In the spring of 2010, President Lambert met with the presidents of all Greek-lettered organizations and the members of the three fraternity and sorority governing councils. He asked the student leaders to evaluate how well the fraternities and sororities are keeping pace with the evolution of the university as a premier institution and challenged them to develop an exemplary fraternity and sorority life program for the nation. While recognizing the role fraternities and sororities can play in the undergraduate experience and in campus life, he emphasized the priority for academic citizenship and academic excellence for members of Greek-lettered organizations.
The student leaders and staff in fraternity and sorority life accepted President Lambert’s challenge and have embarked on developing and implementing ways to build on their strengths and address obstacles in the Greek community that threaten their viability. Toward these ends, the following steps were taken.
An academic summit with over 100 representatives from all fraternities, sororities, and governing councils was held in the spring of 2011. The focus was on re-envisioning the new member programs to ensure that activities would acculturate new members into fraternities and sororities, offer mutual support, and further students' academic success. A plan was developed by the student leaders and is currently being implemented. It includes:
a. chapter specific contracts for academic performance of both new and initiated members,
b. new member specific workshops on time management,
c. mid-semester check-ins conducted by chapters,
d. council specific awards for both chapters and individuals for academic achievement and
e. a new minimum GPA requirement to participate in fraternity recruitment
The assignment of student groups to fraternity and sorority houses in the Loy Center for the 2011-2012 academic year was done in consultation with a campus-wide committee of faculty and staff who reviewed each group's housing application. Fraternities and sororities were evaluated on their performance for the past three years in the areas of scholarship, contributions to the campus, leadership, service and philanthropy, and history of conduct/house damages for the past three years. Each fraternity and sorority was given feedback on their performance, in some cases with time bound requirements for improvements in order to keep their assigned house beyond next year. Since its initial implementation in 2011, the tri-annual application for fraternity and sorority housing continues to serve as a means of holding chapters accountable for their academic performance and impact on Elon University's campus.
Five new fraternity and sorority houses were constructed and opened in the fall of 2011. These houses provide for greater engagement of students in fraternities and sororities in the academic and co-curricular programs on campus. In the years prior to the houses' contruction, the number of incidents and problems with activities in the community had increased. However, since their opening, the new houses provide a hub for students to have meetings and programs, host social events in concert with university risk management and conduct expectations, and better integrate students’ academic and social development.
In order to maintain their lease for a house in the Loy Center, organizations must have a minimum of 2 junior or senior leaders residing in the house. To attract more upper-class students, single rooms were created in the six original houses, so that each house will have a minimum of two singles. The newer houses, which were opened in 2011, have 5 single rooms and four double rooms.
One of the new houses was built as a duplex in order to allow historically black sororities and fraternities (NPHC organizations) to have fewer spaces to fill. This new house, as well as a similar house built in 1997, will house one group of five students in each half of the duplex. The two halves each have their own common space, kitchen, and outdoor deck. At the time of their opening, this change allowed four NPHC groups to be housed in the Loy Center. This was a first in Elon's history, and a situation unparallel by any predominantly white institution of higher education.
Following in the footsteps of a number of colleges and Universities such as William & Mary and Wake Forest, Elon made use of the services of the Fraternity/Sorority Coalition Assessment Project, a national program which assesses the overall health of the fraternity and sorority community through data analyses and interviews with various campus constituencies. Four assessment experts reviewed multiple pieces of data in order to assess the performance of fraternities and sororities. In 2010, they visited the campus on September 29-30 and interviewed multiple groups of students, administrators and faculty. A campus committee of faculty, administrators, alumni and students staff defined the outcomes and shaped the agenda for these experts' visit, and evaluated the information they presented in the Coalition Assessment Project Report. Information from this report served as the basis for the Greek Summit held in February of 2011. The aim of the Summit was to develop a strategic plan for fraternity and sorority life at Elon.
In early February the Greek community hosted a Greek Summit that was attended by 125 student leaders, alumni, faculty and staff advisors, as well as national representatives from Elon’s fraternity and sorority organizations. The attendees were able to participate in sessions focused on the topics of community, philanthropy and service, leadership and mentorship, scholarship, and personal and chapter accountability. During the Greek Summit, there was a review of the Fraternity and Sorority Coalition Assessment Project (LINK) by the former Director of Greek Life, Shana Plasters. This assessment was in furtherance of the effort to learn more about the strengths of the current Greek system and also identify areas of growth; we believe this is essential information as the University moves toward making Greek Life a community of excellence at Elon University. At the Summit, each of the chapters conducted a critical review of their strengths and weaknesses as a chapter and community, and committed to tangible action itemswhich they would complete that semester in each of the following areas: academics/scholarship, personal & chapter accountability, leadership/mentorship, service/philanthropy, and overall community building. This planning effort has continued to be an integral component of each chapter's the annual accreditation for success. The fraternity and sorority community at Elon will actively engage a strategic path towards creating and sustaining an exemplary model of fraternity and sorority life. The University, national offices, and the alumni will need to strengthen their collaboration to support the undergraduates as they engage initiatives such as:
a. Enhance the Loy Center in order to develop a more vibrant residential community.
b. Develop strategies to actively support a stronger balance in college life for fraternity and sorority members, while increasing transparency of fraternity and sorority life at Elon.
c. Leadership Development – in partnership with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, the Center for Leadership, the Career Center, and their national offices, each chapter should implement leadership development programs for all members of the organization that are intentional and progressive for each year a member is at Elon.
d. In partnership with the Elon administration, each sorority and fraternity should engage their national office resources to develop wise risk management assessment and response strategies and protocols.
Fraternity and sorority life at Elon has been, and continues to be, an important part of the undergraduate experience for many students. In order to ensure its continued viability the Elon fraternity and sorority community must embrace and actively pursue a vision that stresses support for the University’s academic mission and responsibilities for membership in the larger Elon community.
We must continue to seek real and sustainable change.