The stereotypical images that come to mind when one hears the words “fraternity” and “sorority” tend to be things like hazing, wild parties, practical jokes and alcohol poisoning. Members of California State University Northridge’s fraternities and sororities are hoping to create more positive associations such as academic achievement and community involvement, with their organizations.
Their effort has been recognized by the Association of Fraternity and Sorority Advisors, with the honor of receiving the 2012 Change Initiative Award. Established in 1996, this award is presented to institutions of higher education or associate member organizations that have made tremendous progress and improvement in their fraternity/sorority community. Only 15 other institutions have received this award, and CSUN is the first college in California to receive this honor.
“The student leaders and I got together and asked ourselves how relevant fraternities and sororities would be at CSUN in the near future,” said Jamison Keller, Cal State Northridge’s activities coordinator. This question sparked many efforts that included a professional assessment, outside consultants and additional conversations around values congruence. The result was a re-dedication of our students to improve in almost every area of operation. This evolved into three, two-year strategic plans all decided on and carried out by students.”
The plan, called COMPASS, focuses on six core themes identified by the students as key in advancing the fraternity and sorority experience at CSUN: academic achievement, chapter and membership development, inter-Greek relations, risk management, campus and community involvement, and recruitment. These standards are reassessed every three years.
“The CSUN fraternity and sorority community is still very young when compared to others across the country,” Keller noted. “This often means less alumni and financial support compared to older communities that literally have hundreds of years of history at a particular campus. We are also one of the most diverse communities in the country with many regional and local groups that do not have access to national staff and educational programs. Membership is also often made up of first-generation students with no previous knowledge about the responsibilities that come with being in a fraternity or sorority.”
Keller said that when he first joined CSUN 14 years ago, he would hear fraternity and sorority members complain that since the university was a commuter campus, there was no way they could replicate the full Greek experience, such as those at schools like USC, UC Berkeley and Florida State.
“This recognition from the Association of Fraternity and Sorority Advisors and more importantly, the hard work our students put in to change our community for the better, has allowed the students to see that a California State University is just as capable of providing a positive and enriching fraternity and sorority experience beyond perceived levels of prestige of the host institution,” said Keller. “Ultimately, we shine just as brightly as other older and wealthier communities.
“I do believe this recognition will enable some to look beyond national stereotypes and take a closer look at who our students are and what they are capable of,” he continued. “We need our entire campus to see the value inherent in this experience even if membership is not of interest personally. Our students and overall community need to know that our campus supports them. We still have much to improve but this recognition will now enable us to advance that momentum and hopefully gain the support of our campus in reaching even higher.”