By Marilyn Baer and Taylor Smith
According to the university website, Ohio Wesleyan monitors over 120 student organizations on campus, 17 of which are Greek.
These fraternities and sororities are private organizations that commit themselves to community service, bettering their members and various national philanthropies.
While Dana Behum, assistant director of Student Involvement for fraternity and sorority life, loosely monitors Greek organizations, their respective national headquarters hold them accountable most strictly.
Because of this tie to a national or even international organization, Greek life acts somewhat autonomously within the boundaries of the university.
“They are required to submit data at my request, but more so chapters and individual Greek organizations report to their national headquarters,” Behum said.
The type of data the university and Behum collect consists of recruitment numbers, updated officer positions and an updated roster of organization members. Any other information, such as what percentage of the campus is Greek or how much money was raised for a philanthropy in an entire year, is collected at the request of alumni or the Board of Trustees and is compiled into one lump amount, whether it is membership or philanthropy funds, to prevent the fraternities and sororities on campus from being compared to one another.
“I collect data for recruitment numbers,” Behum said. “A lot of times alumni want to know how many joined the organization, what percentage of the students on campus are Greek, things like that. I do collect, you know, how many dollars were raised throughout an entire year. Then I might publish that information in a university report, but I publish it as a total number rather than an individual because they’re not comparable side by side.”
This additional data is submitted typically without documentation in a Google document or through email.
Ten members of the Greek community were interviewed—some in compliance with their respective chapter, others not—and two of them believed philanthropy funds should be reported to the school. Most felt only grades and rosters needed to be reported.
One member of a fraternity said some fraternities’ main motivation is not to help those around them.
“Some fraternities value charity more than others and it would be unfair to force a fraternity into doing philanthropies because then it’s not charity; it’s work,” he said. “That would really defeat the whole purpose.”
A member of Phi Psi said he believed the university should not interfere.
“I think being in a Greek organization gives you your own responsibility and in return you should be in charge and not have an outside source interfere,” he said.
One member of Delta Tau Delta agreed that Greek groups should remain autonomous.
“Greek organizations are national organizations and some are even international,” he said. “What they do reflects their organization on a much broader plane than what they represent to the school. Basically, it’s a self-solving issue. The school doesn’t have to enforce a status quo because that is done on the national organization. Though much more easily enforced on a local level, it isn’t necessary.”
One fraternity member said he felt philanthropy data should be reported to the university.
“I believe administrations should be involved in organizational philanthropies, and how it benefits the community,” he said. “I also think it is beneficial for administrations to acknowledge (and) keep track of philanthropic contributions because it reflects well upon them when they’re able to pull philanthropic numbers for university recruitment and even national awards”
Communication between the university and Greek life is apparently more than a little difficult.
“Although some chapter leadership is required to meet with me four times in their active role, I never hear from them, they don’t respond to me,” Behum said. “And they are required. I think that is more of a personal response than a representation of their whole group.”
Aside from leaders of the respected members of the Greek community failing to stay in contact with her, Behum said the inter-house or inter-chapter organizations of some fraternities and sororities “can be confusing.”
“I have a list of officers and it is not accurate because they do rotate, or sometimes people do resign from their position, as well,” she said.
As positions change, Behum is not able to always keep track of who is in charge in each organization. This makes it harder for her to keep tabs on the information each fraternity and sorority is suppose to share with the school.
Fraternities and sororities being compared to each other is one thing that prevents their respected leaders and members from working with members of the press and sharing information with the public. Behum said she thinks it’s not a transparency problem, but more of members being cautious about being compared.
“It’s not that they’re not proud of what they’ve done, it’s not that they’re not willing to be transparent; they’re just guarded,” she said. “I think Greek life a lot of times gets a negative, people assume that the story is going to be negative.”
Behum isn’t wrong that Greek life can sometimes get a negative reputation. A March 2012 Transcript article by sophomore Noah Manskar, current editor-in-chief, addressed a sexual assault legal battle that a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon initiated charging his accusers with “libel, emotional distress and abuse of process.” Although the man was no longer a student at OWU, it shed an unflattering light on the house. One member of the fraternity refused to comment or answer interview questions because of this article.
More recently, an email leaked to Deadspin in April by a member of the University of Maryland’s chapter of Delta Gamma has gone viral and attracted attention to the school’s Greek community. The email, sent out by a chair member of their chapter, demands her fellow sisters to be more sociable with the “pretty good frat” they were paired up with for Greek Week and contains quite a bit of profanity.
One fraternity member said it’s not that Greek organizations don’t want to speak with the press, but that they have restrictions on doing so.
“I don’t think organizations are reluctant to speak with press; I think that organizations have their set rules/by laws etc that establish who specifically is allowed to talk to the press on behalf of their organization, or chapter,” he said.
One OWU sorority member said any information she shares or comments she makes had to be submitted to her sorority’s national headquarters for approval because it would be representing the entire international organization. She said this is generally a two-week process.
Another fraternity member said he thinks Greek life has a problem with the press.
“The press always seems to try to portray Greek Life in a negative light,” he said. “When members of the Greek community are representing Greek life, they have to be very careful and political with what they say.
Members do not have to share information with the press, and the compiling of the data Behum receives makes it difficult to decipher. Additionally, fraternities and sororities are required to send in large packets of information to the Order of Omega for the Greek Awards, which includes total philanthropy fundraising, but these packets are viewed by judges only, made of OWU faculty and staff, and are shredded once the judging is over.
The lack of actual documentation is startling to some non-Greek students.
One non-Greek student said in an email she thinks “(i)t’s alarming that fraternities and sororities don’t have to provide documentation proving how much money they raised at a philanthropy event or how much that philanthropy actually received.”
Another non-Greek student said she understands why members of the Greek community are reluctant to talk to the press, but also said she thinks representatives of the Greek community need to be responsible for their actions and organization.
“Accountability is essential to the integrity of the Greek system and their student representatives,” the student said. “Reputation is also important on campus and if a Greek affiliation is being dishonest it should be recorded.”