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Knowledge Community Spotlight - Fraternity and Sorority

Fraternity and Sorority Region IV-W Region IV-W
February 28, 2017 Laura Roof University of South Dakota

The Fraternity and Sorority Knowledge Community (FSKC) provides a forum for organizations and professionals working with fraternities and sororities for the exchange of ideas, knowledge dissemination and collaboration among the fraternal movement. The individuals within our KC are committed to seeing fraternities and sororities provide a “value-added” experience to our students at our host institutions, and can mark our claim to fame as one of the largest KC’s in NASPA with nearly 1,400 members and growing.

As we come to a close on our “Professional Greek Conference Season” in December and January, and start to focus on the January/February “Student Greek Conference Season”, I am called to reflect on some of the lessons learned and conversations had during my Professional travels. One topic in particular resonates soundly as I return to campus: the business of housing in the fraternity and sorority community.

On multiple campuses across the nation, the brick and mortar facility of a Fraternity or Sorority is an integral component to the fraternal experience. So integral that member slang within these organizations reference “houses” as if they were representative of the entirety of the organization, despite the fact that not all of our chapters are housed and the facility component is not a requirement of a charter for organizational membership. Professionals are called regularly to engage in inclusive language conversations encouraging members to utilize “chapter” as opposed to “house” to define our organizations but this “house” mentality finds its roots in decades of tradition and standards of fraternities and sororities doubling as housing facilities for members, which is hard to shake.

Unfortunately, as we start 2017 many of our facilities are becoming as old as the tradition and standard that guides our housed organizations mentality. For example, on the campus in which I work, the last Greek “build” is rumored to have taken place in the 1970’s (Rumored, of course, because I as a young professional was not here to see it happen). These aging facilities are faced with structural woes that are costing house corporations millions of dollars and countless hours to maintain basic upkeep; ultimately causing great stress on the local volunteers that have agreed to contribute their fraternity or sorority through service on the house corporation board. Additionally, these facility managers are pressured to compete with student expectations for housing that have pushed us past the traditional residence hall ideal to a suite style of living.

Where then, we might ask ourselves, does this leave the future of Fraternity/Sorority housing on today’s college campus? The popular answer, as it seems currently, is in Headquarters creating Fraternity/Sorority Housing Corporations (FHC) that fall under the national organization. According to a recent AFA educational session, Trends & Priorities in Greek Housing, 58% or 15 NPC organizations have adopted the new FHC model; and many NIC groups are also following suit.[1]

With these organizations that have adopted the FHC model, beneficial changes have been noticed. Organizations under the FHC model are better able to provide the residential facilities that students are looking for aesthetically, while providing the structural “bones” needed.  Including, but not limited to, adequate number of outlets/electricity needed for today’s growing electronic age, effective internet capabilities able to handle the increase in streaming needs, hiring and employment practices that are compliant with federal standards and quality property management and maintenance. In short, the FHC model applies a functional business model to acquired facilities, which allows for Fraternities and Sororities nationally to address facility and student needs for long term future success.

So, while there are still a lot of questions about what 2017 will look like for student affairs and the relevance of Fraternities and Sororities in the 21st century; one thing is for sure, based on the knowledge I learned during my Professional Greek Conference Season, the business of housing in the fraternity and sorority community has found a path to ensure its existence for decades to come; now we just have to follow it!

There are a lot of big things happening in Fraternal community and our Sorority & Fraternity Affairs Knowledge Community, so no matter if you are a FSA, Headquarters staffer, alumni of an organization, or just a student affairs professional that wants to know more about Sorority & Fraternity Life we invite you to connect with us! Follow us on Twitter @NASPA_FSKC or Facebook Sorority & Fraternity Affairs KC Facebook.

[1] Gerhardt, C., Ratterman, W., Stelhorn, C., Alderice, P., & Somers, G. (2016, December 2). Trends & Priorities in Greek Housing. Lecture presented at Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors Annual Meeting in Boston, MA.