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Saturday December 10th

GPA rules vex smaller Greek chapters

For some, one member’s bad grades could keep an entire organization from recruitment

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For Mehta, academic chairwoman for Delta Phi Omega Sorority Inc., it was a learning experience. The then-11-member sorority did not meet the required grade point average for Greek organizations by 0.154 points in fall 2013, so UNC banned the chapter from recruiting first-semester students for one semester. On average, Delta Phi Omega pledges three women each semester. Six other groups didn’t meet the requirement for fall 2013.

“It certainly was motivation in order for the sorority to take action in helping sisters do better academically,” Mehta said.

In fall 2013, Greek organizations had to have a higher chapter GPA than the entire student body’s GPA. They also had to meet a GPA benchmark of 2.7. As of spring 2014, Greek chapters must have a 3.0 grade point average as part of a performance-based recruitment policy.

In fall 2013, four Interfraternity Council chapters and three Greek Alliance Council chapters faced penalizations for achieving a chapter GPA that fell below the performance-based recruitment policy for two consecutive semesters. At the time, the policy stated that all chapters must be at or above the University-wide average for that semester and the cumulative University-wide average.

The seven chapters were punished for having a GPA that did not meet the University-wide average for the spring 2013 and the fall 2012 semesters, which was 3.208 and 3.183 respectively. The chapters also had the option of meeting the cumulative University-wide average, which for spring 2013 was 3.183 and was 3.151 for fall 2012. But they did not meet either.

The seven chapters all fell within a few tenths or hundredths of that threshold.

The four IFC chapters —Phi Gamma Delta, Zeta Psi, Pi Kappa Alpha and Pi Lambda Phi — faced social probation. All three of the GAC chapters — Delta Phi Omega, Alpha Kappa Delta Phi sorority, and Pi Alpha Phi fraternity — chose to forgo recruitment of first-semester freshmen.

The road to academic success was not an easy adjustment for some chapters.

Creation of the policy

The fall 2009 semester saw the shooting death of Delta Kappa Epsilon president Courtland Smith and many alcohol and drug policy violations by other Greek organizations.

Soon, Greek organizations came under scrutiny by the Board of Trustees.

The Board of Trustees voted to raise the GPA standard for rush participation to 2.7 for a fraternity or sorority to participate in rush in March 2011. They also raised the GPA requirement to participate in fall rush to match the campuswide average by 2012, which at the time was about 3.1.

Aaron Bachenheimer, director of the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life and Community Involvement, said in an email he has not noticed any chapters who have continuously failed to meet the requirements.

“It is probably too early in the life of the performance-based recruitment policy to make any meaningful conclusions of habitual recidivism or to estimate any meaningful averages,” Bachenheimer said.

In spring 2014, the performance-based recruitment policy was updated to 3.0.

If groups fall out of compliance with the standards of excellence benchmark, penalizations could include putting the organization on a comprehensive academic plan, removal of social privileges or loss of University recognition.

“You can have the best academic plan and greatest attention to your members academic success on the planet, but if you have members going through individual academic challenges, it can affect the organizations ability to raise their GPA,” Bachenheimer said.

Alternate resolutions are also available to some Greek organizations, which could include a social suspension if there are extenuating circumstances that merit that.

Bachenheimer also said that the all-Greek GPA has been consistently higher than the all-campus average for several years. The all-Greek average for semesters since fall 2011 was 2.6 percent — or 0.08 grade points — higher than the University average.

Some Greek groups appoint a member as academic chairman or set up tutoring sessions between older and younger members.

Pi Lambda Phi’s former president Robert Harrison said in an email that after facing social probation, his organization created individualized academic plans.

“We scheduled meetings for each brother to sit down with our academic chair where they would go over the brother’s syllabi and create semester objectives, as well as study plans and checkpoints for subsequent meetings to examine the brother’s progress towards their semester goals,” he said.

Raising the bar

Bachenheimer said the GPA policy can be the most daunting for organizations who have small chapters, like many in the Greek Alliance Council.

“Just one or two low GPAs can negatively impact the average of an otherwise strong academic organization,” he said.

For example, Delta Phi Omega achieved a 3.054 with 12 members at the end of spring 2013.

Mehta said in order to raise the sorority’s GPA, members held mandatory study hours and established an academic plan for members who did not meet the UNC average GPA.

“The academic plan includes using a calendar and planner daily, making weekly study plans, as well as setting monthly SMART goals and reflecting on those goals,” she said.

Mehta said because the proportion of freshmen who are interested in rushing the sorority varies from semester to semester, the recruitment restriction did not hurt them too badly.

“There was a slight impact, but we hoped that any interests we had that were first semester freshmen would be willing to wait until the spring semester in order for intake to happen,” she said. “It gave the interests a chance to get to know the sisters and the organization better rather than jumping in during their first few weeks of school.”

From fall 2013 to spring 2014, the sorority’s GPA jumped from 2.996 to 3.136. But in the fall 2014 the chapter achieved a GPA of 2.834.

Bachenheimer said the ease of enforcing the GPA requirement varies by chapters, depending on chapter size and academic makeup.

“The advantage of being at Carolina is that the pool of potential recruits is largely high achieving,” he said. “That being said, students and members encounter academic challenges for a variety of reasons that may not always be apparent during the recruitment and intake process, and while that individual member is trying to work through those challenges, their grades impact the chapter.”

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story mischaracterized the nature of Courtland Smith's death. The story has been updated to reflect this change. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.


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