It is my pleasure to share this inaugural Greek Life newsletter with a brief message to each of you! It is my hope that through this biannual newsletter, you will feel more informed and connected to your chapter, Greek Life at Northwest, and Northwest Missouri State University. Through my experience as an undergraduate member of Greek Life, I recognize and fully support the value Greek Life brings to a university, especially Northwest Missouri State. So much so, that when I speak to prospective students on a weekly basis, I tout Greek Life as the preeminent student involvement experience on our campus because I believe it is the most comprehensive student engagement experience in which a student can participate.
Northwest’s president, Dr. John Jasinski, tasked the Greek Life office with a Greek Life Visioning Plan (GLVP) in 2015 to enhance Greek Life at Northwest. The purpose of this was to “be proactive in shaping its future outlook at Northwest in order to ensure its vibrancy and positive contributions to student, organizational and community success.” This process was completed shortly after I started my current role in fall 2016. We have made, and continue to make, great strides in this plan. We expect to have this plan publicly available in the coming months on the Greek Life website. The plan outlines four main areas of focus: 1) community, 2) accountability, 3) performance, and 4) communications and transparency. While we have made strides in all areas, I know accountability has been the most visible and has been the source of concern among alumni. However, accountability is not unique to Northwest.
Nationwide, Greek Life has faced its share of concerns and has struggled across our nation in the last five years. U.S. News and World Report reported in November 2017 that at least seven major universities have suspended all Greek activities, including all sponsored social events, to evaluate the current climate and develop solutions to address the myriad issues plaguing the fraternity system.
“Those schools include: Florida State University, University of Michigan, Texas State University, Ohio State University, Penn State, Louisiana State University and Indiana University.”
Northwest has not been immune to these issues and concerns with discipline actions being taken against a number of chapters during that timeframe. This includes closing a chapter and placing two chapters on suspension. In the last year alone, six of our 15 chapters have been investigated for serious allegations. Some have resulted in no findings. Others have resulted in findings of violations and the chapters accepted responsibility and the accompanying sanctions. Others still, have resulted in findings of violations, but the chapter did not accept responsibility and hearing processes took place to determine responsibility and, if appropriate, sanctions.
This has not been the result of new policies or rules for our chapters. It has been the result of holding chapters accountable to both the University’s and your expectations. Tau Kappa Epsilon is one of the aforementioned chapters that was previously suspended and has recently returned to campus. They are off to a great start. We greatly appreciate the efforts of alumni in leading the chapter in its revival. Many are also aware that Phi Sigma Kappa is currently suspended. Phi Sigma Kappa and Northwest alumnus Maj. Gen. Chris Hughes (Ret.) (’83) and his wife, Marguerite, have been working with the University, and Student Affairs specifically, to help enhance our organizational design and leadership programming on campus. We have invited students from all over campus and have approximately 75 students, which represent a cross-section of students, participating in this new leadership programming. Because of Maj. Gen. Hughes’ (Ret.) role on campus and his experience, we are piloting a program with the students who will comprise the Phi Sigma Kappa chapter when it returns. It includes the aforementioned leadership programming as well as physical training that promotes brotherhood. While we hope we do not have any chapters facing suspension in the future, we will evaluate this program to determine its effectiveness in helping Phi Sigma Kappa be successful upon its return and the potential to use the program for any chapter that may face similar sanctions in the future. Looking forward, we have been working with our legal counsel, Husch-Blackwell, to develop a new Student Organization Conduct Policy and plan on having a revised conduct process in place for all student organizations, including Greek Life, by January. We have worked with many student leaders, including Greek leaders, to gather input on what this revised process will look like and will continue to seek their feedback. We will also gather feedback from a working group of alumni and chapter advisors.
As for the other focus areas of the GLVP, I recognize that we have not been effective as an institution in communication and transparency as it applies to our plans and progress. It is my hope that this newsletter will begin the process of addressing that shortcoming. Additionally, I hope you will recognize the community and performance focus areas that are highlighted for our chapters in this newsletter. Additionally, to help us better communicate successes and concerns of chapters, I ask that each chapter work to identify an alumnus to be our point of contact. This should be shared with Megan DeShon-Runge, Northwest’s assistant director for Greek Life, through the chapters so we can share successes and concerns of chapters to the alumni.
In closing, I want to reaffirm my commitment to Greek Life at Northwest Missouri State University. We have committed a number of resources, both personnel and monetary, to Greek Life in recent years. As part of this, we anticipate hiring a Greek Life coordinator before the next school year to assist with elevating Greek Life at Northwest. Additionally, we have started one new NPHC chapter and have a potential new IFC chapter going through the colony process this fall. I know there are concerns that Northwest is trying to end Greek Life. I also know there are rumors that I personally want to end Greek Life. Let me say, unequivocally, that both the Northwest leadership and I fully support Greek Life. We would not devote the time and resources previously mentioned if we did not support Greek Life at Northwest. We recognize and value what the Greek Life experience brings to students on our campus. That does mean, however, that tough decisions will have to be made and that we must hold our Greek students to high standards. We do this not to end Greek Life but to ensure its long-term success.
If you have any questions, concerns, or comments, I am always happy to discuss. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (660) 562-1226. Please be looking for our next newsletter in the spring. I look forward to speaking with anyone who wishes to do so and seeing many of you on campus in the coming days!