Roadblocks to Effective Greek Systems

November 25th, 2008

How’s your Greek system doing?

I recently went to the University library and started to browse through some dusty books on fraternities and sororities. One book, “Fraternities and Sororities on the Contemporary College Campus,” outlined four roadblocks to effective Greek systems. I’ll summarize them for you – and add some extra commentary.


1) Lack of an Adequate Institutional Infrastructure.

Back in the day, many of the top University officials on campus – the men and women who ran the campus – were Greek alumni. This created a close-knit relationship between the University and the Greek system. Many of these University officials mentored the Greek leaders on campus and served as Greek advisors.

The Greek advisor role over the years has been pushed down the totem pole. Now, on many campuses, you’ll find that the Greek Advisor position is an entry-level type of position with weak pay. Some Greek advisors now aren’t even Greek!

2) Conflict and Competition

Greek award banquets provide good competition, but sometimes at a cost. When the goal becomes building up the chapter resume, it is sometimes hard to work with other chapters on things such as community service, raising money, and so on.

Sadly, when Greek chapters finally do come together – it is usually for an exciting, highly competitive intramural game. Greeks have gotten used to the idea that when they see Greeks from another chapter, they have to put their game face on.

3) Problem Resolution

Ask a Greek Advisor – at times, it feels like most of their energy is spent on resolving conflicts and solving problems rather than creating positive educational activities. With big problems such as alcoholism, drugs, hazing, and rape to deal with – they are often perceived as a parent or principal rather than an encouraging mentor or coach.

4) Failure to Appreciate the Benefits of Greek Life

Because of stereotypes, most academic leaders, parents, and new freshman don’t see the benefits of going Greek. Therefore, much energy must be given during formal recruitment to undo the negative perceptions.

On national level, we can partner together to influence our society through media (blogs, YouTube, TV, etc.) and other creative means to undo the perceptions.

Most importantly, Greek advisors, student leaders, and alumni volunteers must do the hard work of giving their time and energy to seeing lives changed on a local level. We have to be honest that many of the stereotypes are true on our campuses.

If we work hard to bring about reform and change on the local level first, it will only be a matter of time before the stereotypes disappear on a national level.

University of Maryland fraternity pledges suck on pigs’ feet in hazing ritual

March 19th, 2008

The Baltimore Examiner just put out an interesting article on a fraternity hazing incident at the University of Maryland.

After photos surfaced recently of blindfolded pledges sucking pigs’ feet, the fraternity has been disbanded by the university.

The photos were obtained by “Terp Weekly Edition,” a campus news radio show, which posted them on its Web site.

Read the rest of the article.

Greek Parable: The Race

February 28th, 2008

Tyler Zach

There were six guys who rushed one fraternity house during their freshman year of college.

The first guy decided to quit during the first semester because his girlfriend did not want him to join. The second guy had an enjoyable first semester, but was kicked out of the fraternity when he received poor grades. The third guy left the fraternity at the end of the first year when the alumni board decided to make the house dry and could no longer host any parties. The fourth guy, by his junior year, had acquired many friends from his classes and decided to leave the fraternity to spend more time with them. The fifth guy, during his senior year, decided to leave the fraternity so that he could focus on his studies, get an excellent GPA, and start looking for a job. The last guy, only weeks away from graduation, was kicked out of the fraternity for smoking marijuana in the chapter house.

Many enter into Greek life, but only a few finish the race.

FarmHouse Fraternity Alum Killed in Omaha Mall Shooting

December 26th, 2007

Gary ScharfMost of the country, and even the world, was shocked to hear just a few weeks ago that the young man, Robert Hawkins, entered a busy Omaha, NE mall and took the lives of eight victims in Von Maur.

One of the Westroads Mall shooting victims, Gary Scharf, was a FarmHouse fraternity alum from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Recently, one of his old fraternity brothers wrote an inspiring editorial about Gary in the Norfolk Daily News.

The editorial talks about their imperfect friendship in the fraternity and how a few years ago, these fraternity brothers were reunited in a special way.

GO HERE TO READ the inspiring article.

National Greek Survey: What Do Greeks Need?

November 23rd, 2007

Tyler Zach

Working with Greeks as an advisor now for the past three years, I have often thought about what Greeks need. What do they think about? What do they want to learn? How do they want to grow?

In the quest to find some answers, I developed a Greek Needs survey that was taken by more than 130 students from over 100 U.S. college campuses. While the sample may be small in comparison to the total number of Greeks across the nation, I believe that these results will get us going in the right direction.

In the survey, I asked students “What do you think about the most?” This question was asked four times, each time giving them an opportunity to select an answer from one of the five levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow suggested that as the lower needs on the pyramid are met, the individual moves up the pyramid and seeks to fulfill the remaining needs. However, if some of the lower needs are not met, the individual’s progress will be temporarily interrupted until those needs are met. For a further explanation of Maslow’s theory, go here.

Maslow Pyramid Greek

What Do Greeks Need

Greek students by far appear to have most of the lower pyramid needs met. According to the results, 39% of Greeks’ current needs fall in the Self-Actualization level, which is the highest on the pyramid. Here are four of the Top 10 Greek Needs that fall within this top level:

  • Discovering my skills and talents
  • Reaching my full potential
  • Figuring out what I’m the best at
  • Wanting to learn, explore, create, or discover things

Top Ten Greek Needs

Number six on the Top 10 needs list is “not getting enough sleep.” This is rather surprising because sleep would fall under the lowest level, yet it appears to be a very crucial need to these students. According to Maslow, this lack of sleep that the students are experiencing might indicate a huge problem for Greeks as they try to progress in other areas. Perhaps it is the pursuit of the very top level that is causing them to fall behind on one of their most basic needs of all.

Number two on the Top 10 needs list is “being able to graduate and/or get a good job.” This need would fall under the second level, still very low on the pyramid like the need for sleep. From my own experience, this need for security or future security really affects a student’s decision and growth in college. I have seen many fraternity and sorority students leave the Greek system or become very inactive in their chapters because they want to succeed academically so that they can get a good job in the future. Or perhaps they have to leave the chapter to work more so that they can be more financially secure. This is one example of having to temporarily remove yourself from one of the higher levels to take care of a lower need first.

One problem with the survey is that it asks Greeks what their top needs are, assuming that they are in full knowledge of what those actually are. Sometimes, we might be deceived as to what we need in the future as opposed to what we need right now. For instance, a Greek student may want to “discover a talent” but in reality they may be spending two hours per day on Facebook because they are trying to meet a level three (belonging) need.

Nonetheless, most Greek students, from the results of this survey, appear to be at least pursuing or thinking about the highest level of needs possible. This is a good indicator of the caliber of students drawn to Greek life. This might explain why there is such a high percentage of Greek leaders on college campuses as well as the culture at large – especially in the business world and in the government.

Hopefully, these survey results will help you to serve Greek students more effectively.

Some Traditions Should be Broken

October 25th, 2007

Ashley Whitlatch

It is eight o’clock on a crisp September morning and utter silence is broken abruptly at the sound of 70 identically dressed women, standing in a doorway, clapping and screaming at the top of their lungs, perfect white teeth glistening in the sunlight, as each head bobs crazily about. The noise reverberates down the front steps and spills onto the sidewalk where another, smaller group of women watch with rapt attention, some in complete shock, eyes wide, and others with slight smiles creasing the corners of their mouths.

Over the next several days, these waiting women will attend beautifully decorated events, watch several skits, be entertained with musical numbers, eat delectable morsels of catered bliss and have short, succinct conversations through a technique called “the bump” in which a rotation cycle allows for five minute interactions.

This typical image of the average formal fall recruitment for sororities exemplifies what some critics see as the superficiality of the recruitment process—an image that sororities nationwide are currently attempting to move away from. This is in response to parents and university administrations accusing the selection process of being centered heavily on physical appearance and material wealth. It is also an attempt by the Greek community to reach out to the new type of student being admitted into universities. Many fraternities do not have a formal recruitment and have thus far dodged the criticism that they are too oriented on looks and wealth.

This fall, more and more formal recruitments at various universities will be changed to reflect a more genuine atmosphere, rather than the current process, which many in and outside of the sorority world sees as a very superficial process.

“The whole process is fake,” said Rujun Zheng, a recent graduate of the University of Washington and Zeta Tau Alpha member. “You can’t tell in five minutes if you can live with someone for four years.”

In an effort to appeal to the more academically and service-oriented students being accepted by the universities, new recruitment proposals are popping up all over the nation. These are in line with the National Panhellenic Conference resolution of 2003. This will drastically alter the way formal recruitment is conducted on many campuses.

Some changes include banning of identical clothing, and songs and skits eliminated from the experience.  They would be replaced by extended conversation time, focused philanthropy projects and slideshows sharing what Greek life truly entails.

Lauren Johnson, a past officer on the University of Washington Panhellenic Association Council, explained that these changes, “allow the chapters to more accurately portray what sorority life is actually like.  Without reliance on entertainment, the women will focus more on conversation and getting to know their potential new members.”

In 1991, the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), the national governing body for sororities, passed a “no frills” resolution, a policy that limited decorations, songs, skits and uniform dress. According to an article on the national Chi Omega Web site, the goal of these restrictions, which varied from campus to campus, was “to focus recruitment on making connections with potential new members through meaningful conversations,” rather than focusing on how many flower arrangements a chapter house displayed, or what brand of clothing chapter members were wearing.

NPC further established plans for conducting a more successful recruitment when the resolution was passed again in 2003, based on a lack of response from local Panhellenics.

In her dissertation discussing sorority ritual and recruitment, Dr. Mari Ann Callais explained that, “The structure and intent of sororities is to provide an environment that enhances a woman’s academic endeavors and her personal and social growth.”

“Alterations to formal recruitment processes across the nation would then help showcase this intent,” said Callais.

As more campuses across the nation convert to “no frills” recruitment, chapters have seen increases in membership and retention rates, said Cori Hammock, Panhellenic advisor to sororities at the University of Washington.

Some chapter members are saddened to see traditions die. Senior Pi Beta Phi member, Chelsea Bergeson said, “My chapter has been very resistant to the proposed changes.”

In chapter discussions, Bergeson said that members were reluctant to give up a hundred years of tradition and history.

“It’s something we’ve always done, and it’s hard to just throw it all away for the sake of ‘progress,” said Bergeson.

“It is difficult to evoke a change on a campus with such a long standing history,” Johnson agreed, “but these changes allow sorority women to show their true personality, instead of hiding behind frills.”

Hammock also explained that the students who are now applying to the UW and getting accepted are described as “millennial” students, a new generation heavily pressured to succeed, highly structured and community service minded.

An article from the Journal of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing cements these characteristics as national trends in students applying to universities.

“Today’s students may be more serious about studies and career goals than they were in the 1980s,” the article said. “Sororities have adapted by positioning their groups as more than just social clubs.”

The article also consulted the 1999 chairwoman of the National Panhellenic Conference, Lissa Bradford, who said, “We stand for scholarship and service and high values.”

The article said that in order to obtain new members successfully, “sororities must adapt their recruiting efforts to match the needs, wants and desires of potential members.”

According to Johnson, opportunities within sororities are endless in creating a well-rounded college experience. If that is the case, many women this fall will be going through a recruitment exemplifying these opportunities and engaging in quality conversation—minus the head bobbing, singing, dancing and private anecdotes of 70 plus women looking like identical Barbies.

Ashley Whitlatch is a Traveling Leadership Consultant for Zeta Tau Alpha. She has a B.A. in Editorial Journalism from the University of Washington – Seattle. Her addictions include: Starbucks, stilettos and Lord of the Rings.

On the Symbolic Role of Greek Secrecy

September 24th, 2007

Anthony Bennett

What does the secrecy of our rituals mean?

Those moments when all the doors are locked, all the blinds drawn. Why are they the moments of clarity for us? The little idiosyncrasies in our words and actions, imperceptible to most everyone but transparent to our brothers and sisters. Why do they hold so much meaning?

When (unless you were luckier than I) your church group/high school friends from home found out you went Greek, and attacked the stereotypes that summarized their entire interface with Greek Life, what made you defend it so passionately? Why was “some club” such a part of you, and why was its defense a defense of yourself as well?

The answer lies not in the children’s game which non-Greeks may stereotype as a “secret club.” Neither does it lie in the theology of the modern world, which I believe is entirely too focused on the notion of a “personal relationship” with God and far too murky on one’s relationship to the world. To find the answer, we must go back to the time of the founding of our orders, and to the conclusions of God’s will when His life, death and resurrection were still fresh memories.

In the early days of Christianity, persecution by the Romans was not an idle threat; every waking moment of these Christians’ lives was devoted to their survival and the furthering of their mission. They could not spread the Message if they were dead. Where secrecy without reflection becomes little more than an indulgence for us, secrecy was a tool for their survival. They knew each other by secret signs, met in areas with no danger of detection, and spoke in hushed tones, fearful of discovery at every turn. Despite this harried lifestyle, and undeterred by the terrible consequences that awaited their comrades without the cunning or intelligence or luck to avoid that discovery, they pressed on. They had been charged with changing the world by an Authority that could not be denied. They would not fail, even if it meant they weren’t around to reap the rewards. For better or worse, and all things tend to be both when man attempts to enact God’s will without His ability, they have succeeded: the name of Christ is known in every corner in the world, and their dens of secrecy have been replaced by magnificent, even opulent testaments to the glory of God.

Turn now to the time of the founding of your Greek organization. The war for American independence was not relegated to textbooks as now; our collective founders were at most great-grandsons of Liberty. Secrecy for them had the aforementioned connotations, punctuated with modernity all its own. Their fathers and grandfathers had told of a novel but not new idea: the right of the people to govern themselves. They met as the disciples did, away from the manifold ears of King George. The move was not without cost, and they threatened to pay dearly were they unsuccessful. But any attempt at reconsideration met the same end: theirs was a cause they could not fail, even if the reward was reaped by the grandchildren to whom the stories were now told. Their goal: to change their own nation, and let the world follow. Though admittedly aided by advantages not at the disposal of the disciples, their mission was no less successful: the consent of the governed is the standard of the free world, by which all its nations are ruled.

In the context of the time of their founding, the idea of men united by a common secret was romantic, conveying the image of a cloister or the grassroots of a revolution. As the age of reckless hazing and its dire consequences came and passed, the secrecy took a more ominous tone, that of wondering the extent of the “free pass” offered by the oaths not to divulge a secret.

The time has come to reclaim that revolutionary standard, to pick it up and dust it off where the last generation let it fall. The stakes have been lowered consistently, but the goal remains the same: ours is a mission we cannot fail. We must rebuild our own community around the virtues with which it was formed. Then, we must go out into the world at large, and accomplish the same. Like others before us, we are charged by God and by our Founders with changing the world. Like others before us, we cannot fail. We will not fail.

Anthony is a sophomore Sigma Chi at Jacksonville University – where he is a film major with minors in English, music, and written communications. He enjoys writing, the arts, and being a Sigma Chi.

The Wall :: Part 2

August 27th, 2007

Ashley Taylor

The experience of running the Los Angeles Marathon has been one of the most defining experiences of my life.

I learned that independence is not conducive to success and that if I really wanted to finish, I was going to have to break down and allow my sorority sisters, the girls who mean the world to me, to share in my pain, struggles, victories and experience with me. Even more, I was overwhelmed by how God was with me holding my hand every step of the way.

The race itself was fun! I had a great cardio mix in my iPod and took a reasonable pace. Mile 15 was my first personal accomplishment because after that, every step I took was further than I had ever run before. I started hurting at mile 17, either my feet or knees went first, I don’t even remember. At mile 18 one of my friends was waiting with a huge blue and gold sign cheering me on, which was absolutely perfect timing.

I hit my wall at mile 24. My body HURT.

As I ran past a man with Isaiah 40 (something to the effect of “God will renew your strength”) on the back of his shirt, I tapped his shoulder and asked him to pray for me. He was enthusiastic to do so, but never did I EVER think I would ask a stranger to pray for me. I was reminded of all my sisters who I knew had my back and would be doing the same and smiled— and was encouraged to keep going.

When I finished and regained enough motor coordination to check my phone, eight out of the 10 messages waiting, were from my sisters, with many more calls from them to come later. As much as going into this run I didn’t realize what a team effort it would be, I could not have done it without them. They drove me around, listened to me process, checked up on my eating, served as emergency contacts, and rejoiced in my triumphs with me. It’s really just a snapshot of how integral my sorority sisters are to my life.

I’d been at my wall, hit my limit, cried countless tears (which is not my normal response to anything), and almost dropped out entirely. I carried on by God’s grace and because of His prompting. I don’t know why I would think that running a marathon would be a worthwhile investment of time, but God’s faithfulness through training and the race itself was tangible and indescribable. It was manifested in the people around me and the race itself, which was literally the application of the physical conditioning and mental training I had been through. It was acknowledging that I might not make it, but refusing to accept that and power through.

I was praying to God in the midst of my body, mind, and soul. And that experience made it worth everything. The first question I always get asked is what my time was, but instead of answering I smile and say that the goal was to finish without stopping or walking, which by God’s grace and my girlfriends’ support—I did. And despite becoming acutely aware of my insufficiency, persevering through to the finish line, fueled by adrenaline and hope, overwhelmed me with the reality of God, His faithfulness, and gave me more confidence in myself than anything else ever has.

Ashley is a senior biological anthropology major at UCLA. She is the wellness chair of Alpha Delta Chi and the safety officer on the Bruin Waterski Team. She loves running and wakeboarding, and is passionate about encouraging women in confronting and overcoming eating disorders.

When You Buy, You Give

July 26th, 2007

Here’s a philanthropy opportunity for you without having to do a philanthropy.

All Greeks now have the amazing opportunity to buy Greek stuff and have a percentage given to help support AIDS widows and orphans in Africa.

Does your chapter buy recruitment t-shirts, hoodies, jackets, and a variety of other Greek stuff throughout the year?

If so, then why not buy Greek stuff for a good cause? Greek Movement has recently partnered with three of the largest Greek supply companies (Greek Gear, Greek U, and Greek Hoodies) in an attempt to support the Agathos organization in Africa.

You can make a difference by raising an awareness of this philanthropy to your chapter. All proceeds will go directly to the Agathos Foundation. So buy, and buy a lot!

FYI: You must travel to the Greek stores via our web page in order for the donations to work.

Go to our Greek store page:

The Naked Roommate (Book Review)

May 30th, 2007

Tyler Zach

The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College

The Naked Roommate is a compilation of expert and student advice on roommates, relationships, classes, friends, finances, dorm life, sex, alcohol, Greek life, laundry, and more.

When I first received it in the mail I was taken back by the thickness of it. I didn’t realize that I was getting a handbook (about 428 pages) more so than a book. I didn’t look at the cover too closely. Personally, I’d rather read something a little more feasible.

What I like about the book is that it seems to cover almost every topic imaginable that a student would deal with throughout their college life. It is funny in some spots, easy to read, and well organized. I also like how the author has included a lot of student stories throughout the book.

I spent most of my time checking out the Greek Life section since that is my area of interest. This section is divided up into: getting in, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I sensed a slight sarcastic overtone in a few areas – the kind of sarcasm you can usually sense from those outside the Greek system.

However, there are a lot of good tips in this section that I think every incoming freshman should know about Greek life. From my honest perspective, the student stories are pretty accurate and balanced. I didn’t like the multiple uses of “frat” though. Near the end of the section, there are some helpful Greek definitions, links, and resources that are useful.

Bottom line:

You will probably WANT to buy the book if: you are a Greek advisor, you are looking to buy a gift for an incoming freshman, you like fun handbooks on your book shelf, or you want a resource that you can use to educate your fraternity or sorority about college life.

You will probably NOT WANT to buy the book if:
you’d rather have a book more so than a handbook, you are an upperclassmen, or you are looking for deep insight on the college life.

For me: I’d check it out in the library and glean some good tips and stories from it, but I probably wouldn’t purchase a copy myself. However, if I was a young zealous high school senior again, perhaps I’d think differently.

Check it out on Amazon!