and the College seems to ignore this and yet anytime a Greek organization is suspected of hazing its members, the College is immediately involved.
The Muhlenberg Weekly Safety Notes—Anytime a Greek member is cited in safety notes their Greek affiliation is indicated. For no other student organizational affiliation does this occur.
Negative perceptions – Faculty have negative perceptions of particular Greek organizations and as a result they treat Greek members differently in class. Greek members indicate that they are still students who attend college to learn and therefore should not be treated differently by faculty.
Lack of support from faculty – Greek members feel there is not support from faculty for Greek life. Faculty members have been overheard speaking negatively about Greek life so students feel deterred from participating in Greek life. In addition, faculty members have communicated to Greek members that they should not wear Greek letters to class. Anytime Greek organizations hold faculty/Greek mixers very few faculty members show up to support it.
Recognition of good behavior – Greek members would appreciate positive recognition for community service and good work.
Campus-wide discussion – It was recommended that we have a campus-wide forum that includes faculty, staff and Greek students to share information about Greek organizations and their involvement in positive activities.
Administration has shown lack of concern regarding Greek housing – Anytime a Greek residence is in need of repair, there is a lack of responsiveness on the part of the College.
Student bias – other Muhlenberg Students are also biased towards Greek members. Greek organizations change over time – Greek organizations are clearly different today than they were 20 years ago. Community members need to consider this and update their thinking.
Alcohol related to Greek organizations – There is a misconception that alcohol consumption is always associated with Greek organizations.
Respect for time – Greek members have made appointments with the administration that have been cancelled at the last minute and they have been treated inhospitably by the administrative staff.
Unified Greek community – Students recommended working towards a unified Greek community through IFC and Panhellenic efforts.
Greek members’ past mistakes – Members are working towards addressing the issues.
Sophomore deferment – Greek members believe that this allows for more time to develop negative stereotypes.
Communicating with family members – Recommended a family weekend forum including IFC and PanHel to communicate information about Greek life with students’ families.
Greek Week – It was recommended that the College help to advertise Greek Week. In addition, it was noted that it is difficult to reserve facilities for Greek Week activities. Could the College be more helpful?
First year students – How is Greek life introduced to first year students? They are discouraged from being involved in Greek activities in their first two weeks, so they begin with a negative perception of Greek Life.
GPA requirements – The College should be clearer about communicating GPA requirements to first year students so that they will work harder so that they can be eligible to be Greek.
Fraternity House status – They are not treated as residence halls and it is confusing given that the national chapters own the facility and the College owns the land. For example, fraternity members must have permission to move back on campus early after breaks.
Draft of the Muhlenberg College's Relationship Statement for the Greek System
Muhlenberg College , a private institution of higher learning, and the Greek system, a fraternal structure of students, alumni, international organizations and volunteers, has a long and productive tradition of cooperation and mutual respect.
Muhlenberg College acknowledges the contributions of the Greek system in enhancing campus life and broadening the opportunities for students. The Greek community acknowledges the encouragement and support it receives from Muhlenberg College. Both entities recognize the importance of fostering, supporting, and initiating programs to perpetuate this mutually beneficial tradition.
The necessity of this agreement is borne from the special status fraternities and sororities are accorded by the nature of their creation, composition and activities. Specifically, fraternities and sororities are chapters of national organizations that are legal entities, independent of the College.
Fraternities and sororities provide housing for which they seek approval and on which the College depends.
Fraternities and sororities need assistance from the College in the form of information pertinent to recruitment, communication with alumni, coordination of activities, and self-governance.
Fraternities and sororities are highly visible in the community and, because of their visibility, pose a liability risk greater than other registered student groups.
Alumni of fraternities and sororities make significant contributions to the future of the College.
As the College embarks on a strategic planning process charting a course for the next decade, it is an opportune time for the Greek system and the College to strengthen their relationship by more clearly defining roles and expectations for each other. It is our intent that this Statement of Relationship is the foundation of an evolving process, focused on a mutual goal of achieving greater excellence and new strength in this relationship, while preserving the rights, independence, and integrity of Muhlenberg College and the Greek community.
Muhlenberg College has the obligation to:
continue its commitment to develop the Greek system as a positive contributor to the campus community; provide staff, leadership training and educational programming and the necessary funding for such endeavors; advocate on behalf of the Greek community as a liaison between internal and external constituencies; provide assistance and training for the self governance system; ensure the existence of an educational and operational environment supportive of Greek life and its mission; provide a system of judicial review for cases which Inter-Fraternity Council and Pan Hellenic Council feel are inappropriate for their disposition and to provide a system of judicial review for offenses that might lead to suspension or revocation of College recognition.
The Greek-letter organizations of the Greek system have an obligation to:
maintain a strong scholastic emphasis that includes attending and participating in educational programming sponsored by Muhlenberg College; respect the rights of the campus community and the neighborhood; comply with the rules of conduct included in the Social Code and the policies that govern the Greek system; minimize the risk of liability and harm to people and property and maintain accountability for actions of the chapter; ensure sound new member and initiation practices; support the Inter-Fraternity Council and Pan Hellenic Council and maintain a national affiliation in good standing; maintain an active relationship with an advisory person or committee such as chapter advisors or house corporations; and, participate in philanthropic activities.