Weekly mixers and crush parties only scratch the surface with Greek organizations.
With approximately 23 percent of the student body in a fraternity or sorority, their average GPA is higher compared to non-Greek students on campus, said Steve Priepke, assistant dean of students and director of Greek life.
Greeks often attribute their success to their academic chairs who are responsible for ensuring that all brothers and sisters maintain the minimum GPA to remain an active fraternity or sorority member.
Students who fall below the mark are put on probation or become “at risk.” According to Michaela Hennessy, president of Panhellenic, academic chairs promote good academics within each of the chapters.
“Generally [academic chairs] are responsible for making sure the girls are keeping their grades up,” Hennessy said. “So if a girl falls under that GPA, they would be responsible for helping them more one-on-one.”
An example of a program that academic chairs host happens in Kappa Kappa Gamma’s “scoops night” when sisters share experiences about their classes and advise each other on courses during registration.
“It’s just things like that that we do to promote helping every girl with their academics,” Hennessy said. “Not necessarily just the ones that are struggling.”
For some Greek organizations, the president or the executive board can appoint the academic chair, but chairs are usually elected.
Sophomore Alex Sands, who was recently elected academic chair for Pi Kappa Phi (PiKapp), said that those who are interested in becoming academic chair for PiKapp have to submit his or her resume and a small essay about future contributions to the position, such as offering ideas to improve the chapter’s GPA.
“You have to have a 2.5 GPA to be an active member of the fraternity, so that would be the minimum to be academic chair,” Sands said. “Of course, they want someone with a higher GPA giving advice to people because it wouldn’t make very much sense if a kid with a low GPA got academic chair.”
According to Sands, only about 10 of the 90 members are falling on or below the GPA minimum.
When the members decide that they want to seek his help, they can arrange study groups that address any concerns. Sands would also like to start a rewards program for those brothers who are doing well.
“… I have more planned,” he said. “We did have the most improved GPA on campus, I think it was last spring semester, but then we went down again. So I’m trying to make that happen again.”
Priepke said that academic chairs are necessary for struggling students who want to improve.
“It’s very uncomfortable to admit, even to your own brothers and sisters that, ‘I’m not doing as well as I could be doing academically,’” Priepke said. “So we try to do a follow up with them. If we have to do some handholding, we do some handholding.”
Priepke believes that Greeks stress academics because it is important for them to uphold the university’s mission.
“It’s a very different university than the one that I went to 14 years ago,” he said. “It’s very fun to see how important grades are. I cannot say that the same emphasis was there a long time ago, and so that’s cool.”