Universities need to create policies that create good learning outcomes. You need to quit hiding behind your policies trying to avoid legal liability and focus your education and sanctioning on student development and safety. You need to hold more individual members accountable for their decisions and only close chapters that do not meet a pre-set standard of excellence, who do not have volunteers and staff trying to make a difference, and who are not holding their individual members accountable (closing chapters because of the behavior of a few members is not the solution). Our young members need to know that their poor decision making will not only lead to being suspended or expelled from their chapters, but also the university.
Is your university closing other campus clubs & organizations and sports teams when individuals cross the line? We know that answer in most cases is “no”. There needs to be a consistent set of rules for all students and organizations. Universities need to focus their attention on what will make the students safe and what will create an impactful experience.
You need to not be afraid to “think outside the box”. Too many universities continue to operate their Fraternity & Sorority Offices the same way they have for decades just because that is the way it has been done. This is not working anymore. It’s time to get the staff out of the office and into more daily interaction with our chapters, undergraduate members, and volunteers.
To see the path to more excelling chapters for our university partners click here.
The Path to More Excelling Chapters for our University Partners
Commit to trying something different and see if you experience a positive change in your community over a five-year period.
- If you do not already have it, develop a Fraternity & Sorority Programs Advisory Board who are committed to a successful community. This is not just the chapter advisors from each chapter meeting to hear reports from the university. It is a board similar to a Business School Board who helps set the vision and goals for the community.
- Complete chapter and campus organizational assessments, as well as a public relations audit for the Greek community as a whole.
- Review your funding model and ensure that it is providing the funds you need to succeed, and ensuring that the money gets to where it belongs.
- Partner with your Admissions Office in developing a marketing & communications plan that targets the right type of members. Understand that the sub-culture of social media has become our marketing vehicle and that is delivering too high of a percentage of the wrong members.
- Develop a Greek 101 class that helps with successful onboarding of new members into your community during their first year in school. Ensure that it focuses on creating a safer community, a more impactful student experience, and develops a lifetime affinity for their chapter, international/national organization and university.
- Develop a plan that focuses on academics, career preparation & networking, health & wellness, engagement, financial planning, leadership development, and lifetime affinity. This involves working relationships with campus partners that impact these areas.
- Move to one of these choices: a) alcohol-free housing, 2) no events with alcohol in chapter houses and a requirement of all events with alcohol must be at 3rd party, licensed locations, or 3) cash bar with licensed servers and security at any event that will include alcohol but limit to only a few social events with alcohol per school term. Note: if events with alcohol just move to off-campus housing, the university needs to focus on sanctioning for those whose names are on the leases. University lawyers need to get out of the way and allow universities to accept a stronger partnership with our chapters and if that is not possible, get out of the recognition game and let us operate without university interference. Disclaimer: I really think the drinking age should be 19 years old. There was a time when young adults were drinking and driving but that is mostly not the case now because of Uber and other services. We spend an enormous amount of financial and volunteer resources enforcing policies that are near impossible to enforce (drinking has occurred on the college campus for a 100 years or more). This has led to more issues around alcohol than existed before, and is moving us further apart from our actual missions.
- Develop a stronger volunteer identification, recruitment, training & recognition plan. Volunteers are not “stepping up” because they are not being asked or they’re afraid of the time commitment and risks. Additionally, they receive very little recognition for their commitment. You need a staff member focusing on volunteers.
- Consider a stronger professional staffing model as the requirements of the job have outgrown volunteers alone. This might be a model:
- House Directors for as many chapters as possible, but for sure for any chapter with 20 or more tenants.
- Academic, Career, Engagement & Leadership Coaches for all chapters.
- Health & Wellness counselors who can work with students and volunteers in the community. Mental health is an area of great need.
- Executive Director for our large chapters who will oversee all operations in the chapter for those who have the funding. This might even be one individual working with 2-5 chapters.
- Fraternity & Sorority staff need to have a defined number of chapters that enables them to spend the time needed to have a positive impact. These staff should have no role with sanctioning chapters for their behavior, especially if they are funded by chapter fees. They need to be advocates.
- Recognize your chapters of excellence in as many ways as possible (ensure that you have set a criterion that ensures solid undergraduate operations and volunteer involvement). For your chapters that have a history of alcohol & drug abuse, hazing, and other serious violations, make sure that the students and their parents are aware. Use your websites, e-news, social media, and orientation programs to share progress towards metrics as well as other messaging needed. Also, provide to all employers recruiting on the campus the list of chapters reaching a level of excellence (this might push chapters to do the extra if it might impact employment opportunities for their members).
Matt Noble, President of FMG
Check out my next blog in this series: Message to Fraternity and Sorority Headquarters.
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