to incidents at any given moment. This set of expectations has
grown slowly but steadily over the last 40 years.
Is this the best mechanism to support fraternity/sorority
members and is it the best use of the capabilities of advisors?
What could be gained if fraternity/sorority advisors, and chapter consultants who work for the national organizations, spent
more time cultivating a team of alumni volunteer “coaches”
rather than focusing most of their efforts on working directly
with student leaders?
A group of senior student affairs officers (SSAOs) and
national fraternity and sorority leaders, under the sponsor-ship of NASPA’s Fraternity and Sorority Affairs Knowledge
Community (FSKC), have met almost annually since 1997
to discuss the potential of fraternities and sororities and the
associated challenges. Dubbed the Greek Summit, this rotating group of approximately 50 leaders has convened a “think
tank” format to consider the state of affairs and offer ideas.
The most recent summit was held prior to the 2011 NASPA
Annual Conference and hosted by FSKC Chair Scott Reikofski,
director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs at the
University of Pennsylvania. The meeting was planned by James
E. Scott Academy members: Barbara Jones, vice president
for student affairs at Miami University; and Tisa Mason, vice
president for student affairs at Fort Hays State University. John
Stafford, dean of students at Immaculata University, served
as the group facilitator. Much of the discussion focused on an
evergreen issue: How can campuses and national organizations
maximize the impact of the staff and volunteers they deploy to
support fraternity/sorority life on campus?
The roles of fraternity/sorority advisors hired by campuses,
chapter consultants hired by national fraternities and sororities, and volunteers drawn from faculty members and alumni
of both Greek life and the institution have remained fairly consistent in recent years. Advisors generally work with the entire
Greek community versus individual chapters. With a focus
on system-level activity, they meet most often with system-level student leaders, such as Order of Omega, Intrafraternity
Council, Panhellenic, and All-Greek Council leaders, and have
less routine contact with other student leaders, non-officer
chapter members, or volunteer advisors of individual chapters.
Unfortunately, their interactions with chapters are more often
reactive to a particular issue or problem rather than proactive
in terms of group or member development.
Chapter consultants visit their chapters, meet with student
officers and volunteer chapter advisors, and often visit the
campus fraternity/sorority advisor to discuss chapter progress.
Chapter consultants supplement routine communication and
support provided by the fraternity/sorority advisor and its
local volunteer chapter advisor(s). However, they are limited
in their impact since headquarters consultants likely visit
chapters only once or twice a year.
Volunteer chapter advisors, whether off-campus alumni
or on-campus staff or faculty, take approaches ranging from
administrative form signers to active participants in chapter
life who meet regularly with an executive team and attend
chapter meetings. It is often a single individual such as a
volunteer or faculty advisor who juggles myriad administra-
tive, advising, management, and counseling tasks to meet
the needs of national offices, campus administrators, chapter
leaders, chapter members, and other volunteers in state or
regional roles. For faculty members, this work is typically not
valued relative to tenure or promotion, and it is often under-
taken contrary to the wishes of department chairpersons.
What potential exists to formalize an approach that both
fraternity executives and SSAOs know intuitively works well?
The chapter with an engaged alumni board and/or an active
faculty/alumni advisor is almost always a better-performing
organization that requires less attention from either campus or headquarters staff. Summit participants suggest that
the current central campus advising model be refined with
efforts focused on developing an expanded cohort of certified alumni volunteers to “coach” individual student leaders
and employ technology more effectively to advance the effort.
This approach would broaden the active support system for
undergraduates and, by extension, supplement the work of
campus fraternity/sorority advisors. Summit members offer
the following six recommendations:
➊;Shift;the;focus;to;leadership;coaching.;Much of the
interaction between advisors and the fraternity/sorority community occurs at the group level. Volunteer advisors attend
chapter meetings at which they can ostensibly influence the
entire group and better understand the entire organization’s
health. Fraternity/sorority campus advisors support interfraternal or governance bodies that provide a consistent
message and offer systemic solutions to persistent problems.
Chapter consultants meet one-on-one with the leadership
team of a given chapter to promote adherence to standards
and demonstrate support for undergraduate executive leaders.
Though group-level activity is an explicit part of the overall
venture and will never disappear, could chapter performance
improve if individual student leaders were mentored by
trained coaches whose sole purpose was to help student leaders
excel in their roles? Coaches provide private, honest feedback
and advice in an attempt to improve individual performance
within a team context. Coaches could develop trusting relationships with student leaders and help them visualize a clear
path toward their goals, identify markers to measure progress,