October 6, 1997
Volume 50, No. 7
The recent deaths of a Louisiana State University fraternity member and an MIT fraternity pledge as a result of excessive alcohol consumption has focused increased attention on fraternities and what universities are doing to help them maintain healthy communities.
Emory has a new fraternity management program that already has become a model for other universities. Referred to as the Phoenix Plan and developed by the Division of Campus Life, the program began in May and includes the following requirements for the approximately 300 fraternity members living under the plan:
The emphasis is on re-establishing and building chapter standards and values, said Bridget Guernsey Riordan, who oversees Greek Life. About 1,600 students, or 30 percent of the student body, are members of Greek Life.
Although some may question the University's commitment to rebuilding and fostering a Greek Life system, Riordan sees a great deal of value in the network. "Fraternities provide a living and learning environment that is unique on campus," she said. "The problems in the fraternities also are, unfortunately, occurring throughout the college community. In fraternities, however, there is a strong chance to affect change through peer influence and alumni assistance because of the fraternal allegiance. By stressing fraternal values, we can help the students get back to their founding ideals of cooperation, honor, service, leadership and scholarship," said Riordan.
Emory began development of the Phoenix Plan in 1994 when the administration became concerned with the unsafe, unsanitary and unattractive conditions of many of the fraternity houses. Emory's efforts at implementing an effective management system were spurred by incidents such as last year's fatal fire in a fraternity house at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. An Emory team of administrators and students visited Washington and Lee University to use their fraternity facilities-management program as a model, and the University of Maryland also was consulted regarding its programming for students. Now other universities are requesting Emory's plan to use as a model.
Residential Services Director Todd Schill, who has been a leader in implementing the plan, said Emory is way ahead of other universities in addressing the physical aspects and conditions of fraternities. "We must change the way we do business now and in the future if the Greek Life system is to survive on university campuses," said Schill. "Rebuilding fraternity chapters and improving their physical properties will help reinstill a sense of pride among fraternity members in their living environment, enabling them to focus on other problematic areas."
Rob Whitmire, Emory senior and president of the Interfraternity Council, agreed with Schill's assessment. "The facilities improvements have gone very well, but the tough part now is how to get fraternity men to trust the University administration in dealing with behavioral issues, especially regarding alcohol," said Whitmire. "Fraternity men won't respond well to an authoritative approach but they will-and have-to housing directors and alumni who approach them as mentors and advisers." The purpose of the Phoenix Plan, Whitmire said, is to get fraternities back to their mission of "cultivating quality leaders who can contribute to the world as well as to the University community."
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