To some, fraternities may mean wild parties, pledges with weird nicknames and secret rituals, leading to confusion over what Greek life is supposed to mean at USF.
Clearing up any misconceptions — or least attempting to — is a 50-page booklet, which is not widely known outside the Greek system. It governs how fraternities and sororities do their thing and it’s called the 2011 USF Standards of Fraternal Excellence.
The photocopied and stapled booklet is in two parts: a guide to the standards and requirements Greek organizations must keep up with, and an assessment tool to help them make sure they are keeping up with the standards outlined in part one.
The booklet details what Chris Moreno, student programs coordinator for fraternity & sorority life and an Interfraternity Council advisor, must do everyday. Moreno said the booklet helps keep fraternities organized and provide a more complete fraternity experience.
Even though he stops short of saying the standards keep Greek students out of trouble, he said it does distance them from a problematic past. Around the 1970s and 1980s, fraternities in particular started losing their way, falling away from their values and focusing more on the social aspect, Moreno said. The media took this National Lampoon’s Animal House-influenced image and have used it to describe fraternities ever since.
As recently as 2008, however, Greek organizations on campus have shifted toward bringing back the values established by their fraternity founders. The booklet, issued by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, has been a big part of this. Still, some fraternities have still gotten into trouble with the university for hazing charges, as recently as Aug. 2010.
While in Animal House the members of Delta Tau Chi are put on probation yet continue to throw wild parties, the reality is USF fraternities are more tightly controlled. One of the first limits placed on a disorderly fraternity or sorority are restraints on social functions, said Moreno.
The regulations are meant to offer guidance to Greek organizations, not cause a strain on the chapter sponsors or take away from the Greek lifestyle.
“We’re not here to ruin people’s time,” said Moreno.
Phi Delta Theta brother Tyler Fleming is a new member educator, a position formerly known as pledge master. He said Greek life is important for college students.
“The people who want to be there to party, they realize it’s more about brotherhood and expanding your horizons,” Fleming said.
Repeated throughout the packet is that fraternities and sororities will not be able to maintain status quo. There’s no floating through college without care or responsibility. Toga parties and food fights are no substitute for the minimum standards expected in seven different areas:
- Member development
- Responsible social conduct
- Leadership and campus engagement
- Civic engagement
- Chapter management and self-governance
- Diversity and social justice
Scholarship, member development, responsible social conduct and civic engagement each have an active officer whose main responsibility is to develop and oversee the standards of that area. Leadership and campus engagement expects 50 percent of its members be involved in another student organization. Chapter management and self-governance and diversity and social justice have standards that include updating bylaws and chapter membership and maintaining a non-discrimination policy.
The Greek organizations also have recognition and bonus standards, like maintaining a high average organization-wide GPA. These are necessary for reaching certain levels of achievement.
The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life is only hoping to continue pushing Greek students toward a fulfilling college experience, Moreno said. The penalties for not following the minimum standards can be high, including the loss of recruitment eligibility and dismissal of on-campus Greek organizations from their established places of residence.
USF’s high standards requires the organizations show proof of achievement. The Standards Assessment Tool, a form all Greek organisations must complete, requires they provide documentation showing their achievement of the seven standards. Each standard is evaluated on a point system where zero points means a standard wasn’t met, one point means it was partially met or proof was questionable and two points means the standard was fully met, according to the booklet. The amount of documentation needed varies by the standard. One of them requires a minimum of five pieces of documentation whereas another requires 19.
Moreno said fraternities and sororities are also forced to register for socials, the Greek term for parties. Registration is only meant for alcohol-related events, which most socials are. Moreno said registering for all events will help fraternities keep track of their documentation, but they’re not forced to.
Fleming said “there’s a laundry list of rules to follow,” including provisions that frats must document social plans and guest lists and limit socials to two per month.
Greek members are also well-represented in Student Government. Student Body President Matthew Diaz is a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon and Student Body Vice President Zachary Johnson, a member of Pi Kappa Alpha, according to USF.edu.
Some fraternity members might find USF’s standards hamper the Greek experience, but both Moreno and Fleming said it doesn’t seem to be a problem for the everyday fraternity or sorority student. The rules are meant to make life easier for those in charge, not to remove all the fun from the Animal House experience.