Thursday, April 28, 2011
My Greek Odyssey
A year ago discussions began about improving the relationship between the administration (primarily me) and Greek alumni and students. A report – one year later – will be posted on the Greek Web page within a month. The directions identified last year to make improvements included the following: develop the Greek Alumni Advisory Council; arrange consulting; review insurance issues; define off-campus events vis-à-vis groups; improve electronic communications; review big brother programs; host a men’s conference; and bring in a sexual assault speaker.
Not only did a lot of people work to make those things happen, but other unanticipated successes took place. Whereas last year the first step was to look at what was broken and how to fix it, this year the new outlook is how to continue our momentum from an incredible year. Again, there is not an expectation of perfection from our students – as individuals and groups. But we need a healthy system that strives for excellence and clubs that strive for distinction. In addition, shifting a culture takes time, so no wonder some students and alumni found the 24-hour delay of bid day due to a winter storm suspicious. But we can live with that.
Anyways, here are some things I learned this year that I hadn’t expected to, and here are some things that happened that I didn’t anticipate:
I learned the benefit of Trinity having a primarily local system. Funny that I learned this more from having my sons look at different colleges. At many other campuses in the state the national Greek life scene dominates the social culture on campus. Part of Trinity’s charm, in general, is its healthy laid back nature. Students don’t come here wanting to fit a particular stereotype, and in fact, a recent survey showed that many come here with little notion of joining Greek life. The reason students join our groups is because they like the people they meet in those groups in casual settings. I call it being accidentally Greek. We offer something pretty unique. Not having formal houses adds to this vibe. I appreciate this more than I did before.
The Death and Resurrection of the Omega Phi Fraternity
Omega Phi lost its way over the past ten years. This isn’t a judgment on the individuals in the group. Former members lamented the way the group deviated from the initial mission of the club. Sticking to one’s core mission is a sure-fire way to ensure longevity and the club lost that and the older alumni base and they floundered. The few remaining members did the right thing by holding on as long as they could, but eventually disbanding. A handful of students and a lot of alumni jumped in to fill the void and the Greek Council jumped in to generously allow the group to start anew. Personally, having strong connections today to many Omega Phi alumni, I am very gratified to see the enthusiasm pouring in as the club gets a new chance – the old way.
The shift of the Greek Calendar for 2011-2012
The staff, particularly those with Greek life experience from other campuses, has often felt the recruitment/orientation calendar was too long and that this created multiple problems. This year, the new Greek Council, in its first month, surveyed new members and came to the same conclusion. The leadership was more focused on two issues. First, there was little time to just “be.” The whole fall was dedicated to rush and the orientation process ended the week after spring break. In a recent meeting, in an extraordinarily bold move, the Greek Council decided to cut orientation in the spring so that it would end the week before spring break begins. The main driver to this was that the weeks before and after spring break were not only the most intense in new member orientation, but were the most intense academic weeks of the semester given the mid-term exam schedule. They decided to delay rush until early October. The student leadership, discussion, and decision-making were phenomenal. The ability of the Council to have conflict with civility, take a risk, and compromise were outstanding examples of the education that takes place through involvement in Greek life.
Groups began the process of reviewing their organizations, with assistance from alumni. Specifically, clubs started to review their visions, missions, values, goals, and points of pride and distinction. The University is doing the same thing. This is an incredible exercise to go through and I appreciate the Gammas taking the lead and sharing their results as a model for other clubs.
The Greek Council from this past year initiated the Mark Sterner lecture prior to spring break. This intense lecture is by a young man who killed three friends while driving under the influence on their last night of spring break. The clubs mandated their members attend and they sat in pin-drop silence as Mr. Sterner laid bare his excruciating life and times. In addition, the Greeks co-sponsored the sexual assault speaker last fall. They again packed the house by mandating attendance.
In summary, the success in areas that were a focus for us this year was tremendous. The fact that there were no organizational conduct cases of any kind, in University Conduct Boards, or internally within Greek Council, was terrific. The unexpected gains outlined (listed above) are even more gratifying. They represent initiative, creativity, positive momentum, and success for the greater good. And we are just getting started.
Special thanks and acknowledgement to Dr. Raphael Moffett, Director of CCI, the Greek Alumni Advisory Council, and the Greek Council from 2010-2011, the new Greek Council, and the chairs from both.