External review affirms concerns about fraternity and sorority life

April 4, 2016 - 2:48pm

University leaders are taking action after a recently completed external review affirmed concerns about issues within the fraternity and sorority system at the University of Oregon.

The report, prepared at the request of Robin Holmes, vice president for student life, points to the size of fraternity and sorority chapters, as well as staffing levels, as needing to be addressed in the face of ongoing challenges related to sexual assault, high-risk behaviors, alcohol use and hazing.

“Sadly, the findings reaffirmed what we found in our internal review,” Holmes said. “Like universities across the country, we need to increase staffing levels and partner with fraternity and sorority leadership to change the culture.”

The first step in further addressing the issues outlined in the review was the approval of a $100 fee for fraternity and sorority members that will fund three to four new positions in the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life.

“This fee was proposed in partnership with our fraternities and sororities, who fully acknowledge that issues exist and have demonstrated a desire to change the culture,” Holmes said. “These new staff members will stand with them as they work to make real change.”

In addition to the positions, the Division of Student Life is extending a moratorium on creating new fraternity and sorority chapters as well as capping current membership levels until staffing can be increased. 

“We have a goal of maximizing our students’ experiences in FSL and will be exploring proactive and intentional ways to manage the size of the chapter house so that they are more in line with national averages,” Holmes said.

Student life will be developing an advisory board to help guide fraternity and sorority life on campus, as well as launching four action-oriented subcommittees that focus on:

  • Chapter size, growth and recruitment policies.
  • Social policies and risk management.
  • Staffing, support and budget.
  • Governance.

These groups will have broad representation inside and outside the university.

The culture in fraternity and sorority settings, particularly sexual assault and substance abuse issues, has been a focus for some time, and Holmes noted that while there is still much to do, significant improvements have been made.

“As a university community, we can do better in more actively and intentionally supporting students in FSL achieve their leadership goals and reach their potential,” she said. “This is not just about holding ourselves or FSL accountable; this is about remaking a culture to ensure students are truly benefitting from this experience. 

“Oftentimes, the connections and opportunities a student is exposed to as a result of being a part of the Greek community can have transformational impacts that last a lifetime. We need to help students find more ways to take advantage of those opportunities,” Holmes said.  “I am truly excited for the future and the ways in which these students — working closely with the university community, FSL chapter advisors and alumni — will make a positive difference.

As the external review was taking place, student life also completed a benchmarking of Pac-12 and Big-10 peers to learn how others are approaching issues within fraternities and sororities. Holmes plans to use the information to help guide other actions as the university works to move the needle.

By Tobin J. Klinger, University Communications