Archive for the 'Greek Life' Category

Roadblocks to Effective Greek Systems

Tuesday, 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.

ROADBLOCKS:

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.

FarmHouse Fraternity Alum Killed in Omaha Mall Shooting

Wednesday, 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?

Friday, 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

Thursday, 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

Monday, 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.

When You Buy, You Give

Thursday, 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:
http://greekmovement.com/network.php

Virginia Tech Shooting: Fraternity Member Voices Frustration

Monday, April 16th, 2007

Horace Botts, a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity at Virgina Tech, writes a letter to the public about the recent shooting tragedy on campus. His letter was posted on abc2news.com. To view the full letter, click on this link.

Leaving Your Mark

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

Lance Allen

These last few weeks, I’ve been working my way towards what has turned out to be one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made—whether or not to go alumni. While this situation may seem simple since I’m getting a Bachelor’s Degree in May, it has turned out to be quite a bit more complicated. Sure, I’ll be “graduating,” but I’ve still got a year of graduate school ahead of me and I want to stay undergrad to earn a minor in mathematics. If I choose to skip over the minor, I’d have to go alumni; if I go for the minor, I could very well be in school for another two years.

Over the course of my late-night discussions with myself, one thought crept into my head and it hasn’t left since. For the last two weeks, most of my thoughts have been focused on how the people in my chapter will remember me. More specifically, how will I be known by the men who have come through my chapter five years from now? Will I just be another face on a few composites, or will the things I’ve done and tried to accomplish be remembered?

As I write this message, I’m hoping that it’s read by more than seniors in the same position I’m in. I’m hoping that by reading this article, a few freshmen and sophomores are motivated to leave a lasting impact on their chapter. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t do as much as I could have, and that I didn’t do what I did as well as I could have. I know that it’s a cliché, and everyone is sick of hearing it, but you only get as much out of your chapter as you put into it. Today, I’m telling you to not settle for what you think you want, because you will almost certainly wish that you had gotten more when you’re done.

You don’t have to have an elected position in your chapter to make a difference; you don’t even need to have an appointed one. All you need to leave an impact in your chapter is a goal. Does you chapter need better speakers at meetings? Go out and find them. Do you wish your chapter had more brotherhood or sisterhood events? Take it upon yourself to plan them. No matter what your chapter needs, or what you want your chapter to have, all you need to do to make it possible is to make arrangements for it.

Everyone is capable of writing down a goal and following through with it. The only difference between goals that are met, and goals that are forgotten, is a person who is willing to write them down and follow through on it. I challenge you to be that person for one of your chapter’s goals.

I’ve noticed that there are three kinds of people on old chapter composites: the trouble-makers, the ones who improved the chapter, and the ones nobody remembers. Which one do you want to be?

Participate Outside of a “Day of Service”

Monday, February 26th, 2007

Ashley Whitlatch

It is a frigid spring day, so cold that the sharp wind cuts through to my marrow. I am standing in the middle of a field, bubblegum blue jeans, five layers of various shirts and coats, dirt-encrusted lace-up boots and those great gardening gloves your mom always wears—the ones with the blue rubber smeared on the palm, so it looks like you’ve been trying a new finger-painting technique.

One lonely raindrop hits the only place on my body with skin exposed—my nose. I look up, willing myself to see through the darkening puffy clouds to reach the sun’s warmth.

Giving up on attracting heat, I refocus my efforts on my job—digging a hole. This is probably the 40 or 50th hole I’ve dug today. I lost specific count after 24 or so.

All around me, throughout the large field, others are also digging. Deciding the hole is deep enough; I drop the rusty shovel and take hold of the 12-inch evergreen held out to me by one of the guys in my three-person team.

As I hold the baby tree upright, my two partners start filling in the freshly dug earth around the roots. After three days of this, we finally have a routine down: first, water from the bucket (not too much or the little tree might drown), large shredded black tarp with a hole ripped in the middle, pushed over the top and staked down, then we move forward 10 feet and starting digging again.

There are 20 of us and this is our Spring Break trip, or rather, this is what we decided to do instead of having a Spring Break trip. Volunteering for the week at Wildhorse Canyon, a Young Life Camp in eastern Oregon, with a bunch of fraternity and sorority members, was not something I had planned on doing three years ago. I found out that planting 3,100 baby trees in five days is not easy—the hot cocoa breaks were lifesavers. However, after having gone on this trip, I felt like I had accomplished something and it allowed me to create lasting bonds with fellow members of my Greek Community.

This feeling is shared by many members of Greek Communities who volunteer their time for a cause or philanthropy project. Talia Tupling, a junior Economics major at the University of Washington and member of Delta Zeta is one of these volunteers. For the past quarter, Tupling has given a portion of her free time to volunteering at Cinderella’s Trunk.

The entirely volunteer, non-profit organization was created, according to its Web site, out of a church closet filled with 14 dresses in 2000. Today, the organization provides formal apparel and accessories to high school students who could not otherwise afford it.

The group’s Web site states that their “mission is to improve the self-esteem of our community.” Tupling explained that her ‘big sis’ in her sorority is currently their marketing director, so that was how she learned about the organization and she immediately wanted to get involved.

The group has a small store where all of the merchandise is displayed and students are able to make an appointment to come in to pick out what they need with the help of a volunteer.

“You are their fairy Godmother and so you help them pick out stuff and treat them like they’re shopping at Nordstroms…and make them look gorgeous,” said Tupling.

She also said that the students, “just feel good about themselves,” when trying on the dresses. “Although”, she said, “these high school students are not the only beneficiaries of this organization.”

“It’s really fulfilling that you made someone else’s life better,” Tupling stated.
Throughout her volunteering, Tupling said she realized how gratifying helping others is and recommended, “Get[ing] involved in whatever interests you.”

She said, “Whatever cause you believe in, go for that because everything needs help.” Other Greeks may be reminded of this by the words of Martin Luther King Jr., when he said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”

This year, we should all, as Greeks who often spout off about the many volunteering efforts of our communities, ask ourselves this question—and have an answer. Planting trees, playing fairy Godmother or collecting donations is not the only way of volunteering. Maybe it will start this year with a chapter’s philanthropy, but maybe students should take the initiative and get involved in a new service project. Get a taste of how giving time and energy can help those in need and participate beyond a “Day of Service.”

Ashley Whitlatch is a senior Editorial Journalism major at the University of Washington and is a member of Zeta Tau Alpha. She has also served as Vice President of Public Relations for University of Washington’s Panhellenic Association. She is addicted to Starbucks, stilettos and Lord of the Rings.

SI Story: What is the deal with frats?

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

AP Fraternity Photo posted on SI

It’s one of the first really tough decisions that young students must make after they show up on campus — a choice with ramifications that can be felt in all facets of college life, but most specifically in the oh-so-important social sector. It’s a decision that has both made and broken many a man. When it comes to fraternities, the big question is: To join or not to join…

Click here to read the rest of the Sport’s Illustrated story.