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.