CHELLMAN: Let FOA educators evaluate their students

Greek life organizations should be held accountable for their behavior when participating in courses required by the Fraternal Organization Agreement

op-MadBowlISCIFC-CourtesyWikimediaCommons

Greek life organizations agree to participate in a series of annual mandatory trainings in partnership with the university

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The Fraternal Organization Agreement, or FOA, claims to value education. Each year, fraternal organizations in the Inter-Fraternity Council, Inter-Sorority Council, Multicultural Greek Council and National Pan-Hellenic Council commit to an FOA legal document to formalize their relationship with the University. Critical to this agreement is the requirement that fraternal organizations attend six educational programs over the course of the year, learning about anything from sexual assault education to personal health and nutrition. Currently, however, there is no process by which fraternal organizations may be held accountable for engaging thoughtfully and respectfully with these educational programs. If the Office of the Dean of Students and Fraternity and Sorority Life genuinely values education, it will allow educators to evaluate fraternal organizations’ conduct and offer course credit accordingly.

While fraternities and sororities operate independently from the University, these groups agree each year to FOA guidelines in order to “seek certain benefits from the University.” These benefits include the use of certain University facilities and such as the Student Activities Center. One of the most significant of the FOA’s requirements is the need for fraternal organizations to engage in six educational programs, three of which must occur prior to Nov. 27 of this year. While these organizations have a long list of programs from which to choose, they must pick at least one falling under each of the following three categories: alcohol/drugs, sexual assault prevention and hazing prevention. At least 66 percent of their members must be present for a course to count toward FOA requirements. 

Interestingly enough, fraternal organizations are required to submit an evaluation form following each course for which they sign up. Fraternal organizations must rate each educator based on predetermined characteristics. The presentation must be “engaging and interactive,” and the presenter must be “knowledgeable on the program topic.” Perhaps most provocatively, fraternal organizations must indicate whether their “chapter will benefit as a result of the content of this program.”

I find this evaluation form ironic in two ways. Firstly, it indicates a set of characteristics expected of educators, yet statutorily unexpected of fraternal organizations themselves. There is no requirement for fraternity or sorority members to be “engaging and interactive” in return. To a certain extent, members of these organizations can act however they’d like. They don’t necessarily need to pay attention, act respectfully or cultivate a productive learning environment during the course. There is no mechanism by which they might be reprimanded for bad behavior. Further, the current evaluation form seems to acknowledge the need for fraternal scrutiny. It gives that power to evaluate, however, to the fraternities and sororities themselves. Surely the educators, not the organizations, should be the ones deciding whether the fraternity benefitted from the program. Impolite or uninterested organizations would be hard-pressed to benefit from content they didn’t absorb.

Recently, members of a fraternal organization to which I was giving an Unpacking Privilege presentation watched and openly cheered for a football game throughout my program. At other fraternal organizations, I’ve had members disrespectfully argue with our content or talk amongst themselves. I can imagine that other educators receive similar treatment. Such conduct is unacceptable and should not qualify those presentations for FOA credit. FSL must give educators the tools by which to invalidate such behavior.

Too often, the Minority Rights Coalition’s Unpacking Privilege presentations –– which count as FOA-approved courses –– are met with distraction or disrespect from fraternal organizations. The FOA education requirement is designed to ensure that fraternities and sororities think critically about the safety, wellbeing and social impact of their communities. As it stands, however, the current system allows fraternal organizations to exploit the good intentions of educational courses. These organizations can fulfill their requirements without ever engaging seriously with this important material.

The Office of the Dean of Students and Fraternity and Sorority Life must create a parallel evaluation form to be filled out by educators. Through this form, those giving FOA-approved presentations would make comments on the audience’s attentiveness and conduct. They would also issue recommendations as to whether or not the organization should receive FOA credit for the course. The current system offers no tools for educators frustrated with fraternal organization conduct. The system defeats the purpose of the education requirement and permits disdain for those working toward a more equitable University.

Jack Chellman is an Opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at opinion@cavaleirdaily.com

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