Academics are a staple in Greek agenda

Carrie Rupp

The stereotype of fraternities and sororities putting more effort into their Thursday night socials rather than their Friday morning classes is a fallacy that has been haunting Greek organizations for decades, said Tony Cox, a member of Theta Chi and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.

“One of the motivations behind our strong focus on academic success is the misconception that people have about Greek life — academics do play a huge role,” Cox said.

Greek organizations’ emphasis on academics is not always apparent from the outside, but they are starting to make their mark.

“Statistically, we as Greeks, across the nation, are found to have a higher retention rate, higher graduation rate and higher academic achievement than the campus average,” said Beth Gittons, assistant director of the Office of Campus Life.

Academics set the tone in the everyday functioning of each chapter, with Greek leaders reminding their fellow fraternity brothers and sorority sisters that academic success is first and foremost the reason they are at Kent State.

“You’re not in college to join a sorority or a fraternity, you’re here to get an education. Your first responsibility is to maintain those academic standards,” Gittons said.

The academic standards placed on each fraternity and sorority comes from higher up. The chapter’s national headquarters requires every member to maintain a predetermined grade point average, which differs with every fraternity and sorority. Also, university policy requires all students in campus organizations, which includes Greek organizations, to keep a 2.0 GPA.

Many fraternities and sororities go above and beyond their minimum GPA requirement setting a local chapter requirement, making the demand for academic success even greater.

Gittons, who oversees the 17 fraternities and seven sororities on campus, helps each chapter stay on top of their academic status by working with each chapter’s scholarship chair.

“The scholarship chair is an appointed member of the fraternity or sorority who is there to provide programming and resources about academics for the membership, and to work with people who need to improve their grades,” Gittons said. “They monitor the overall academics of their respective chapter to make sure everyone is achieving their goals.”

The scholarship chair also is in charge of recommending disciplinary action if members fall below their GPA requirement.

“College should be a successful journey and if the fraternity or sorority is getting in the way, one way to ameliorate it is some sort of sanction or academic probation, in order to bring the focus back to where it belongs,” Gittons said. “Being in a fraternity or sorority is a privilege, and you need to earn it. One of those ways is to keep those academic standards. By doing that, you keep your ritual alive everyday.”

Disciplinary action against members who aren’t maintaining their required GPA can result in restrictions from attending social events and playing an active role in chapter meetings.

“It isn’t as much punishment, but getting them to where they need to be. One of the keys is to eliminate distractions and get them to hit the books,” Cox said.

One of the ways that many Greek organizations get their members to “hit the books” is by issuing mandatory study hours. Whether held at their chapter house or at the library, members are required to fulfill a certain number of dedicated study hours every week, in an attempt to prioritize their academics.

Cox said if men in a fraternity are having a hard time with a certain class and need some extra help the dedication of the members in the fraternity really kicks in.

“Sometimes the brothers will talk with his professor and check up on each other,” Cox said.

Many students involved in Greek life have more pressures placed on them than their peers to uphold their academic success.

“They have more to answer to than themselves and their parents, they have their chapter, the university and the national chapter,” Gittons said.

In a sense, that is what fraternity and sorority life is all about — people coming together and working together to achieve common goals and uphold values.

“Fraternity and sorority life is all about service, brotherhood and sisterhood, commitment to improve oneself as a human being, and of course, scholarship,” Gittons said. “That is the heart of what we do.”

Contact Greek life reporter Carrie Rupp at [email protected].