College Judicial Consultants

Information on college, conduct, Greek life, advocacy, and fairness-published every Tuesday and Friday morning.

Archive for the category “Greek life”

The Real Problem with SAE’s Bus Video

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.” —W.B. Yeats, “The Second Coming

If you’ve read this blog, or if you’re going back and doing so now, you know I’m pro-Greek life. I really like fraternities and sororities and, for the most part, think that they are often the “low hanging fruit” when someone wants to seem like they’re addressing systemic issues of alcohol and drug abuse, rape culture, and other issues that I despise. My premise in earlier writings was that people who want to target Greeks can easily do so because Greeks give them plenty of opportunities, but that the things we vilify them for are done by less targeted areas of a campus community. In other words, if we’re fighting Greeks then fine. If we’re fighting the things we accuse them of then we need to be more systemic in our approach. I have also said that part of the problem is that by segregating themselves, requiring a selection and initiation process, and by being so visible as an exclusive group Greeks are understandable targets of scorn and concern, especially by non-Greeks.

Then the SAE video comes out with a bus full of white kids with names like “Parker,” embodying the privilege that people despise and “proving” what everyone has said about them. Enough people have broken down the video, but I think that there is a really important point being missed in the discussion of whether fraternities are racist or “America’s apartheid.” The video is terrible and I have no doubt that it’s happening elsewhere. In fact, we have already had this discussion when we were talking about sororities at the University of Alabama a year ago. I hate the entrenched privilege and exclusion in many Greek chapters, but the thing that makes me the saddest about that video are the brothers and guests who weren’t chanting.

I’m not sad that they are in a chapter that got kicked off. I’m not sad that they’re embarrassed or that people think they’re racist. I’m sad because they did not have either the tools or the courage to speak up. I’m sad that in the BEST light, this is an organization run by the worst of them. I don’t mean their elected President or other officers, but I mean the guys who put their chapter at risk with every social event, endanger the health and safety of their guests and brothers, and who do so while demanding loyalty and silence from those people in the name of “brotherhood.”

When I spoke at a sorority on “Making Good Bad Decisions” I asked the organizer what she wanted me to talk about. She said that in their group of about 130 there were 20 or some odd sisters who were going to “get them in some real trouble.” This didn’t mean that other 100+ were following all the rules, but that this group were doing things without regard for themselves, their sisters, or their chapter as a whole. I asked “why do you think you guys let them” and the answer was the same as I hear from officers when I help a chapter in disciplinary trouble “nobody wants to be that person” who ruins a good time or seems uncool.

I believe that there are chapters that are irredeemable. I believe that there are chapters that do nothing wrong and meet/exceed every expectation set for them. However, I think most chapters are filled with good men and women who may break some school policies on occasion, but who are adamantly opposed to the same things the rest of us are–hazing, forced consumption of alcohol, sexual assault, racism, homophobia, etc. I also think that many of those chapters don’t have the ability to intervene and address behaviors that are against their organizational and personal values, and that that inability leads to the worst of them controlling how the chapter behaves.  When a chapter does not address that behavior and correct it, it is the same thing as embracing it. So when a fraternity in trouble comes to me and tells me that “it’s the seniors” or “this one pledge class” that keeps getting them in trouble I tell them that that stopped being true after the first time they did something with which you disagreed and the chapter did nothing.

The simple fact is that disciplinary action isn’t going to fix anything unless the chapters themselves preempt the need by dealing with those people within their organization that are betraying that organization through their actions. National organizations are suspending and revoking charters and schools are suspending and expelling organizations more than ever, and in some cases disbanding entire Greek programs. This will not stop until fraternities and sororities show that the problems are with a small percentage of their members and are being addressed meaningfully by the majority because, until then, the ones caught are indeed the entire chapter in every way that matters. The obligation for this training should be with the national chapters themselves. College administrators can support this bystander training, but the responsibility needs to come from the organizations that abandon chapters when things go wrong and claim that they are not acting in accordance of the national values. Unless a national organization BOTH teaches values AND how to support and act within those values, they are 100% culpable for the actions of their chapters.

Does your chapter do anything to address harmful or hateful behavior? Does your school provide any bystander training? Let me know.

 

Next post: Should the Oklahoma SAE’s have been suspended? What about the brothers?

Advertisements

Making Timid “Leaders”-Why Failing the Maryland Delta Gamma Shames Us All

By now many of you know about the email sent by the UMD Delta Gamma Social Chair to her sorority sisters where she chastised them for their actions and attitudes during Greek Week. Apparently someone in the sorority shared this email with the public, it went viral, got lampooned, and now the author has “resigned” from the sorority. While there are apparently many people who feel that her actions were “inexcusable,” I believe that the people who should truly be ashamed are the sisters, Delta Gamma national, and any administrators who did not stand up for this woman. Loyalty and support are great values, but if they only exist when things are easy then they are meaningless.


Delta Gamma posted their position on this incident on their website describing the email as “highly inappropriate and unacceptable by any standard” and “as all reasonable people can agree, this is an email that should never have been sent by its author. Period.” I have tremendous respect for Delta Gamma, but they are wrong. The young woman did not make serious threats, there was no promotion of drug use, there was no pornography, there was no hazing, and there was no promotion of illegal activity. The “unacceptable by any standard” content was simply swearing, name calling, and exaggerated threats. When you read the email (which, by the way, is hilarious) what comes across most is the frustration and anger that she’s feeling. She absolutely could have toned it down or used a different approach, but why did she HAVE to? What was more unreasonable, the way she worded her email or the actions that lead her to do it? Her decision to write an email without the false niceties, insincere politeness, and passive aggression we see in most chastising emails may have embarrassed the national organization, but what this reasonable person things should have never been done is for National to have thrown her under the bus. If a national organization cannot rally around a member when she is under intense pressure and publically support her while addressing the issue in private, then what type of loyalty should they expect from members?


One of the reasons we do what we do at College Judicial Consultants is because in most cases, the student support resources and professionals fail students when they need them the most. Most of the time that failure is a result of a lack of resources-it takes a long time to work with one student in crisis and spending that time means you cannot spend it with the thousands of other students who need you. However, there is commonly also a loss of perspective regarding what it is like to be college-aged, and we are losing the lesson that it is how people respond to their mistakes that define them. When a student or organization stumbles, the response should be “what do we need to do to pick them up” rather than shaming them or banning them from the communities. (It is worth noting that UMD’s Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, Matt Supple did just that.)

You tried to make us behave better, and because we didn’t like your tone you’re on your own.

There are actions so terrible that by committing them a student irredeemably abandons the community, but this was not one of them. This was a woman frustrated by the failure of her sisters to meet their obligations during a high profile event for which she was responsible. She likely spent weeks during chapter meetings trying to get them to understand their obligations, and made attempts to address behavior prior to the infamous email. When she heard that her sisters were not only failing to meet those obligations, but also doing so in a way that embarrassed the chapter she lashed out while still addressing the specific behaviors. I, for one, would love to know there are more people out there like her.


We need to stop letting style dictate our response and focus on substance. She clearly articulated her frustration and disappointment, but if she would have been phony and polite it would have been praised. More importantly, how does demanding insincerity make someone  a better “leader,” and where is the accountability for the sisters who were behaving contrary to the chapter values during Greek Week? Where is National’s public shaming and abandonment of the people who shared private communication with the world? Where are the campus harassment charges for taking action against the social chair that they knew would humiliate her, and sharing confidential communication against her will to do so? Once again, we praise people who fail to confront openly while vilifying someone who speaks her mind simply because the language used was considered “offensive.” I’m willing to bet $20 that her sorority sisters knew her personality when they elected her, and that none of them were offended by the email.

Can we please stop teaching our women that “demure” is a positive value?


If we want better leaders we must not only allow students to make mistakes, but encourage them to make big ones. We need to praise the efforts behind the mistakes rather than separate ourselves from the people who make them. Otherwise we create leaders too afraid to make big choices for fear of losing their positions, a culture where sharing private information with the world is praised and the person who does so is free from accountability, and the fear of abandonment by anyone who tries to do something other than in a proscribed way. These are not “higher standards,” and the way this woman was handled should shame us all.


How do you respond when a student leader you work with acts in a way you disapprove of? How would you have handled this situation? Let us know in the comments or email me at DaveK@CollegeJudicialConsultants.com.

Be better.

 



Greek Case Study: How to Stop One Member’s Misconduct from Defining Your Fraternity or Sorority

[NOTE: All names and identifying information has been changed to protect the privacy of the students involved. Any relation to a case you may know is purely coincidental.]

Johnny is a junior at a competitive school and a member of a popular fraternity with a physical house. While responding to a noise complaint at the fraternity, the school’s police smelled the strong aroma of marijuana coming from the house. They are allowed in and locate the smell coming from Johnny’s room. They knock, Johnny opens the door, and there are 2 bongs going, scales, baggies, and a half-pound of marijuana. Because the police want to cut Johnny a break they do not arrest him, but they do refer him to judicial affairs for possession, intent to sell, and other charges. Judicial Affairs also refers the case to the Interfraternity Council Judicial Board to address the potential fraternity misconduct.

Johnny is found responsible at the judicial hearing and suspended for a year. At the hearing he reveals that he was dealing, but only to people he knew like his brothers and other friends. Since smoking marijuana is only a citation in the state he figured he could make a little money, smoke for free, and that it wasn’t a big deal. That information is shared with the IFC.

At the IFC hearing, the fraternity says that they “did not know” Johnny was dealing, and that they would never have allowed it in the house if they did. They admit that they knew Johnny smoked, but claim that no other brothers smoke and that they too did not think it was a big deal since “it isn’t against the law or anything.” They admit that they should have stopped Johnny from smoking, but deny responsibility for everything else. They are found responsible for dealing and suspended for 3 years.

___________________________________________________________________________________

So what happened? What could the fraternity have done to prevent the hearing, or failing that, have a much lower sanction? (I’m assuming you know if you deal drugs you risk getting kicked off campus/arrested, and that you’re smart enough not to do it so this is about the fraternity.)

The fraternity did not get in trouble because Johnny was dealing (or even smoking in the house.) The fraternity got in trouble because they did not stop Johnny and thus let Johnny define them. In other words, by allowing Johnny to continue doing whatever he was doing in the house they endorsed the behavior, making that behavior part of the chapter’s culture. Not intervening when a brother/sister does something against the rules or values of the organizations dos not mean you are passively allowing something, it means you are actively embracing that behavior.

Don’t let one brother or sister make all of you into a herd.

When a single member or a small group “go rogue,” you are expected to put a stop to it, and will be held accountable if you don’t. While you can’t stop someone from acting like a donkey, you must stop them from feeling supported or comfortable doing so until the behavior stops OR they leave the fraternity/sorority. When I work with fraternities or sororities I recommend some ways of dealing with this with different levels of severity, but it important that you address it (and move through the options) quickly:

  1. Have the President, VP, Standards Chair, or Risk Manager (i.e. whomever the chapter agreed should address member misconduct informally) talk to the brother/sister and get them to stop immediately and get it out of your house. This will usually be enough, but if it isn’t;
  2. Have an active and effective judicial committee in place to give a formal mandate and sanction. Most chapters I know have someone with a title like “Judicial Chair,” but almost none of them have an active and trained judicial body to address misconduct and keep it in house. Not having one is a huge mistake not only because it is a very useful tool to uphold the values of your chapter, but also because demonstrating the ability to and history of dealing with internal issues will help you if your organization ever gets in trouble. If, after getting the sanction the behavior still does not stop;
  3. Notify your chapter advisor (if that person is unaffiliated with the University) and have him/her speak to the student. This is the “last chance” discussion that should work, but if it doesn’t;
  4. Notify the Greek life office that you have a brother/sister doing something harmful, that you’ve tried to make them stop, and he/she won’t listen. You may still have some accountability for that person’s actions anyway, but I guarantee it will be much less than if you get caught and haven’t dealt with it effectively.

I know it may seem harsh to “offer up” a brother/sister, but when they stop acting like one you can stop treating them like one, and by this point you have given him/her/them plenty of opportunities to change.

When you do not address and correct the behavior of one of more members of your chapter, you should assume you will become known for that behavior. While the necessary conversations to fix that behavior may be uncomfortable, difficult, and hostile, it is a lot easier than proving that the worst of you do not define you.

Do you have any difficult members putting you at risk? Let me know about them in the comments or at DaveK@collegejudicialconsultants.com!

What You Post On Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Media WILL Get You In Trouble.

This week I worked with students from Boston University’s Panhel and IFC on next step risk management. Towards the end of our time together, one brother asked me if Facebook posts could be used against them in a judicial hearing. If you read nothing else, know this—what you say/post on social media (or on most internet sites) can absolutely come back to hurt you.

My expertise is in the campus judicial process and in those hearings, the civil and criminal rules of evidence do not apply (which is one reason hiring an attorney makes less sense than hiring us.) This means that hearsay, unverifiable reports, biased testimony, and other evidence not allowed in court are used in judicial hearings. So, as a rule (even though there are some exceptions)—there are no barriers to using what you post in a blog/social media/other site against you in a judicial hearing. In other words, if you post something silly that shows you violating campus policy on the internet you can expect it to come back to bite you. Ask Sigma Chi at Central Florida what happened when this picture surfaced:

UCF_FRAT_SUSPENDED

The caption on TotalFratMove.com was “Forcing a pledge to chug while two others puke in misery. Total Frat Move.”

The best advice I have to avoid trouble through social media posts is simple—do not do anything that, if recorded, would get you in trouble. However, if you ignore that first part make sure it isn’t recorded. (Most of us with a past of “spotty” decision-making are really happy Facebook wasn’t a thing when we were in college.)

You may be saying “well, duh”, but you would be surprised at the many ways posts and pictures come to the attention of administrators:

  • Your social media accounts are not set to “private.” Don’t let a picture show up accidentally when someone is just trying to get in touch with you.

If you’re going to post pictures of yourself doing a 2 story beer bong, you should make sure your hall director can’t find it when checking the dorm’s Facebook page.

  • You have been tagged in a photo or post. People LOVE tagging their friends when they have a photo that could embarrass them. That’s fine, but when you’re tagged it becomes easier to find. Either set your privacy levels to prohibit someone from tagging you or check (regularly and often) to make sure you aren’t.
  • Your photo was “shared” with the administration. Off the top of my head I can think of 4 sorority judicial cases and 2 fraternity cases that came from someone sharing photos of them violating party rules, hazing, or committing a recruitment violation. There are many reasons someone might do this, but the point is that if it is brought to your admin or judicial officer’s attention it has to be responded to.

If he is your pledge, this will always get you in trouble.

  • Parents researched you because they are concerned about their son/daughter. This is especially true just after roommate assignments are made, but it can be true all year. If a pledge has a protective parent you should expect that parent to check out every other pledge’s and every brother/sister’s pages to see what they can find. If they find anything, they’re probably going to share it.
  • You are part of a national organization (honor society, NCAA, fraternity, sorority, etc.) and someone from that organization is checking on the members. This is less common, but if you are part of something and thus represent something there is going to be someone who believes you should be upholding the values and reputation of the group you joined and/or someone who resents it.

The good news is that most judicial officers I know do not seek out incriminating photos, and even the ones that might do not try to get past privacy settings or build a case solely on what you put out there. As with most things, the more incriminating your post the more risk you take, so ask yourself if posting it is worth it before doing so.

I leave you with my 5 rules of posting:

  1. Never post something that embarrasses someone else without his or her express permission. (Yes, this includes that picture of your friend passed out with writing all over him.)
  2. Assume anything you post will slip out of your control and be seen by more people than you intended. (*cough* Anthony Weiner.)
  3. Understand what your posts and profiles say about you to anyone who searches you out. In most cases, people do not take the time to get past the impression you chose to give them.
  4. Never make a decision about what you should post when you’re wasted (or even buzzed.)
  5. Pretend you’re not you and Google yourself occasionally to see what someone can find. Fix anything you don’t like.

Have you or anyone you know ever been in trouble because of a post they made? Do you have any questions you would like answered? Email me at davek@collegejudicialconsultants.com or post in the comments and let’s talk about it!

Join our mailing list for periodic updates, offers, and give aways.

Opening the Envelope–How Students Can Protect Themselves When Working With Administration

negotiating

When I was in law school I took a negotiations course taught by Professor Charles Craver. In it he told us that the best way to win a negotiation is to have your opponent negotiate against himself. As an example he said that when he bought a new car he went to each dealer of that car and told them to write down their best price and put it in a sealed envelope. At the end of the day, he told them that he would open the envelopes and whoever had the lowest price would sell a car. The point was the salesmen would try to determine the lowest a competitor would go and then try and beat it to make the sale. One salesman would sell a car, but the real winner was Craver.

When student organizations respond to administration concerns, they are the salesmen in the scenario. The administration can say “we have a zero tolerance for hazing. You, the Greek community, need to do something about it or we will!”

So the Greek leaders, exemplifying self-governance, sit down and hash out a plan to combat hazing (something that every single IFC/NPC/NPHC/MGC is already doing) and restore administrative confidence. Once that’s done, the plan is submitted and there are usually some concessions of autonomy in an attempt to retain what they think they can and get themselves out of the spotlight. The administration then takes the plan, reads it, and says something vague about being impressed by the work done. Then he or she says that they agree with the concessions part but that some work was going to have to be done on the other parts. In other words, we appreciate all the stuff you gave up, now we want you to give up more.

This does not happen because administrators are intent on harming Greek life (usually.) It happens because these students think they’re problem solving and thus are responding to what they think the administration wants through research and compromise, but the administration is treating it like a negotiation, and the initial plan/report is their offer in the envelope. To the administrator it isn’t an action plan, but rather the “first offer.” (Lesson 2 was you never accept the first offer.)

I know the Fraternity and Sorority Life Task Force at Tennessee released a report last week and that schools like Central Florida are taking hard looks at Greek life. I believe that if there is a systemic issue that it should be addressed, but I don’t think students should accidentally give up the farm to do so. So if you are working on an issue at the “request” of administration try to do the following:

  1. Nail down the specific concerns, with examples. Do not address more than you have to.
  2. Make sure any report makes includes information about comparable groups (e.g. Greek life on other campuses, residential life on your campus) to help add perspective.
  3. Connect any concessions made with the benefits given so that rejecting a benefit takes the concessions off the table.

If you keep in mind that you’re in a negotiation and not in a partnership, you will protect yourself and your community much better. Remember, the car dealership made out (school), Craver made out (administrator), and only the salesman was worse off.

Have you had a similar or completely different experience? Tell us your story!

Getting Better Advisors–Why Administrators Are Wrong About Us, And Why That Mistake May Hurt You

At College Judicial Consultants we have tremendous respect for judicial officers, Greek advisors, and other administrators, but believe they should be less mistrustful of outside help during the campus judicial process. When that help is an attorney for the non-legal judicial process, that help can indeed hurt a student and cost the student thousands of dollars. While we understand that mistrust, we believe that when you look at the support offered on campus, we are not truly outside.

Fact 1: Every student discipline system allows a student or organization (“respondent”) to have an advisor, with most limiting that advisor to a non-attorney from the campus community.

Fact 2: Only a handful of schools have an organized advisor program where they train a few faculty and staff in how the system works and make those people available for students going through the process. These advisors are well intended and may help a few students each year. However, their job is to make sure the student understands the process and is connected to campus resources; not to “help” the student minimize the consequence or negate false accusations. In other words, they are there for emotional and psychological support only. That support is REALLY important (in fact we encourage every client to take advantage of it) but that type of advising is less than a respondent needs when they are innocent or the stakes are high.

When a respondent goes through the disciplinary process there are two essential parts of that process the respondent needs to understand—the procedure and the content. Judicial officers often say that their system is “different” and thus requires someone with specific training to understand it. While this is technically correct, ask your judicial officer if he or she can understand other systems and I’ll bet you $5 they won’t have a problem doing so. Judicial systems have slight differences, but they are similar enough that there are best practices, model codes, community assessment models, and uniform standards. More importantly, any system they have must be explainable AND in writing in a way to make it understandable. When you meet with the judicial officer he or she will explain it to you and that explanation is essentially the same “training” the advisors from the school receive.

The much more important part is developing the content where the respondent gets the chance to tell their side of the story and present evidence to show how their version is correct and the accusations are inaccurate. It is during this part of the process where respondents make mistakes that can get them found responsible when they are not, and make their sanction worse than it needed to be. It is in this arena that our consultants are miles ahead of any other “advisor” you will get from the school for two very important reasons:

  1. The least experienced of our consultants has seen at least 10 times the number of cases as the most experienced advisor from your school (with that number closer to 50 times more.) This means that your consultant has seen literally hundreds more responses than anyone you will find on campus, and are much more likely to have seen a case with similar facts to yours.
  2. Our consultants’ only goal is to make sure you are not found responsible for something you did not do and have the smallest consequence possible for what you did. We are not faculty who have opinions about plagiarism at your school. We are not administrators who have had to deal with “problem” students. In other words, we do not have any reason to protect the school, the community, or the system.

In other words, we are like the best advisor you might find on campus but with vastly more experience, and without any agenda other than giving a respondent the best chance for the best result. Why would anyone on your campus not want you to take advantage of that?

 Contact us for a free and completely confidential consultation to go over your case and see what we can do for you.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind–Why Disciplinary Suspension is Not Educational

I do a lot of outreach to student life administrators at colleges and national organizations to let them know about our services for individuals and groups. Occasionally I’ll get a response from one that aggressively claims that our job is to “stop students from having any accountability” and thus “contrary to the “education” of a judicial system.” There are a lot of problems with this accusation, but the biggest one is that the severity of a sanction is not inherently related to the educational merit. If the purpose of a campus judicial system is primarily to educate the person or organization going through the process, then temporarily pulling that student out of the environment where the people most capable of educating him are located makes no sense.

Let’s say Tim Student plagiarizes a paper and gets caught. One of two things is true-either Tim is a completely dishonest person who cheats repeatedly or Tim demonstrated weakness and made a really bad decision. If Tim is a habitual cheater, sending him home for a semester or a year might make him reassess whether cheating is worth the risk, but it will not teach him that it is wrong. It may teach him that the price of getting caught is not worth the benefit of cheating which may be a deterrent, but it is not educational. It’s the judicial equivalent of shocking the mouse if he hits the wrong button. There will be some point where a situation has a benefit that is worth the cost, and Tim will absolutely cheat again. If, however, Tim is like most of us and makes occasional bad decisions, then suspending him teaches him nothing. It does not address the issues that lead to the decision to plagiarize and it separates him from the support resources he would need to develop the tools that will allow him to maintain his integrity in the future. Tim staying on campus allows the school, and specifically the student support professionals, to do actual development work with him.

I should point out that there is also value in sanctioning to protect the students who are doing the right thing. In other words, if someone cheats he should be sanctioned strongly enough that the majority that does not cheat feel justified in doing the “extra” work (i.e. they do not get outperformed by cheaters.) However, if Tim is and will remain a cheater, why allow him back into that community at all? Expelling him sends a stronger message, protects the community more, and makes the cost to Tim even higher. If Tim loses everything and associates that loss with “getting caught,” there will be even fewer things worth that cost and thus fewer times where Tim might cheat again in the future. Expel the cheaters and keep the students worth saving on campus. Of course nobody comes forth and says “I absolutely did this on purpose and will do it again,” so it is difficult to identify the habitual offenders.  A good system should therefore err on the side of helping a responsible student grow and develop into the type of person the school wants their graduates to be. Allowing him to stay on campus can still protect the community. There are many things you can do to someone while keeping them on campus (e.g. fail them for the class, put them on probation for the rest of their career, place a notation on their transcript, mandate self-improvement sessions, etc.) If Tim cheats again or he fails to meet the terms of the sanction, he will reveal himself as irredeemable and then expelling him will make sense.

These same ideas are true with a fraternity, sorority, or other student organization. If a chapter makes a mistake, suspending them for a year does not help them improve. Again, if an organization is dangerous enough to merit removing them from the community for a limited period of time (i.e. suspending them) then why allow them to return at all? If they are a hazing fraternity, suspending them for a year does not protect the students or the community. Expel habitual offenders that are a danger to the community because of their inability or unwillingness to change, and work with the rest to make them better. Suspension neither protects nor educates. We do everything we can to keep an organization on campus so that the very people who criticize us for doing so can help that chapter be what it should.

At College Judicial Consultants we believe that most students or student groups get in trouble, that action is a symptom of a personal or cultural problem, requiring the help and support that separating them from the school does not give. Those students who stray, those students that make serious mistakes, and even those students of flawed character need the support and encouragement of administrators and other authority figures even more than those who do not. Sending them home or suspending their existence as an organization does nothing more than make the lesson “don’t get caught.” Suspending an individual or group treats them the same as the worse offenders, puts them on the defensive, and obfuscates any lessons that are trying to be taught. The solution is a sanction that requires the student or organization to work on the deeper flaws in character or judgment, partner with campus and other officials to do so, and has measurable outcomes to ensure that they make positive change. This is much more difficult, but education is not supposed to be easy.

The Guidelined Dead—Chico State and the Greek system.

I’ve written before about Chico State and the “nuclear option” they used in response to repeated misconduct in the Greek community. Their rebuilding plan following this was released on Valentine’s Day and outlines guidelines that “must be agreed to” by the end of February in order to grant the Greek chapters recognition. In doing so, Chico State attempts to present a reasonable response to both protect itself and also allow the Greek tradition to continue. In actuality, what they do with rigid definitions and intractable minimum responses, is demonstrate a hostility to Greek life. What this does is diffuse the potential student and alumni response to shutting down the chapters while setting the stage to do just that- a practice becoming more common across the country.

I am in no way saying that fraternities and sororities that engage in severe hazing or other serious violations should be protected or immune from consequence. On the contrary, in presentations on next step risk management I talk about how certain activities are never worth the risk and will and should result in a chapter being shut down by the school or national organization. My issue is not that Chico felt the need to respond to what they believed was unacceptable conduct. The issue is that these conditions essentially ensure the end of Greek life, and will allow them to blame the students for that end.

In Chico’s plan, they essentially make anything that happens where 2 or more Greeks live together a chapter event, and any violations that happen at that “event” have a mandatory minimum consequence of a one-semester suspension. This means 2 sophomore roommates in a dorm that have friends from home over are now automatically a fraternity event. No other evidence or intention to do so is needed. This may not be and uncommon “standard,” but where it exists there is some allowances for reasonableness in both determination and response. Here there is neither.

The agreement uses all the language that a Greek community would want like “self-governance” and “student development” while paying lip service to the “rich and significant contributions to the quality of its student life.” However, when you look at the expectations you will see that those articulated principles are made meaningless with the way they define chapter activity and mandate the school’s response. They use the ideals of most chapters-that they are leaders living to higher standards-as an excuse to set unreasonable standards ensuring non-compliance in the future. Greek membership is treated as little more than an interest group (like chess club or Chinese dance) with no real regard for the fact that the lifetime commitment of being Greek means meaningful personal dedication to ideas that both support and surpass those of the university.

Do not be surprised when this draconian “agreement” eliminates cooperation between chapters and the school administration in an attempt to actually improve their chapter. Why would chapter leadership admit any problem when doing so appears to mean that they will be suspended for at least one semester? I am sure the response from Chico State would be “we wouldn’t do that, and of course we’re going to be reasonable” but there is nothing in the new provisions that suggests that anything other than 100% compliant behavior of 100% of the members will allow a chapter to continue to exist. While I think it would be a mistake, I firmly believe that each college and university has the absolute right to abolish Greek life. If they have reached a point where they believe the risks of having a Greek presence is not worth the reward (student retention, academic achievement, alumni donations, etc.) then they should shut it down. However, they should have the courage in their convictions to do so cleanly and openly.

Instead we are seeing campuses across the country doing what they can to make Greek life so untenable that students will either choose not to join or will invariably be the architects of their own demise. One need look no further to Trinity college forcing all Greek organizations to be co-educational, or the University of Central Florida beginning down this same road to get a glimpse of what’s ahead. I hope that students remember that leadership means both demanding good behavior from the people you lead, and also standing up against injustice when it surfaces.

Good luck to the chapters at Chico State. They’re going to need it.

Internship opportunity for the energetic and creative (even if you don’t have much experience)

We are posting this internship opportunity in college career centers around Boston, but we will happily consider people from across the country (as long as you don’t need to meet with us in person to be effective.)  Look it over and if you’re interested feel free to email me at daveK (at) collegejudicialconsultants (Dot) com. Good luck!

College Judicial Consultants is the nation’s only online resource for students and student organizations in disciplinary trouble at school. We are experts in the college judicial process and have helped students, fraternities, and sororities from around the country in the year we have been doing business. We are located in Boston, MA, but do almost all our work via the phone and internet.

We are looking for someone with great energy and the ability to work at a flexible schedule to develop our marketing campaign to bring awareness about who we are and what we do to college students around the country.  We are looking for creative people who live “outside the box” and know how to reach their peers in a way that gets their attention (in a good way.)  We are risk takers and want someone who will take them with us!

Specifically, this person will:

  1. Develop an outreach campaign to college newspapers, student governments, Greek leaders, RAs, Hall Councils and/or any other groups that make sense.
  2. Review our current internet presence and make suggestions on how to improve and, once there is agreement, manage those changes.
  3. Rethink and develop our “Street Team” program.
  4. Other duties as they arise.

Minimum requirements:

  1. Some demonstrable experience in developing or improving the web presence of an individual, band, or business.
  2. Successful completion of applicable coursework.
  3. Comfort working independently with little direct supervision.
  4. Proven success in meeting deadlines in an environment with little/no structure. (In other words, your grades are less important than showing that you have had deadlines in the past that you met successfully.)
  5. A computer and access to internet.

Helpful requirements:

  1. An understanding of Greek Life
  2. Familiarity with the disciplinary process at their school.

This is an unpaid internship with the potential for a “bonus” at the end of the term based on demonstrable success.  In other words, if the work gets results the success of those results will be shared with the successful candidate as a “bonus.”

It is expected that this intern will work 10-15 hours a week at a very flexible schedule.  All work will be done by this person remotely with weekly or bi-weekly meetings with Dave Kennedy at a location near campus.

There is a possibility that a position will be created this summer to do this work on a part-time basis. Initial consideration for the position will be given to the person in this internship if that happens.

To apply:  Submit a resume and a cover letter discussing your experience promoting to a nationwide audience (even in a limited capacity.)  We do not expect that you will have extensive experience, but we are looking for someone who has had the kind of small successes that will allow him or her to think big!  We encourage underclassmen and people with creativity, compassion and a sense of humor.  We hope to build your professional experience, so grow with us!

Don’t Believe the Hype: Positive Implications of Greek Membership

The AFA (Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors) conference is happening right now (11/28/12) in Indianapolis.  There are great programs on expansion, creating change, advising local organizations, restorative justice, masculinity and feminism, social justice and other great topics.  What there aren’t are any programs like the one I’m going to propose for next year.  “Apologize for nothing: addressing the negative impressions of Greek life without accepting them.”

Image

An article in the Michigan Review details the results of the research done by James Turner at UVA who, after examining the mortality rates of 1150 schools found that for every 100,000 students there were just over 6 suicides and just under 5 alcohol deaths. (Note:  They say “alcohol-related traffic deaths” in the article so my rephrasing may be misleading.  If, as is likely, they specifically mean these types of deaths then when you add alcohol poisoning and the other alcohol deaths then I would imagine they eclipse the suicide rate.  Since the gist of the article is that suicide is the #1 cause of death for college students, that wouldn’t make sense. I’ve therefore made the assumption that they mean “alcohol” deaths.) This got me to thinking about the things I used to discuss with my colleagues on the student crisis teams, and the impact being Greek has on the at-risk students.  Since I’m not in grad school, I’m not going to do actual research studies (although if you do want a great thesis topic, feel free) but I thought I would post my thoughts and invite anyone who knows more to comment.

  1. Alcohol/dependency issues. I think there’s no doubt that Greeks have more students that are assessed in the “dependent” range for alcohol than their non-Greek counterparts.  I do not know if the same is true for drugs, but I assume that it would actually be drug dependent.  For example, I would not be surprised to hear that Greeks smoke more weed, but I would be surprised if they did more psychedelics or abused more pain medication. That being said, they drugs they do use may make them higher users of “drugs” in general. WINNER: Non-Greeks. That being said, I would be REALLY interested in comparing the alcohol consumption and drug use on campuses without Greek life (e.g. Bowdoin, Brandeis, Middlebury) with schools that have Greek life.  I suspect that the actual consumption rates would be similar and in which case I’d have to say “Tie,” but I can’t prove that.
  2. Depression/Suicide.  I think that Greeks are clearly the winners here. No matter how you feel about the types of connections people make in their fraternity/sorority, the fact remains that once you join these organizations you are rarely alone.  You are usually sharing meals and running in the same social circles as a large group of people you like, so I would expect that there is a lot more “dude, what the f*#k is wrong with you” type of intervention than there would be in traditional male relationships. I can actually think of dozens of examples of fraternity men and sorority women supporting their brothers and sisters through disease, parental death, and other situations, and have heard from students directly that they wouldn’t have “made it through” without their brothers or sisters. WINNER: Greeks!
  3. Violence (non-dating):  When you hear of a student writing manifestos, buying guns, or doing other crazy stuff that necessitates a threat assessment, it is almost never a member of a fraternity or sorority.  In fact, find me one example without the word “loner” attached to the description of the student and I’ll be stunned.  WINNER: Greeks!
  4. Inter-Personal Violence (e.g. sexual assault, dating violence, stalking.)  I think the literature makes it pretty clear that Greeks have a higher incident rate for sexual assault (both as perpetrator and victim) but I would bet that stalking is lower mostly because of the ease of intervention both for the perpetrator (“dude!  Let it go.”) and the victim (“That guy’s a freak.  I’m taking you to the police.”) (That bet is based in nothing, so please feel free to correct me with actual data.)  At schools with Greek life I’d have to probably say WINNER: Non-Greeks, but again the difference is narrow (and when you compare numbers of actual students I’ll bet there are more INCIDENTS among non-Greeks) and where there is no Greek life I would be interested to know once again about the actual incident rates to see if there are fewer per capita.
  5. Missing Students. Students occasionally get fed up and “disappear” for a while, usually by staying with a friend or taking a small road trip of some kind. Usually a parent will then call campus police after not hearing from their kid and file a campus missing persons report which triggers a pretty specific (and potentially lengthy) administrative process.  As with the depression/suicide category I would bet that there are many more of these among non-Greeks for the same reasons.  WINNER: Greeks!
  6. Campus Retention and Graduation. This isn’t a crisis matter, but another big issue on campuses is retention.  One of the biggest selling points I see on Greek Life websites is that membership in Greek organizations make a student more likely to complete their college degree. (see, for example http://arizonagreek.orgsync.com/benefits) WINNER: Greek life!

So what’s the point?  College administrators are quick to point out the areas of Greek life where the members are higher risk than non-Greeks, but I can’t think of a single upper administrator who has stood up and said “While drinking may be a bigger problem in the Greek community, membership in a fraternity or sorority decreases the likelihood that a student will drop out, be overwhelmed with depression, or commit suicide.” I’m not saying that you have to be Greek to have a happy and healthy college experience, but I encourage all or you to challenge your administrators, newspaper editorials, or anywhere else that tries to polarize people into “Pro” or “Anti” Greek camps.  Constantly remind everyone that the things that people use to vilify Greeks are also true for non-Greeks while the positive aspects of being Greek are not easily replicated in traditional residential situations.  Schools push co-curricular involvement to get a student vested in the college and the college experience, but completely disregard these benefits so they can talk about “hazing” and “binge drinking”–like that occasional aspect of Greek life is the ONLY purpose of Greek life. It isn’t, and I encourage you to refuse to accept that it is.

NB: A few housekeeping notes:

1.  Go to our website to know more about what we do and what we can offer.  We are working on a separate site/section for student organizations, but the services are similar.

2.  If you are in college (or recently graduated and can remember what you were like in college) please fill out our survey.  It should only take you 3 minutes, but it will really help us.

3.  We are raising funds to (hopefully) tour colleges around the country this spring.  Go to http://tinyurl.com/CJCSpringTour to donate.  Any amount helps (especially since we have no donors at this point.)

4. Like us on Facebook, follow me on Twitter or LinkedIN, and subscribe to this blog for updates!

5.  I think the photo is Kent State Greeks.  Completely snagged off the internet without permission. 🙂

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: