News | Student Life

Greek orgs receive Alpha Standards results

Fraternities and sororities received the results of their Alpha Standards evaluations earlier this month, and reactions to the results have been mixed.

The 5-Star Alpha Standards of Excellence Program, which was implemented this year, scored Greek organizations in five categories: academics, leadership development and new member education, philanthropy and community service, housing operations and chapter management, and activities and alumni. Each category was worth 40 points, for a total of 200 possible points.

Any Greek organization that received fewer than 140 points total—which translates to fewer than three out of five stars—could have its charter revoked by the University. It’s unclear how many fraternities, if any, did not receive three stars.

Delta Sigma Phi received five stars—meaning it was scored between 180 and 200 points— and was recognized as the “outstanding chapter” at a recent awards dinner for students in Greek life.

“The only thing that it really did was formalize what we already had to do, like set hours of community service,” Delta Sigma Phi President Sebastian Becker, CC ’14, said. “We didn’t have to make a big adjustment.”

Asian-interest fraternity Pi Delta Psi received four stars and was two points away from five stars. Pi Delta Psi President Derrick Fu, CC ’13, said that the formal appeal process was unclear.

“I reviewed submission with the board a few times and we decided that there was potentially a mistake.” he said. “ I emailed [Associate Director for Fraternity & Sorority Life] Victoria Lopez-Herrera, and they realized they had miscalculated. The mistake was corrected. We are a five-star organization.”

“Mistakes like that are unavoidable,” Fu added. “They really tried to make it a fair and judicial process.”

Dean of Community Development and Multicultural Affairs Terry Martinez said in an interview earlier this month—before fraternities and sororities got their results—that if an organization received fewer than three stars, the committee reviewing the evaluations would recommend to Martinez that its charter be revoked. If this were to happen, Martinez said, she would meet with that organization and Dean of Student Affairs Kevin Shollenberger before making a final decision.

Shollenberger said in a recent interview that he considers rescinding an organization’s charter a “last resort.”

“If it did get to that point, it shouldn’t have been a surprise then to that group, because there would have been a process all along where they would have known where they might have been deficient,” Shollenberger said. “We would have put a plan together to help them improve.”

“They would have been on probation, all of those things,” Martinez added. “So it’s not just based on this one piece of paper, without their involvement in the process.”

Lopez-Herrera did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Fraternity presidents interviewed said they were not comfortable talking about other fraternities’ evaluation results.

Martinez explained that one goal of creating the Alpha Standards was standardizing the information that administrators have about Greek organizations.

“Part of it was for us to gather information that we just didn’t have—how many programs were fraternities and sororities doing, what kind of leadership development was happening, what were their rosters like—that really wasn’t consistent over time,” Martinez said.

Becker said that the new program “definitely hasn’t made anything worse,” and if anything, has improved Greek life.

“I don’t know what frats were doing before the standards were instated,” he said. “There is more structure on the system, which is nice.”

He credited the Alpha Standards with giving fraternities “the opportunity to get closer.”

“In the beginning, everyone was like ‘What the heck is this?’” Fu said. “But all of us rose to the challenge and met the requirements and some took it a step further and became closer as organizations internally.”

Still, Beta Theta Pi President Benjamin Ramalanjaona, CC ’13, said that while the standards worked well overall, they could still be improved.

“I think they were rushed, could use a lot of improvement as far as specifics,” he said. “A lot of things weren’t made clear, and we had to talk to Victoria [Lopez-Herrera] directly to clarify some pretty basic points.”

“It’s documentation more so than changing things, but people scored lower because they didn’t understand the rules,” Ramalanjaona added. “Every single frat already has to fill paperwork for the North American Inter-fraternity Conference, but some fraternities are held to higher or lower than national standards by the Alpha Standards.”

Interfraternity Council President Asher Hecht, CC ’13, said in an email that “the new standards have definitely given the fraternities and sororities a much-needed jump start.”

Ramalanjaona though, said that the Alpha Standards “maybe ... fragmented us a little bit.” He also noted that he has talked to fraternity members at other universities, and said that the idea of evaluating fraternities is not exclusive to Columbia.

“I know there is something similar going on at Cornell, but it’s much more intensive,” he said.

Hecht said that Greek organizations will see the real benefits of the Alpha Standards over time.

“Having everything that happened over a year written down is a real tool in organizing a group like a fraternity, and one that I think people haven’t had the chance to appreciate yet,” he said in an email.

yasmin.gagne@columbiaspectator.com

Comments

Plain text

  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Your username will not be displayed if checked
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Anonymous posted on

Publish all the frats' scores.

+1
+1
-1
Anonymous posted on

Achievement in Academics AwardAlpha Epsilon PiDelta Sigma PhiDelta GammaKappa Alpha ThetaLambda Phi EpsilonPi Delta PsiSigma Delta TauSigma Phi Epsilon    Achievement in Philanthropy AwardAlpha Chi  OmegaBeta Theta PiDelta GammaDelta Sigma PhiDelta Sigma ThetaKappa Alpha ThetaKappa Phi LambdaLambda Phi EpsilonLambda Pi ChiPhi Iota AlphaPi Delta PsiPi Kappa AlphaSigma ChiSigma Delta TauSigma Lambda BetaSigma Lambda GammaSigma NuSigma Phi Epsilon Achievement in Community Service AwardAlpha Chi  OmegaAlpha Epsilon PiBeta Theta PiDelta GammaDelta Sigma PhiDelta Sigma ThetaKappa Alpha ThetaKappa Phi LambdaLambda Phi Epsilon Lambda Pi ChiPhi Gamma DeltaPhi Iota AlphaPi Delta PsiPi Kappa AlphaSigma Delta TauSigma Lambda BetaSigma Lambda GammaSigma NuSigma Phi Epsilon Achievement in Campus Involvement AwardAlpha Chi  OmegaAlpha Epsilon PiBeta Theta PiDelta GammaDelta Sigma PhiDelta Sigma ThetaKappa Alpha ThetaKappa Delta RhoLambda Phi EpsilonLambda Pi ChiPhi Gamma DeltaPi Delta PsiPi Kappa AlphaSigma ChiSigma Delta Tau ALPHA Standards Awards:3-Star ChaptersBeta Theta PiPhi Gamma DeltaPhi Iota AlphaSigma ChiSigma Lambda Gamma4-Star ChaptersAlpha Chi OmegaDelta Sigma ThetaKappa Alpha ThetaSigma Lambda BetaSigma NuSigma Phi Epsilon5-Star ChaptersAlpha Epsilon PiDelta GammaDelta Sigma PhiLambda Pi ChiLambda Phi EpsilonKappa Phi LambdaPi Delta PsiPi Kappa AlphaSigma Delta Tau IFC Outstanding Chapter:Delta Sigma Phi Panhellenic Council Outstanding Chapter:Kappa Alpha Theta Multicultural Greek Council Outstanding Chapter:Sigma Lambda BetaSigma Lambda Gamma Most Improved Chapter of the YearPi Kappa Alpha Chapter President of the Year:Rachel Reichblum (Sigma Delta Tau Order of Omega Community Service AwardDylan Marshall (Pi Kappa Alpha) Greek Scholar AwardMatt Salant (Delta Sigma Phi)Randy Submarany (Sigma Phi Epsilon)Ashwini Kadaba (Kappa Alpha Theta) Greek Man of the YearAsher Hecht-Bernstein (Pi Kappa Alpha) Greek Woman of the YearNikki Bourassa (Delta Gamma)

+1
-3
-1
Anonymous posted on

The University can't revoke charters because they are not the parent corporation of any student organization. Fraternities and sororities are NOT part of the university. No student organization is. They are autonomous corporations who have agreed to a limited contractual relationship with the institution. That contract does not grant the school authority to regulate organizations on the basis of these criteria. What they're doing is interference in corporate sovereignty.

Putting aside the law for a moment. In what world is the the responsibility of the school to ensure Greeks do any philanthropy, much less throw them off campus for not doing enough. These are NOT service organizations. Their own mission statements and the federal government have been very clear about that. They are social organization who happen to do some philanthropy of their own free will. When it is forced, it is a punishment. When it is done for the wrong reasons, it does not achieve the desired learning outcomes. It is counterproductive, and being driven only to justify the employment of university staff who no one wants.

Neither are these study groups. Academic achievement is not part of their purpose. It is something they desire for their members, but the ONLY duty of the organization is to do no harm, NOT to exceed the student body. If they do better than other students, then that's a good thing, but organizations should not be held accountable for individual academic performance. That is not their job. They have no capability to monitor or do anything about that. How a student does academically is between him and the school. Blaming others is just transference.

As for the rest of these standards, there's nothing particularly wrong with an organization doing those things or setting them as goals, but it is NOT their purpose and NOT within the purview of the university to foist those requirements on them. Is every student organization held to the same standard? Or do we need to talk about equal protection? As I recall, a student organization can exist for any purpose not restricted by law and not directly prohibiting the school from achieving their academic mission. Student safety and liability are also valid concerns. Other than that, the university has no authority to regulate.

You need to take a step back and reevaluate your role or either chapters will happily function with their charter and without recognition and thrive because or it; or, this situation will be decided in the courts.

+1
-2
-1
Anonymous posted on

Some of what you say is corect, some is not. Columbia owns many of the houses and the properties of fraternities, so this creates a unique partnership. Columbia is free to take away occupency of any house that it owns as it has done in the past (three last year alone). Columbia can also limit their ability to recruit, advertise, and use campus resources under any circumstanses. Columbia can limit any on campus functions and use of their facilities to anyone that it wants. Many (most) other student organiztions are directly part of Columbia or their students governements, and use on campus facilities such as Lerner and Earl. The university is free to regulate according to law, anything on their property.  

+1
+2
-1
Anonymous posted on

Limiting ability to recruit is a direct violation of freedom of association. That is just about untouchable.

Advertising, university resources, and use of facilities? Please tell me that's not a serious response. None of those are essential to survival or success. Such services get limited use; out of convenience rather than necessity; and, are provided because they advance the university mission rather than support Greek orgs. With a little effort, equal or greater alternatives could be readily available or Greeks could easily get by without.

Many other Greek systems have proven this by being wildly successful with comparatively fewer safety or disciplinary problems after breaking ties with their respective universities. University support is nice to have, but not essential. It should be part of a give and take between equals based on mutual respect and directed at equally advancing both the private interests and internal purposes of the orgs as well as the educational mission of the school.

Property is a more complex issue.

The university has a duty to regulate activities on its property to ensure reasonable safety and security. That means you can post and enforce a "no running" sign next to a pool. How do you get from there to invasively micromanaging the internal affairs of sovereign corporations? If that's not clear, let me give you an example:

If the university rented a commercial space to a restaurant or bank,
they would have some partial liability for incidents in those spaces because they own the physical property. It is reasonable that
they would impose lease conditions agreed by both parties without duress to ensure
some basic safety and liability controls. However, that contractual relationship
would not grant the university legal or moral authority to interfere in
the criteria the bank uses to approve loans or to tell the restaurant how to run their business.

Universities do not have blanket God-like authority over everything that occurs on their campuses, and have almost no authority over the extracurricular off-campus activities of students or organizations.

You've heard that absolute power corrupts absolutely. The undue leverage created by university owned Greek properties tends to play out like that. When you addict a user to a service, then it's easy for administrators to abuse that situation by far exceed their legal or moral authority. The user sees little alternative but to tolerate the abuse. That's worse than hazing, and frankly not the business or personal ethics I want to send graduates into the world with. Such overreach is a betrayal of the educational mission and a detriment to society. If it comes down to it, alumni are more than capable of providing private alternatives.

Philosophically...

What do we do when invasive interference by the university (attempting to co-opt private entities to advance the administration's job description), causes organizations to no longer fulfill their own internal purpose? ie - the French club is required to do thousands of philanthropy hours and doesn't have time left to do anything related to French while still making grades. What if that interference has the unintended consequence of being counter-productive to the positive learning outcomes that these orgs produce by doing things their way?

If you force me to do philanthropy so your numbers look good, then it's not done out of the goodness of my heart - it's not magnanimous. I will hate you in the short-term, and I will not learn to value citizenship or volunteerism in the long-term. If you punish me for things over which I have no authority or ability to control (ie individual academics), then it will harm our relationship and I'll act out. If you tell me how to run my private affairs, then I will never learn how to think or do for myself.

Every benefit of Greek life is decimated by programs such as this. It looks good on an assessment report in the short term, but it destroys everything good about us while creating defiance.

Just as a point of order... Non-Greek orgs are not entities or agents of the university either. Having a parent national or being independently incorporated isn't necessary. The only things that are part of the university are actual paid employees, depts, and physically owned/leased properties. Not even students are part of the university - they are customers. Anything that is not a physical legal entity of the university, the school has no natural authority over. They gain limited oversight through contractual agreements (student code of conduct & recognition agreements). That means there has to be a quid pro quo and it has to be freely agreed on merit and without threat. Otherwise it's unenforceable and authority/liability will revert.

+1
-3
-1
Anonymous posted on

Good article. Nice work covering this and getting good snippets from all parties involved.

+1
+3
-1
Anonymous posted on

Alpha Epsilon Pi received Five Stars, and won the Academic Achievement Award, Community Service Award, and Campus Involvement Award. 

+1
+1
-1
Anonymous posted on

An arbitrary metric for "goodness" that forces chapters to focus on external goals for survival. 

+1
+1
-1
Anonymous posted on

A standardized Greek community, resulting from a administration so afraid of bad press that they do not all fraternities to have their own culture.

+1
-1
-1
Anonymous posted on

A system that treats students as liabilities instead of people. A system where lying and politics are required for success, and real transparency is the kiss of death. We are Columbia Greek life.

+1
+1
-1
Anonymous posted on

It is the Chapters and chapter heads that live in the shadows and are in denial of all the problems, drugs, alcohol, hazing, etc that goes on in fraternies. Until very recently universities have also turned a blind eye to the activities of their frats.

+1
+3
-1
Anonymous posted on

And you think this isn't happening right now in the now regular housing brownstones?  You are delusional.

+1
-1
-1