Earlier this month, Columbia fraternities and sororities received their first evaluations from the newly instituted Alpha Standards of Excellence Program. Greek organizations earned points for different achievements, such as having no more than 10 percent of members with a GPA of 2.50 or below (10 points) or completing a minimum of 20 hours of community service per member per year (five points). Chapters were then awarded a rating ranging from three to five stars based on the number of points they earned. Through the Alpha Standards, a fraternity or sorority that achieved a five-star rating gets a pat on the back from the University, while those with ratings lower than three stars could have their charters revoked. The program—developed in fall of 2009 by the InterGreek Council, the Office of Residential Programs, and Fraternity and Sorority Life—first went into effect shortly after the December 2010 drug-related arrests of four Columbia fraternity members. At the time, an evaluation system may have made perfect sense: Columbia Greek life was in the midst of a period of rapid expansion and was being met with negative press. Students and staff had every reason to embrace the new system of standards regulating fraternities and sororities. Upon a closer look at the Alpha Standards, it's now clear that Greek organizations are being burdened with exceptional expectations. Fraternities and sororities are being judged on criteria ranging from their GPAs to their "leadership development," in a system of negative reinforcement—organizations' very recognition from the University hinges on these criteria. No other group on campus is held to such stringent standards, including other organizations granted Columbia housing. Although Greek life is far more encompassing than other student organizations, fraternities and sororities should not be held to stricter standards than other student groups. Moreover, while risk management training and adherence to University policy are valid points of evaluation, others such as GPA and alumni outreach seem arbitrary and should not determine whether fraternities and sororities receive University recognition. Instead, Alpha Standards should be a means of public evaluation. Public evaluations should serve as a positive, self-motivating force inside and outside Greek life. Evaluations could be useful for students choosing a fraternity or sorority they want to rush. Evaluations could also be used as outreach and public relations tools for Columbia's Greek life, offering the chance to show off to national chapters and alumni. Instead of being pushed into a corner by Columbia, fraternities and sororities could decide for themselves whether to ursue a high rating—meaning that the evaluations would be fairer and would instill a greater deal of positive encouragement within Greek life at Columbia.
Columbia Spectator Staff