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Release date: Sept. 29, 2000
Contact: Nancy Seideman, Director, 404-727-0640, or

Emory University's Greek System Thrives Under Innovative Management Plan

Emory officials and students attribute Greek Life's revival on campus to an innovative fraternity management program—the Phoenix Plan—designed to help university administrators and fraternity members work together to resolve maintenance, custodial, financial, safety, behavioral and other issues. Launched in several chapters in 1994 and fully implemented in fall 1997, the program is serving as a model for other universities around the country.

The Emory program includes the following requirements for the approximately 300 fraternity members living under the plan (about 1,700 Emory students, or 33 percent of the undergraduate student body, are members of fraternities and sororities):

• Ten of the 11 fraternities with their own houses participate in the Phoenix Plan (Delta Tau Delta chose to remain as an independent and not participate in the Phoenix Plan, but must comply with its standards. When the program was established, all fraternities were given the option to join or remain independent);

• Nine of the ten Phoenix Plan-fraternities have a live-in house director employed by the university or the house corporation board (five of the fraternities do not have a house and one of the Phoenix Plan fraternityıs house capacity doesn't justify a live-in director).

• All fraternities have custodial/maintenance service provided by the university's residential services department, with the exception of the independent fraternity that contracts separately for such service, but must meet university standards. Specific custodial/maintenance staff and supervisors are assigned to "fraternity row" in order to assist in the physical upkeep of the houses and to ensure safe, clean, attractive-looking and well-maintained facilities. Residential services decides, in conjunction with the fraternities, what capital improvements will occur annually and oversees the improvements.

• Members of the Phoenix Plan are part of the university's billing system and the residential services department establishes the fraternity's annual operating budget, the number of occupants that will reside in the house, and the room rent.

• Revitalizing chapter management is a major goal of the plan, with programs to help members address behavioral concerns, alcohol consumption, leadership development, recruitment, and community and alumni relations. This process has begun with increased education, particularly peer education, on preventing problems with alcohol, led by a health educator, and by fraternity officers confronting and dealing with members who exhibit unacceptable behavior.

Now that Emory has had a five-year track record with the Phoenix Plan, Residential Services Director Todd Schill says it's clear that, "safe, attractive, clean, well-maintained and managed facilities can lead to improved behavior, positive programs, and better interaction among all constituents of the university community."

The Phoenix Plan also has represented a financial success for the university and fraternities. This month, probably for the first time in the history of the fraternity program, all operating budgets will be in the black and have financial reserves. During the past four years, the university's conference office has generated more than $435,000 in revenues that have gone directly back to the operating budgets of the fraternities. Next year, with the addition of two more houses, the university anticipates an increase of more than $190,000 in revenue from housing summer conference participants.

An emphasis of the Phoenix Plan is to build chapter standards and values, says Emory's Bridget Guernsey Riordan, who is assistant to the vice president of Campus Life and oversees Greek Life.

Although some may question any 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," says Riordan. "The problems in the fraternities also are, unfortunately, occurring throughout the college community. In fraternities, however, there are strong opportunities to affect change through peer influence and alumni assistance because of the fraternal allegiance. By emphasizing fraternal values, we can help the students get back to their founding ideals of cooperation, honor, service, leadership and scholarship," she says.

Emory began development of the Phoenix Plan in 1994 when the administration became concerned about the unsafe, unsanitary and unattractive conditions of many of the fraternity houses. The school's efforts were spurred on by incidents such as fatal fires that occurred at other universities' fraternity houses. A team of Emory administrators and students visited Washington and Lee University to learn first-hand about its fraternity facilities management program, and the University of Maryland was consulted regarding its programming for students. Now other universities are requesting Emory's plan to use as a model.

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