A team of UConn students, staff, and alumni have begun working to reinvigorate the Greek Life system at UConn, hoping to become a national model within five years.
“We are definitely moving forward. The University is committed to the fraternity and sorority system,” says Lee Burdette Williams, dean of students and co-chair of a task force charged with implementing changes.
The task force grew out of a report prepared by a trio of consultants after visiting campus this summer. The lengthy report identified strengths and weaknesses in UConn’s fraternity and sorority system, and offered 58 recommendations spanning 15 areas, including a call for more funding and more staffing. A number of the recommendations have been or are being implemented.
“The report is a very helpful blueprint,” says Williams. “It will help us make decisions. There are some things we can do immediately, some recommendations we can shape next semester, and then, in fall 2006, we will have a new director who can continue to implement change.”
Hiring a full-time director and building a staff that is large enough to advise and assist the 25 fraternal chapters and 1,100 students involved in the Greek system were among the report’s key recommendations, and UConn officials have already begun to address them. Williams says a search committee has been selected, and a new director is expected to be named next summer. That leader will then be asked to hire an assistant director to bolster the staff.
The new director will report to Williams – as recommended in the report – and funding for the fraternities and sororities will become a function of the student affairs budget. Currently, funding for the system comes from the student activities budget, and the former director of Greek Life, Judy Preston, reported to the student activities director. Preston also worked on non-Greek activities.
Preston, who retired last year, will work as a consultant and serve as co-chair, with Williams, of the task force. She will work with the team through the spring semester, helping ease the transition to the new director.
“This is an amazing opportunity,” Preston says. “John Saddlemire (vice president for student affairs) is committed to developing a vibrant fraternity and sorority community that will be an asset to this campus. Now we have a chance to sit at the table and decide what makes an excellent system.”
Lauren Levy, a senior and chair of the All Greek Council, says her colleagues in the fraternity and sorority community are pleased that the University is moving forward with the plan.
“I think it’s a great thing, and the Greek community agrees,” she says. “Many of the Greeks have felt there was no commitment by the University, and now they feel like we’re getting the attention we need. This is clearing up some of the misconceptions.”
Ideally, Preston and Williams say, fraternities and sororities should be among a University’s most active philanthropic, academic, and service communities. The groups are the heart of campus spirit, earning leadership positions in student government and other clubs and organizations, playing a lead role in Homecoming events, comprising a majority of intramural sports teams, sponsoring a range of philanthropic programs, such as the Midnight Marathon (now called HUSKYthon), and raising academic expectations.
Williams says she wants the task force, new director, and fraternities and sororities to “create a Greek system that is truly revolutionary.
“We can do it by examining every part of the system,” she adds, “and asking ‘Does this make sense for the 21st century?’”