U admin, faculty look to improve relationship with greeks

The deterioration of chapter housing is a primary concern.

by Nickalas Tabbert

The University of Minnesota has created a task force to improve the relationship between the University and the greek community.

President Eric Kaler recommended forming the Greek Community Strategic Task Force to address issues like the deterioration of greek housing. The team will review and provide recommendations for amending the 2011-14 Greek Strategic Plan, which was released last spring.

“It is a nice blueprint for thinking about the issues that are here,” said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Karen Hanson. “I think the president kind of wanted to get going on seeing how some of the elements of the plan could be implemented.”

In a charge letter sent to the task force members in March, Kaler said despite the community focusing on internal issues that were laid out in the strategic plan like membership growth, “there are underlying problems that need to be addressed comprehensively if the system is to survive at the University” — most notably greek housing.

Kaler said in the letter that portions of greek chapter houses have deteriorated to the point where they are unattractive and incapable of providing “either the capacity or the amenities needed to maintain occupancy needed for sustainable operations.”

High graduation rates of greek members combined with the smallest participation number of Big Ten schools prompted the creation of the task force, said Jerry Rinehart, vice provost for student affairs and co-chair of the task force.

Hanson thinks there is a broader concern motivating the University’s interest.

“Things like the deterioration of some of the houses are, from the point of the University, the sub-issues, because the real issue is how do we make sure we partner in the right way with the greek community so this is an enriching and useful experience for students,” she said.

A coalition of 25 to 30 University administrators, faculty members, alumni and students will make up the task force, Rinehart said. Members have been divided into three work teams who will meet every few months. Recommendations will be presented to Kaler on Sept. 1.

From there, Kaler will meet with Hanson and members of the task force to review the report before issuing a response, which “undoubtedly will suggest next steps,” Hanson said.

The task force has five goals when examining and recommending solutions to current problems, like determining the physical condition and capacity of the University’s greek housing facilities — specifically the fraternity system — and discussing the need for expanding greek residential capacity.

In order to provide a student perspective, up to nine students may be on the task force, Rinehart said, including three Multicultural Greek Council members and six members from the Interfraternity or Panhellenic councils. Among the student representatives are PHC President Angela Ugorets, and IFC President Mike Danley,

Ugorets said the opportunity to work more closely with administrators on the task force is encouraging.

“We probably would have gone on as we always would have not working together,” she said. “This is a chance for the University to help greeks and alumni, and vice versa. Both the University and greek community are excited about it.”

A second meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, and additional meetings are scheduled throughout the summer. The group’s first meeting was held in late March.

“I am very confident we will have a much better base for interaction with the greek community,” Rinehart said. “We have come a long way in the past 10 years, and the goal is to keep and increase the momentum we have.”