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Value of UNC Greek life extolled

Trustees get recap of UNC’s chapters

Jenny Levering speaks to the university affairs committee at Wednesday’s Board of Trustees meeting. DTH/ Ben Pierce
Jenny Levering speaks to the university affairs committee at Wednesday’s Board of Trustees meeting. DTH/ Ben Pierce

Administrators have acknowledged that getting out positive news about UNC’s Greek system has been difficult, so now they’re taking a more direct approach.

In response to scrutiny of the Greek system, UNC Trustee Alston Gardner assigned Assistant Dean of Students for Fraternity and Sorority Life Jenny Levering the task of pointing out positive aspects about the Greek community to the UNC Board of Trustees, which she did at a committee meeting Wednesday.

In a comment directed at the local media before Levering began, Gardner, who was a fraternity member while at UNC, decried what he saw as efforts to undermine the Greek system, though he acknowledged that some Greek problems were systemic and unlikely to be solved by administrators alone.

“There’s actually very little we can do to control the behavior of 3,000 students, many of whom don’t live on campus,” Gardner said.

Levering’s presentation detailed ways the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life works to improve skills such as leadership for fraternity and sorority members, in addition to providing demographic and statistical information on members.

Levering’s office also made available to the board a semester report on the grade point averages of fraternity and sorority members. The report also included policy violations and each organization’s standing with the University.

The current report lists 27 fire code violations and 24 life safety violations for Greek organizations, numbers similar to previous semesters.

Greek students’ GPAs tend to be higher than the average GPA of students at UNC, with sorority members outperforming the female average.

While 14 Greek organizations were listed as failing to meet UNC’s standards, Levering said at the meeting that all but four chapters had been brought up to recognition standards in the past week.

In order to find ways to improve the Greek system, especially with respect to the fraternities, board Chairman Bob Winston recruited alumnus Jordan Whichard in early January to collect information on fraternities and sororities to develop a set of goals and best practices.

Whichard met with a group of about 30 fraternity members and alumni earlier this month at a meeting of the alumni advising group to discuss the way fraternities are run and talk about ways to improve the practices and reputation of the fraternities.

The alumni group came up with three areas for improvement: new member education and academics, government management and accountability and recruitment and community service. The group’s second meeting is scheduled for tonight.

Bob Lewis, a Sigma Nu fraternity alumnus who led the group’s meeting, acknowledged the challenges it faced.

“I think there must be a paradigm shift in our organizations in order to survive,” he said. “If there’s no added benefit to the community, there’s no reason for us to exist.”

Levering touted that meeting in her presentation as an example of improved communication, a factor that has come up repeatedly as an area for improvement. The problems with communication, as Gardner observed, tend to be most noticeable when something goes wrong.

“We tend to pay a lot of attention to the negative aspects associated with Greek life,” said Winston Crisp, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs. “We’ve always maintained that the vast majority of their contribution is positive.”

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