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Report from the Greeks
It was inspired by a fear of being left behind. What resulted is something that could be way out front. "The 21st Century Report on an Ivy League Greek System" -- an ambitious, comprehensive examination of and blueprint for Greek life at the University and beyond -- was released in December by Penn's three Greek umbrella organizations: the Interfraternity Council (IFC), Panhellenic Council, and Bicultural InterGreek Council (BIG-C). It puts heavy emphasis on academics and community service, and while it doesn't ignore the social aspects that are "fundamental" to Greek life, its proposals for things like faculty affiliations with chapters, "diversifying social activities," "sensitivity," and "non-alcoholic programming" could, if implemented, go a long way toward erasing the Animal House image that many people have of the Greek system.
The 41-page report was released in December, nine months and a lot of feedback-processing after the preliminary report came out.
Dr. Stanley Chodorow, the provost, said he was "delighted that the Greeks have formulated their own plan, because they will be much more committed to it than a plan that was imposed on them, and that their plan looks to the University's 21st Century Project as a model." The report, he added, "is consistent with what we are trying to do for all undergraduates.... We are treating the Greeks as one of Penn's residential options, so it is critical that this option relate to the other options we offer and will offer."
A little over a year ago, Gottheimer, Schreck, and Holt -- along with many members of their organizations -- shared an apprehension that Greek life was, in Gottheimer's words, "in danger at the University" and was not figuring in the plans being put together by the new administration of Rodin and Chodorow. So they decided to take a step back "and do a very thorough self-study on who we are and what is Greek life," Gottheimer recalls. "Basically, this really forced us to speak with each other, look within, and really take a look at what was going on nationwide.... We wanted it to be a model -- and it has become one, not just for Penn but nationwide. Our reports have been distributed to hundreds of Greek organizations and advisors around the country. I've already spoken to a few national meetings. We'll continue to do presentations -- selling everyone on the merits of our system."
The three organizations currently represent 37 fraternities and 12 sororities, and their combined membership of approximately 3,100 students amounts to almost a third of the undergraduate population at Penn. The IFC and the Panhellenic Council each claim about 1,500-1,600 members, while some 65 students belong to the four chapters of the BIG-C.
The plan's 10 "cornerstones" are: academics, community service, new-member education, community partnership, security, social enrichment, alumni relations, technology, sensitivity, and -- last but by no means least -- implementation. Given the report's length and the overlapping nature of the three organizations' plans, it's not possible to list all or even most of the points raised by each organization. In its academic section, for example, the IFC plan states that all chapters must, by September 1, select a faculty advisor who will fulfill the following roles:
"maintain a social relationship with chapter officers, undergraduate chapter membership, and the alumni sponsoring group of the fraternity";
serve as the chapter's liaison with Penn's academic community;
"advise and assist the chapter officers in developing and implementing educational programs which broaden the students' living/learning experience at the University";
"counsel and assist the chapter officers in developing and implementing chapter programs and activities which are supportive of the University's academic mission and goals";
"encourage the chapter officers and alumni advisors in establishing and promoting a chapter environment and programs which enhance individual academic achievement and support an individual chapter's local/national scholarship standards."
In addition, the report recommends that all IFC chapters hold at least one faculty tea each academic year in their chapter houses, which should be open to the University community; that they host at least one faculty lecture in each of their houses as part of the Greek Lecture Series; that individual chapters focus on specific academic pursuits each semester; that all chapters invite a member of the faculty to dine at their house at least once a month; and that the number of "seminar-style classes" held in fraternity houses be increased.
Copyright 1997 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 6/23/97