'Action plans' replace minimum standards

by Ryan Samuels | 1/10/02 6:00am

Despite controversy on campus over the Student Life Initiative since its inception three years ago, most current leaders of Greek organizations at Dartmouth describe its latest progress with approval and look forward to an increasingly constructive relationship with the Office of Residential Life.

The latest development concerns what the Greek Life Steering Committee called "action plans" in its June 2001 report.

The report, a set of suggestions for reform of Dartmouth fraternities and sororities framed by a group of Greek leaders and College officials last year, states, "Greek organizations will submit an annual Action Plan based on the Greek community's six guiding principles to the Office of Residential Life."

The six guiding principles are scholarship, leadership, brotherhood and sisterhood, inclusivity, service and accountability.

At the end of Spring term next year, the Office of Residential Life will evaluate the extent to which the membership of each house has -- or has not -- lived up to the action plans that they will have submitted earlier.

What will happen to an organization that fails this evaluation, however, is not yet clear.

Greeks will turn in their first action plans in June, according to Assistant Dean of Residential Life Cassie Barnhardt, and the plans will apply to the 2002-03 academic year.

The action plans replace the older system of Minimum Standards, by which ORL held all coed, fraternity and sorority organizations to uniform criteria applied without distinction.

An Oct. 23 letter from Dean of Residential Life Martin Redman to CFS advisors includes suggestions for inclusion in the action plans, such as a commitment to refraining from high-risk behaviors like binge drinking and drug abuse, a policy of zero tolerance for hazing and new member programs "specified in full detail."

"The action plan format ideally provides each organization with an opportunity to distinguish itself from other groups while remaining committed to the fundamental set of principles and standards that form the basis of College recognition," Redman wrote in the letter.

Most CFS leaders who spoke to The Dartmouth applauded the new format for its consideration of the individual character of each house, as opposed to the previous system of minimum standards.

Delta Delta Delta Sorority President Tatiana Fernandes '03 said, "Houses need minimum standards, but it is hard to make one set of rules apply equally to each separate house."

"The action plans will give organizations an opportunity to display their individuality and uniqueness," Barnhardt said.

However, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity President Lonnie Threatte '02 stated that the new system "insufficiently supports black fraternities."

"A new group comes through every year, and I hesitate to impose a set of my rules on people who will join the house after I leave," Threatte said.

But Barnhardt reiterated that "houses will submit a new action plan every year," allowing individual Greek organizations to change with time and new members.

Kappa Kappa Kappa Fraternity President Mike Salzman '02 said, "I worry that people might have an incentive to set unreasonably high goals, and that their inability to live up to them might result in sanctions," but added, "I think in principle it is a good idea to allow ourselves to set our own goals."

Overall, the response among Greek leaders to action plans remained positive, and for the most part echoed the sentiments expressed by Fernandes, who foresaw improved relations between Greek leaders and officials of the College.

"I think that we definitely will work a lot more with ORL. The action plans make it more of a joint effort," she said.

Barnhardt

repeatedly characterized the new action plan system as "a work in progress."

Although

the GLSC report states, "groups who choose to maintain the status quo will find their organizations faced with a short lived future," Barnhardt said that ORL has not decided upon the nature of any projected disciplinary action for organizations that, upon examination at the end of the year, appear to have failed to live up to the goals outlined in their action plans.

She refused to speculate as to the consequences of unrealized action plans. "Groups need to define what they want to do, and then do it," she said. "Beyond that, this process continues to develop."

Thus far, houses earlier this year have formed and submitted to the ORL statements of plans and goals termed "priority lists" that, unlike action plans, pertain to only two of the guiding principles.

"Action plans," Barnhardt said, "will be more comprehensive. Priority lists will be evaluated in a non-punitive manner in the spring by the Office of Residential Life in order to celebrate their accomplishments and to give positive suggestions."

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