- CONFIDENTIALITY VS. LEGAL OBLIGATION
- NPC RELEASED FROM LITIGATION
- WHY GREEK LIFE?: ANSWERING THE TOUGH QUESTIONS
- UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT SPEAKS FOR FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS
- CHRISTIAN FRATERNITY’S LAWSUIT IS DISMISSED AFTER REGAINING OFFICIAL RECOGNITION
- FRATERNITIES PROTECTED AS INTIMATE ASSOCIATIONS
- IN MEMORIUM
Newsletter > September 2006 > "WHY GREEK LIFE?: ANSWERING THE TOUGH QUESTIONS"
WHY GREEK LIFE?: ANSWERING THE TOUGH QUESTIONS
Dawn Watkins, Ph.D., Dean of Student Affairs, Washington and Lee University
As the new school year begins, college and university administrators plan diligently for orientation sessions to welcome new students to our campuses. Along with new students, we often face the ever-increasing interest of parents of our students asking detailed questions about every imaginable (and often unimaginable) aspect of campus life.
With a Greek student population averaging about 75 percent, a question I face every orientation has to do with why we have Greek life on our campus. With more and more colleges and universities across the country abandoning Greek systems, and tragedies making headlines that may (or may not be but are perceived to be) linked to Greek life, how can college and university administrators best answer questions of parents that question the value of such systems on our college campuses? After a recent session with parents, a colleague of mine suggested I should write down why I so fervently believe Greek life has a place on our campus and, I would argue, these thoughts have applicability on many other campuses as well.
First and foremost, Greek students, through their Greek organizations, are provided an opportunity for learning and leadership development. Greek national organizations believe this and, in my experience, do all they can to promote this. Our Greek organizations have to grapple with the toughest issues that colleges and universities face today in life outside the classroom: harm reduction and risk management practices and issues ranging from under-age and high-risk drinking to vandalism, sexual misconduct, and altercations with the legal authorities. Leaders of Greek organizations on our campuses must truly understand how to practice and articulate the missions of their national organizations as well as institutional values and do all of this while managing personnel and budgetary aspects of their organizations. This is, indeed, no easy task to do well. Colleges and universities must appropriately staff and budget Greek life areas and hold Greek organizations accountable to institutional and national organization standards set forth for them. Failure to do so is not only an educational disservice to students, it is also practicing Russian roulette with the lives of today’s college students.
Akin to this, and the second reason why I value Greek organizations so highly on my college campus, is that Greek organizations provide an automatic accountability structure that should be considered a blessing to any institution (or parent) rather than a concern. Provided the tools, Greek leaders understand their responsibilities and are entrusted by the institution to carry those out. As I share with parents, if something, God forbid, goes wrong, I know EXACTLY where to go and who to talk with. A failure in the wristband system? A noise violation? A violation of “no contact rules” during recruitment? The accountability structure is firmly in place to teach students about consequences of failures in leadership.
Last and perhaps most important, is the concept of getting rid of Greek organizations. Sad to say, whether Greek organizations exist on our college campuses or not, high risk behaviors continue and can have dangerous consequences. Perhaps ridding a campus of Greek life is the right thing to do, however, I firmly do not believe it is the right thing to do on our college campus. I would much rather, as stated above, have a firm accountability structure in place to manage potentially high risk situations than to risk that all behavior occurs with little guidance or structure provided by the university system and systems of national organizations.
Creating partnerships with national organizations and institutionalizing the philosophies of national organizations along with institutional missions are the keys to promoting further responsibility among Greek leaders and members. Does this mean the tragedy may not occur? How we all wish it were so. Regardless, it is our responsibility to do all we can to support our Greek leaders and to require University leadership to support the mission of Greek life — not only for the sake of educating our students but also to, potentially, save lives. That is the message that we can tell our parents.