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Complicating the Equation-Academics & Fraternal Living

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The equation is relatively simply, although many make it more complex than it really is; students go to college, get good grades, graduate then get a good job.  At least that’s the goal, right? Unfortunately, college offers A LOT of distractions and the good grades part becomes the obstacle. Fraternity life should not be one of the distractions from the goal of good grades. What if it was the catalyst? What if your fraternity life encouraged academic achievement? What if the men within your chapter motivated and rewarded academic achievement. What if they fostered an environment that allowed students to study and upperclassmen modeled the way for younger members to be scholars? It should happen and it does happen, but not nearly as often as it should.

As a staff member for Gamma Sigma Alpha, a national academic honorary for fraternity/sorority members, I have the opportunity to speak with fraternity/sorority members across the country on a regular basis. One fraternity member called my office last Spring to ask about starting a chapter of Gamma Sigma Alpha on his campus. He was a member of XYZ fraternity and they have the reputation of being the ‘dumb jocks.’ As scholarship chair, he was hoping to help charter Gamma Sigma Alpha and counteract the stereotype. I was impressed with his enthusiasm, but when we talked through the membership requirements and he discovered we required a 3.5 cumulative GPA, he dismissed the idea. He said that no one in his chapter would qualify. I asked if he had seen the most recent grade report, how did he know no one would qualify? He said that the majority of members have a cumulative average of 2.3. Surprised to hear it was that low, I asked what the requirement was to recruit and initiate. It was 2.3.

Our conversation shifted, instead of talking about chartering a chapter, we discussed how the chapter’s recruitment tactics could be blamed for their reputation on campus. All of a sudden, this member was assigned an office in the chapter and challenged to make academics a priority, but they never had a dialogue about GPA requirements and recruitment. They were recruiting men who were obviously not making grades a priority and then asking them to change. He was given a round peg and asked to fit it into a square hole. He was set-up to fail before even beginning.

A follow-up conversation with this student led me to believe that he was having broader conversations with chapter leaders about assessing the chapter’s commitment to academics. They were reviewing policies, implementing their national scholarship program (they’d been doing this for years on paper, but not in practice), promoting campus resources for academic assistance and even implementing ‘quiet’ rooms in the chapter house during mid-terms and finals week. When they touted these changes during recruitment, they were bringing in men who were committed to scholarship, men who wanted to follow the simple equation; go to college, get good grades, graduate then get a good job. They were slowly beginning to change the culture within the chapter. But as all leaders know, change is slow, but progress is progress.

I know that there are chapters like this nationwide, who are recruiting students with low expectations and then expecting them to change, in academic achievement and other areas. As leaders, you need to be realistic and you need to know your chapter’s strengths and challenges. Assess the areas of challenge and make modifications as necessary. You and your chapter will be stronger in the process.

Posted: October 28th, 2010 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

University of Arkansas-Fort Smith Granted 213th Charter

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Gamma Sigma Alpha continues to grow–this time in Arkansas! The University of Arkansas-Fort Smith became our newest chapter this week as they secured their spot as the Theta Phi chapter of Gamma Sigma Alpha. Greek Life is a new tradition at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith and was established in 2007. The campus currently boasts four sororities, three fraternities, three governing councils, a fraternal programming board and now an all-Greek honor society! Congratulations to the charter members of Gamma Sigma Alpha at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith!