Grading Idaho’s Greek — Taking a look at UI’s new structure for Greek life


02.07.2018
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Greek life at the University of Idaho must adapt to a new accreditation system by the end of 2018.

In January, chapter presidents received new guidelines for Greek life at UI, titled “Vandal Chapter Evaluation: A Model of Yearly Evaluation for Chapter Excellence and Reflection” (VCE). The 17-page packet detailed a new system each chapter must adhere to.

According to the document, the purpose of VCE is to create “a comprehensive look at how each fraternity and sorority chapter is fulfilling its goals, professing and living its mission” by grading houses on a point-based system.

VCE will focus on evaluating areas of Greek life in three main categories: membership development, chapter management and university-community involvement.

Every category contains sub-categories that contribute to the overarching ideas, structure and engagement of Greek member involvement. Every house will be awarded points based on their performance in each category. After the points are tallied, each house will be placed into one of four classes: Vandal Pride, Gold, Silver and Needs Improvement.

Shawn Dowiak, assistant dean of students and director of fraternity and sorority life, adapted an already-established practice used by other universities to create VCE. Although chapters will be placed into categories based on performance, he said VCE is not a ranking system.

“Everybody thinks it is a chapter ranking system. It’s not a ranking system. That’s an inaccurate way to look at it,” Dowiak said. “It groups chapters based on ability level. People think of it as we’re going to rank the chapters one through 20, or one through 34. That’s not really realistic, nor is it accurate.”

Houses are given incentives to reach Vandal Pride, Gold or Silver status through social, recruitment and monetary means. For example, a house classified in the lowest rank (Needs Improvement) for over a year will be subjected to a year-long chapter suspension and lose the ability to recruit and have social gatherings. For further incentive, each house’s class will be available to the public through UI’s website.

Dowiak said the document sent to Greek leadership is still being examined and edited, particularly in the area of disincentives. However, the majority of the document serves as a base line of general expectations.

“There’s going to be some altering and shifting in there, but the basic outline for the things to participate in is already out there and present,” Dowiak said.

Dowiak said part of the reason for further editing VCE is due to negative feedback about the disincentives for reaching the Needs Improvement classification.

“I want the students to feel comfortable that I’m giving time to get into an evaluation that they’ve never had before,” Dowiak said.

Dowiak said the main goal of VCE is to help chapters assess themselves and strengthen bonds between the individual organizations and the university. While VCE is new to UI, Dowiak said the practice of a Greek evaluation system is not a new concept.

“About 95 percent of campuses have chapter evaluations programs,” Dowiak said. “It is an idea that is rather established as best practice for fraternity and sorority life.”

Dowiak said he looked at similar programs from several colleges, such as Towson University, as a model for UI’s new evaluation system.

Dowiak said the university will begin to tally scores for chapters at the end of 2018.

Cody Gronning, a member of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, said he doesn’t believe VCE serves the students, as much as it does the university.

“I don’t truly believe (VCE) would be reflecting each house’s goals or missions,” Gronning said. “Rather, the university’s standards for how they believe each house should live up to. It’s tough for me to say if (the Greek system) needs (VCE). My house has been striving toward our goals for a while now, and I believe that we are doing well.”

Although he said he isn’t completely convinced, Gronning added VCE may be a useful tool for UI staff to directly address struggling chapters.

Gronning said gaining positive attention for Greek Life in the press is the main motivation behind VCE amidst a nationwide backlash against fraternities and sororities.

“I think that getting into the good graces of the media is the most important thing for Greek Life right now. All you ever hear about is all of the tragedies that happen across the country,” Gronning said. “You never really hear positive things in terms of GPA, or about the tens of thousands of dollars we raise for charities across the board. It’s a good way for Greek life to get the positive attention it deserves.”

However, Gronning said he is skeptical about the incentives and penalties that come with VCE.

“I think the (incentives and penalties) chosen by the university will need to be heavily revised before this can go into effect,” Gronning said. “Each house on this campus is very different. Before we all can be on board with this, they need to take into account each individual house’s current standing, and use the VCE to help them become better.”

Chandler Brewington, president of Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity, said he is excited to see how this new system will affect Greek houses.

“Whether (VCE) is beneficial or not will mainly depend on the criteria chapters will be evaluated on, and how the Greek life advisers or chapters choose to use the information,” Brewington said. “My initial thought was that this could create an issue where chapters that are doing well will benefit, but chapters that are struggling will be even more at a disadvantage. But, after thinking about it more, I think this assessment could be more beneficial to the chapters who are struggling if they choose to use it as a resource.”

Brewington, who’s chapter currently doesn’t have housing, said he is confident in his fraternity’s ability to meet their goals, despite their living situation.

“I still believe that if (VCE) is done right, this assessment could be beneficial for us like it could for every other chapter on campus.” Brewington said. “Regardless of whether we have a house or not, Pike has proven to be very capable of being successful by other measures. I see this assessment as being just another resource for our chapter to use in order to continue and improve.”

Andrew Ward can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @WardOfTheWorlds



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