Penn College Adds Fraternities to Student-Life Options
Seeking to enhance its students' overall college experience and recognizing the constructive characteristics of membership in fraternal organizations, Pennsylvania College of Technology has added a Greek component to its campus-life opportunities.
"This is a logical next phase of Penn College's growth and development," President Davie Jane Gilmour said, noting the availability of fraternities and sororities long has been requested by student prospects and their families at Open House activities. "There is a lot of data suggesting that a properly administered Greek Life system can add to a student's college experience on a number of levels: academically, socially, health-wise and from a community-service standpoint."
After a thorough and rigorous review process that included solicitation of nine organizations and presentations to the college community by a narrowed-down list of hopefuls, three national fraternities are (or soon will be) represented with chapters, or "colonies," at Penn College: Phi Mu Delta, Sigma Nu and Chi Phi.
Addressing the more prevalent concerns at the outset, officials made it clear that alcohol will be forbidden at all Greek functions on Penn College's campuses and off and that the college will neither provide on-campus Greek housing nor encourage off-campus fraternity houses.
"The principles upheld by the national Greek community include scholarship, service and philanthropy, leadership, community, and brotherhood," said Ward W. Caldwell, special assistant to the president for student affairs. "These strong civic tenets are the attributes driving the decision to bring Greek Life to Penn College."
Student Affairs staff worked diligently for more than two years on a selection and implementation process to engage the national Greek community, as well as interested Penn College students, in the formation of a strong on-campus presence that would encourage and exemplify those ideals, he added.
Initial response shows the effort was appreciated: About 60 students are members of the college's first two fraternities, and similar interest is expected when Chi Phi colonizes this fall. A number of inquiries also have been received from female students interested in joining a sorority. (While fraternities are the first to be added at Penn College, the recognition process for sororities and multicultural groups will be initiated in the very near future.)
"One of the reasons I am so optimistic about our system is that this has been a very inclusive process," said Carolyn Strickland, assistant vice president for academic affairs. The president, key student-affairs personnel, Penn College Police and a student task force all were involved in setting guidelines that are outlined in Standards for GREEKS (Gaining Recognition through Engagement, Excellence, Knowledge and Success).
Among those requirements are a minimum 2.25 grade-point average, mandatory study hours, and attendance at academic and personal-enhancement workshops. Standards also provide for an Inter-Greek Council that will work with the administration to ensure the propriety of recruitment and to enforce acceptable behavior by student members.
Acknowledging that negatives are what make headlines a fraternity's "Animal House" reputation, for instance, or a pledge's hazing horror story college officials point to a number of pluses inherent in a well-managed Greek system.
"Fraternity and sorority members, much like athletes and other highly involved students, develop strong bonds with the institution and are likely to continue that connection as alumni," Strickland noted. "They are more likely to be retained, as we've also seen in the academic commitment of our student-athletes and active Student Government Association members. It adds one more layer to student life, one more program in which they can find their niche."
The Penn College affiliation with The Pennsylvania State University has been accompanied by an institutional metamorphosis that includes the addition of baccalaureate degrees and a dynamic on-campus residential community, integral cooperation with off-campus landlords, and formation of a vital student government. Greek Life will provide another valuable aspect to that already vibrant campus environment, officials said.
"The addition of a Greek Life community opens up many leadership and personal-enhancement opportunities for Penn College students," said Kimberly R. Cassel, director of student activities. "Both fraternities and sororities offer their members workshops on topics such as time management, goal-setting, health and safety issues, and academic support."
It also was noted that having Greeks on a college campus positively affects the surrounding community through the fraternities' many philanthropic activities.
"By donating their time and talent, these students are able to reach out to those less fortunate and provide much needed help and support," Cassel said, explaining that all fraternity members are required by their national organizations to perform projects throughout the year to help make a difference in the area.
"We are looking forward to many positive things with the addition of a Greek Life community, including an increase in school pride, a greater attendance at on- and off-campus events, and the strong friendships that will be built between the men and women through shared experiences," she added.