Greek Pride initiative seeks a return to glory for fraternities, sororities

January 21, 2005

University Park, Pa. -- With approximately 4,000 students comprising the 88 chapters of fraternities and sororities at Penn State, Greek life is a significant factor in the lives of many students and is interwoven into the fabric of the University experience and its overall image.

Approximately 12 percent of Penn State undergraduate students are actively involved in Greek life at the University Park campus, making it one of the largest Greek systems in the nation. While these students give back to the University and the community through various outreach and service projects -- the most noteworthy being Dance Marathon, the largest student-run philanthropy in the county -- a disengagement in recent years between the University, Greek alumni, national offices, the State College community and current fraternity and sorority members has contributed to Greek organizations losing sight of their core values and greater purposes upon which they were founded.

A comprehensive effort to build a stronger and healthier Greek experience for students by identifying and expanding the positives of Greek life is under way, a University-wide initiative dubbed "Greek Pride: A Return to Glory."

"We have chosen to approach this effort in a positive way," said Vicky Triponey, vice president for student affairs, in an informational report to the Board of Trustees today (Jan. 21). "Instead of focusing our energies on what is wrong, we are trying to help all of our stakeholders focus on what we look like when we are at our best -- and to help us to do more of those things. It is apparent that in order to succeed, our various stakeholders -- our students, student leaders, alumni, national representatives, staff and University leadership -- must all re-engage and work collaboratively for the betterment of the Greek experience at Penn State."

Penn State President Graham B. Spanier joined other college presidents and Greek executives a few years ago in drafting recommendations to eliminate negative behavior within Greek organizations. The "Greek Pride" initiative has its roots in these recommendations.

The first major step involved creating a vision and structure to ensure the Greek community's health and vitality for years to come. Last April, approximately 250 students, faculty and staff, parents, alumni and community leaders participated in two summits designed to discover the core values of the Greek system, envision the best the system can be and determine strategies for realizing the vision.

These summits provided a steering committee the material needed to draft a plan that includes a dream statement and eight bold idea action items to guide efforts to enhance the Greek system at Penn State into the future. Spanier and other stakeholders will sign the dream statement in a public event at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 2, in the Old Main foyer.

Teams consisting of more than 300 students, alumni, faculty, staff, community leaders and national representatives continue to meet regularly to develop and implement action strategies. To date, a set of minimum expectations has been developed to help fraternities and sororities become stronger and healthier chapters.

"It is our hope that these expectations will ensure that our chapters have a strong foundation to be successful at Penn State," said Kevin Kerr, director of fraternity and sorority life. "These minimum and reasonable expectations will challenge chapters to work with their advisers, national offices, faculty, staff and council leaders to craft programs that will foster accountability and enhance chapter identity."

With many chapters likely to aspire beyond the minimum, standards of excellence also have been proposed to challenge chapters and individuals in the areas of social programming, community service and academic achievement. "Chapters that meet or exceed these standards of excellence will be eligible for a robust and powerful set of rewards from the University," said Kerr. "These rewards will encourage and support the development of our Greek community and in the process rebuild the partnership between our chapters, the University and other significant stakeholders."

More information about the Greek Pride initiative can be found online at http://www.sa.psu.edu/greekpride/

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 20, 2009