Greeks Make Strides

Six years ago, USC imposed a strict set of academic standards on its fraternities and sororities. While it hasn't always been easy, this "tough love" policy is paying off.

IN CONTRAST TO the stereotypical fraternity or sorority member who is far more concerned with socializing than studying, members of fraternities and sororities at USC have made steady academic progress since a new code of standards went into effect six years ago.
In fact, statistics kept by the Office of Residential and Greek Life show that the spring 1997 grade point averages of fraternities, sororities and the entire Greek system exceeded the GPAs of their respective university peer groups: men, women and all USC undergraduates.
The hat trick was a first in the two decades such records have been kept, says Ken Taylor, director of the Office of Residential and Greek Life. The 2.99 all-Greek average was .02 better than the undergraduate average that semester.
“This is a remarkable accomplishment,” he says, “and places USC’s Greeks among the top academic performers in the Western Regional Greek Conference, which in-cludes more than 150 campuses.”

THE GREEKS' ACADEMIC progress is a clear result of President Steven B. Sample’s USC Minimum Standards policy, says Michael L. Jackson, vice president of student affairs.
The Minimum Standards apply to fraternities and sororities that belong to the Panhellenic Council and the Interfraternity Council, which encompass the bulk of USC’s 2,000 Greeks. About 16 percent of USC undergraduates belong to fraternities or sororities.
“We are now seeing the result of President Sample’s vision for creating a Greek community at USC that continues to build on excellence,” Jackson says. To be in good standing under the policy, a fraternity or sorority chapter GPA should be at least .02 above the undergraduate average and chapter members must make “reasonable” degree progress, carrying at least 12 units per semester and maintaining a 2.2 GPA.
A chapter whose GPA is below the all-men’s average for one semester is given a warning and must submit an academic plan that describes, for example, the chapter’s study hours, incentives for good grades and recruitment of a faculty adviser.
If the substandard GPA continues for a second semester, Taylor’s office begins to apply sanctions, cutting back the chapter’s social and intramural athletic events. As an alternative to losing athletic events, the chapter may conduct “academic enrichment” seminars, covering such topics as listening skills, exam preparation, note-taking and time management.
After a third substandard semester, social and intramural athletic events are reduced further, and the chapter is required to submit biweekly reports on its academic progress. The chapter risks losing university recognition if its GPA continues below the standard for more than three semesters.
Loss of recognition can entail penalties ranging from a suspension of chapter activities for a semester or a year, or, in the worst cases, closure of the chapter for three to five years, Taylor says.
The Minimum Standards also regulate a chapter’s social environment and facilities safety. For example, parties are restricted to Friday and Saturday, quiet hours must be established and opposite-sex visitors are prohibited outside the commons areas when alcohol is consumed.

USC’S APPROACH TO the Greek system differs from that at many universities, where fraternities and sororities -- whose public image has been tarnished over the years by highly publicized incidents of alcohol and drug abuse, vandalism and hazing -- are kept at arm’s length.
USC instead seeks to engage fraternities and sororities, encouraging academic success and community service while reining in the worst excesses, Jackson says.
The most recent Student Opinion Survey, conducted by the Office of Student Affairs in 1997, found that about 39 percent of Greek students had performed volunteer work during their college career, compared to 31 percent of non-Greeks.
During the last academic year, Greeks raised more than $12,000 for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles through a dance marathon and Greek Week activities. Intramural sports competitions raised $37,000 for various charities, including the Blind Children’s Center, a battered women’s shelter, Troy Camp, the AIDS Walk and Special Olympics.
Fraternity and sorority members also helped with beach cleanups, tutored local schoolchildren and provided entertainment and clothing to residents at senior citizens homes and the Sunshine Mission.

-- Melissa Payton

Other Stories

Joy in Trojanville

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Journalism Online

Trojan Visionaries

Greeks Make Strides

USC's Top Honor to Biller

In Print: Asian Identity in Popular Culture

Illustration by Bryan Leister

The Art of Craft -Norwood Reads - Football Preview
Depatments -- Mailbag - On Stage - What's New - In Support - Alumni News - The Last Word