HomeCurrent IssueSTEAM demand leads to third-party review of Greek life

STEAM demand leads to third-party review of Greek life

Sophie Smith

Editor-in-chief

A review of Willamette’s Greek life organizations will take place next Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 4 and 5. The review follows the creation of the student advocacy group STEAM, or Students for Transparency, Equity, Accountability through Mobilization, which released a list of grievances against and demands of the University in February. One of these grievances was against Willamette’s Greek life institutions, demanding this  third-party review take place to address students’ concerns about campus’ fraternities and sororities.

STEAM’s list of demands writes that “Greek life on campus has committed a multitude of negative actions that have directly altered the welfare and safety of students within and external to its entity,” citing the instances of racism, sexual assault and substance abuse that STEAM attributes to Greek life. The group’s demand says, “A review of Greek life on campus must be conducted by an unbiased third party as soon as possible… This review shall work to create a campus-wide conversation about the effectiveness of Greek life at Willamette and present information that will speak to if it should remain on campus.”

Following the release of this demand a committee was created, comprised of STEAM members, Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) leaders and University staff members, including Lisa Holliday, director of student activities and advisor for the Panhellenic and Interfraternity Councils. This committee planned the review of Greek life.

The reviewers will center their research around a list of standards developed by the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS). Colleges and universities may use CAS standards in several “functional areas,” as they are called, such as athletics or Greek Life. 

According to Holliday, CAS standards are considered “gold standards of higher ed.” They serve to assess functional areas “to see where there are strengths and where there are areas for improvement.” 

There are 12 parts to the CAS standards for Greek life, each of which includes several more specific standards. For example, part two, “Program and Services,” includes the standard “FSAP [Fraternity and Sorority Advising Program] must promote sponsorship of and participation in community service, service-learning and philanthropic projects,” among others. Part five, “Access, equity, diversity and inclusion,” includes the standard, “FSAP must address aspects of the fraternity and sorority community that are currently or historically problematic,” citing hazing, substance abuse, sexual harassment and sexual assault and intolerance and racism, among other aspects.

The Greek life review committee selected two reviewers to come to campus, Monica Miranda and Jason Bergeron. Both reviewers have been involved with the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors (AFA), participated in the writing and review of the Greek life CAS standards and currently work in student affairs at other institutions. Miranda and Bergeron have conducted similar reviews together in the past and neither have experience or affiliation with Willamette. Miranda is the director of the Center for Student Involvement at University of South Florida, and Bergeron is the director of the Center for Fraternity and Sorority Life at the University of Houston. 

Miranda and Bergeron declined to comment for this story, citing a desire for the review to remain uninfluenced by outside information or perspectives. 

In preparation for next week’s review, the University conducted an internal assessment last spring. First, Holliday, FSL interns and Faculty Associate Dean Sarah Kirk collected evidence and information that demonstrated Willamette’s adherence to the CAS standards. Next, an internal review group, comprised of one staff member, one faculty member, one affiliated student and one unaffiliated student, reviewed that initial review, writing their own comments on the findings of the initial group. This internal review will be passed onto Miranda and Bergeron, who will use that information to inform their research.

On Nov. 4 and 5, selected University members will meet the reviewers in person to provide them with information and testimonies. Miranda and Bergeron requested to meet with staff, faculty, FSL leaders, students affiliated with FSL and unaffiliated students. Three STEAM representatives will participate in the review and ASWU President Amarit Ubhi (‘20) recommended other unaffiliated students to participate. Faculty Associate Deans Sarah Kirk and Kelley Strawn helped choose faculty participants. 

Following the review, the reviewers will provide the University with feedback about how well campus’ FSL program adheres to the CAS standards. Holliday hopes to receive this report before winter break. According to Vice President for Student Affairs Ed Whipple, the University will release a summary of the report to campus. University staff and FSL leaders will work together to develop an action plan to address the reviewers’ recommendations.

slsmith @willamette.edu

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