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A publication for members of the association of fraternity/SORORITY ADVISORS.

in t he f rate adv rnity isin / s g pr orori ofes ty sion

in this issue: The House is on Fire and You’re Mowing the Lawn | Exploring Morality | Should I Befriend

the Students I Advise | Research in Brief | Ethics: Best Practices and Additional Resources | Appreciative Advising | Reinventing the Wheel (CAS Standards)

Perspectives is the official publication of the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors, Inc. (AFA). Views expressed are those of the individual authors/ contributors/advertisers, and are not necessarily those of the Association. AFA encourages the submission of articles, essays, ideas, and advertisements. All Perspectives correspondence and submissions should be submitted to:

Allison St. Germain 2011 Editor Director of Educational Technologies Delta Zeta Sorority 14 Elgin Avenue Bethel, CT 06801 asg@dzshq.com Phone: 513.523.7597 Direct: 203.798.8777 Fax: 513.523.1921 Perspectives is published four times per year. Submission deadlines: Fall 2011 August 1, 2011 Winter 2012 November 1, 2011 Spring 2012 February 1, 2012 Summer 2012 May 1, 2012 Send address corrections to AFA:

Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors 9640 N. Augusta Drive, Suite 433 Carmel, IN 46032 317.876.1632 Fax 317.876.3981


Board 2011 Editorial

Jason Bergeron, University of Houston Amanda Bureau, Zeta Tau Alpha Erin Huffman, Delta Gamma Christopher Kontalonis, Kappa Sigma Heather Matthews Kirk, Zeta Tau Alpha Jessica Pettitt, Kirkland Productions Lindsay Sell, Colorado State University Nathan Thomas, Bradley University Teniell Trolian, University of Iowa Rob Turning, Johns Hopkins University


Perspectives / Summer 2011

Monica L. Miranda Smalls

“What is popular is not always right. What is right is not always popular. ALWAYS do what is right.” - Albert Einstein When I hear the term professional ethics I think of integrity. Ethics reflects a person’s values and beliefs; integrity is how these values are enacted. As a leader, one must make decisions every day that affect others, whether it is one person or one thousand. How are our values affecting the decisions we make? How are we enacting our integrity in those decisions? One of the greatest lessons we can teach the students we work with is integrity; integrity to the ideals and founding principles of fraternities and sororities and integrity to one’s self. How are we expressing those lessons? One way to do this is to model the way and lead by example. But do we, as fraternity/ sorority professionals, really know what that means? Does that mean while I am at work I demonstrate professionalism, but when I am away at a conference or taking personal time that I conveniently forget my values because the students are not around? Leading and living with integrity is not easy. While it may be easy to tally the chapter statistics during recruitment, it is not always easy to recommend closing a chapter. Nevertheless, I firmly believe the good work is never done and the best work, while usually the most satisfying at the end, is also the most difficult. No matter what you decide, someone will be unhappy with a decision you may make. The most important question is, however: Was it the right decision? Leaders are not always popular, but a good leader, in my opinion, is one that makes the right decision regardless of whether it brings them more popularity or not. A good leader also makes decisions based on his/her values even when no one is looking. If you have not taken time to reflect on the past year, the decisions you have made, and the actions you have taken I urge you to take some portion of the summer to do so. How have you made decisions? Do you have a professional philosophy that guides you? What are your professional ethics? How have you engaged others in dialogue as you have made those tough decisions? Do you have someone in your life that serves as your “integrity checker,” someone whom you trust to keep you honest? Get one. The work we do is not easy. When there can be so many competing priorities and politics, I believe it is critical to remain grounded in our ethics and integrity to ensure we make the right decisions along the way. I’ve been inspired by all the acts of kindness and selflessness that has been displayed by our profession and the students with whom we work. Let us continue to do what is right, providing assistance to those in need, leading, and living with integrity every step of the way.

Allison St. Germain It seems like the summer edition of Perspectives tends to focus on professional development in some way. Perhaps it is because so many of us who work in higher education finally find the time to slow down and refocus our attention to our professional roles. This issue we are going to give a slightly different take on professional development and talk about ethics in our profession. But what does this really mean? When the Editorial Board was discussing professional ethics, we looked at the topic from a variety of angles. How is the fraternity/sorority advising profession teaching or mentoring new professionals on ethical behavior? What are institutions and organizations doing that is innovative in the way of teaching students about ethics? And, even, what are we doing as individuals to develop an ethical professional community? There seemed to be a lot to write about. We are very pleased that many of our colleagues have contributed to this discussion which we hope won’t end with the printing of this issue. Perspectives may come to your mailboxes four times a year, but the issues that it brings to the surface certainly don’t begin or end when we send each issue to the printer. There are a variety of ways to continue the discussions that our professional association’s magazine highlights. I encourage you to engage in conversation about the topics Perspectives covers throughout the year, and not just when you receive your copy of the magazine. Connect with us through the Association’s website, the online community, the AFA group on Facebook, or by following us on Twitter, @AFA1976. Better yet – tweet your ideas about Perspectives using the hashtag #Perspectives. You will see the members of the Editorial Board doing the same to continue the conversations and topics we bring to light with each issue.

Make sure to complete your Volunteer Involvement Form for next year on the AFA website www.afa1976.org/Volunteer.aspx by Friday, September 2, 2011.

in this


6 The House is on Fire and You’re Mowing the Lawn 14

Exploring Morality

16 Should I Befriend the Students I Advise 18

Research in Brief


Ethics: Best Practices and Additional Resources


Appreciative Advising


Why Reinvent the Wheel? (CAS Standards)

regular columns From the Top........................... 2 Editor’s Notes.......................... 3 From Where I Sit.................... 12

Summer 2011 / Perspectives


Our chapter is now ready to take the risk management leap to do what we are supposed to be doing. The right members attended, bought in and are already working to make necessary changes to minimize our chapter’s risk and provide a safer environment for our members and guests. –Student, Illinois Wesleyan University

Without effective risk management policies, fun times for your chapter could turn into hard times.

Ladder of Risk: Campus Edition Learn how to plan and execute fun and safe social events. This workshop not only simplifies risk management policies, it gives you tips and resources to develop a guest list, “run the door” and use social media to appropriately organize your events.

To learn more about Ladder of Risk: Campus Edition, please contact us at (303) 745-5545 or workshops@campuspeak.com. www.campuspeak.com

The House Is On Fire And You’re Mowing The Lawn


n 1991, Chuck Loring said, “We’re rearranging the chairs on the Titanic,” about fraternities and sororities when he accepted his Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors (AFA) Jack L. Anson award. Chuck is no slouch. Chuck is a former Executive Director of Phi Sigma Kappa, past President of the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), and a 1997 NIC Gold Medal award recipient.

provided my thoughts on the subjects of how to advise (McRee & Sutherland, 2002), debating undergraduate idiot logic (McRee, 2004), identifying thinking errors (McRee, 2006), dealing with officer transition (McRee & Rich, 2007), and what it takes to ultimately change the campus community (Cobb & McRee, 2007; McRee, 2007) in various articles and at the Interfraternity Institute since 2005.

My question: What has fundamentally changed since?

Having weekly meetings with undergraduates isn’t going to add five more staff members to your office or department. It won’t ensure that each chapter has an active advisory board. You won’t get more money for next year’s budget to do the things you know you really need to do. Weekly meetings with every chapter president is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Since Chuck’s speech, and until 2005, Hank Nuwer (2005) reported that there have been a minimum of 51 hazing-related deaths on U.S. campuses. As of February 12, 2010, the number of recorded hazing, pledging, or rushing-related deaths in fraternities and sororities stands at 96; 90 males and 6 females (Allan & Madden, 2008). Additionally, 82 percent of deaths from hazing involve alcohol (Allan & Madden, 2008). This year, the Center for the Study of the College Fraternity (CSCF) compiled a comprehensive list of empirical research involving fraternities and sororities from 1996 – 2010. This most recent compilation shows that a minimum of 492 studies were conducted, and of those studies, 230 involved research on alcohol, illegal drugs, hazing, eating disorders, dating violence, or sexual assault (CSCF, 2011). While co-leading sessions of The LeaderShape Institute, I often say to students, “Feedback = Love.” Well, I’m about to give you some “love,” my friends.

We have a problem with priorities. It’s not a unique problem to the fraternity/sorority advising field. It’s rampant everywhere. People often struggle with knowing how to prioritize what’s most important. I submit to you: We can’t get “there,” or wherever we want to be, by working harder. We’ve got to radically change the way we are doing things or others will be citing this article in the future, the same way I’m quoting Chuck Loring 20 years later. Why are so many folks having weekly meetings with every chapter president or weekly meetings with every council officer? Students are going to have to work together after they graduate, so why not get them started early by meeting with them together – several chapter presidents or council officers jointly? You will never make significant change in your community or in the field if you are bogged down in meetings. And why do we spend time having all of these meetings? Because it’s easier. You don’t have to prepare for that meeting. You can just show up and “wing it.” It’s not like you are meeting with the vice president of student affairs or the university president. Your ability to debate undergraduates should already be honed. I’ve


By Michael McRee

Perspectives / Summer 2011

We must fundamentally alter our focus to build a larger team, versus you having to do it all. Don’t you tell this to the students who try and take on everything by themselves? That’s JV thinking. And it leads to burnout. No major initiative, in any context, was accomplished by one person. Everyone knows when you have a large, strong alumni/ae board, you typically have a good chapter – so why aren’t you working more diligently toward that? If you want to learn how to better develop alumni/ae just talk with Dr. Scott Carter at UCLA. His alumni/ae educational program is already highlighted in AFA’s A “How To” Guide for Advisor Training (Carter, 2004). Professionals in the field of higher education often use a lot of buzzwords. Whenever I come across an individual or organization overly using buzzwords like “learning community,” “shared responsibility,” or “developmental readiness,” I often pause and think – if you’re having to talk about it, it probably means you aren’t doing it. And what you think is important now, probably won’t be in the future.

Does what I say I want equal how I spend my time? It’s a simple question. Are you happy with your answer? The gap between where we want to be and your current reality is clearly articulated in Peter Senge’s creative tension concept (Senge, 1990). At LeaderShape, we’ve been using the concept of stretch goals to bridge this gap for more than 15 years. In Mission Impact, Sheehan (2010), who has served as Executive Director of Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity and LeaderShape, Inc. for nine years each, discusses how Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, articulated this concept of stretch goals by saying in his annual letter to shareholders and other quotes: • “Stretch is a concept that would have produced smirks if not laughter in the GE of three or four years ago, because it essentially means using dreams to set business targets – with

no real idea of how to get there…if you know how to get there, it’s not a stretch. • In a company that now rewards progress toward stretch goals, rather than punishing shortfalls, the setting of these goals, and quantum leaps toward them, are daily events. • And the goals ‘are making seemingly impossible goals exciting, bringing out the best from our teams.’” (p. 123) I’ve had the pleasure of co-leading The LeaderShape Institute with Anne Arseneau, Associate Director of Greek Life and Leadership at The College of William and Mary. Anne was explaining this concept of stretch goals to the students during a session. She told a great story to illustrate the concept of stretch goals that involved Pharis, her dog: One evening while I was getting ready for bed, I placed Pharis’ favorite rawhide bone high up on a bookshelf lest he chew in my ear all night long. Mind you, Pharis stands about sixteen inches tall and the bone was placed about four feet off the ground. As the saying goes, “not a snowball’s chance...” that he was going to get that bone. However, Pharis did not share my cynicism or certainty that the bone was unreachable. One might say he was on a quest. He spent the next five minutes jumping, jumping, and jumping. Much to my amazement, he was getting pretty close, and he kept trying harder and harder, seemingly believing that the next jump would be the one to recapture the bone. As always, Pharis’ behavior intrigued me and I decided to experiment with him a little bit. I moved the bone up to the next shelf (about another eight inches higher.) The result was disturbingly incredible – Pharis attempted the jump twice, didn’t make it, and just walked away and laid down on the couch. The bone, that only seconds before had been totally attainable in his view, was now not even worth trying for. A mere eight inches made a total difference in whether or not he believed an impossible task was possible. Like Pharis, we should stretch out of our comfort level. We are a lot better off aiming for something incredibly awesome and falling short rather than setting our sites on mediocrity and meeting our goal. For Pharis, the bone’s first resting space held the smallest possibility of accomplishment and that made it fun and worth trying for with all his heart (Arseneau, 2007). A stretch goal pushes you far enough so that you feel you have about a one percent chance of making it happen, but you don’t think it’s impossible and you aren’t willing to give up. It’s that creative tension, as Senge describes, between your reality and your vision that causes you to stretch to bridge the gap.

Creating the right culture is critical to allowing stretch goals to be effectively used in organizations. This culture was further explained in Mission Impact by requiring that: (1) you use them; (2) the focus is on progress; (3) you must create a “safe-fail” culture; (4) that you make the rules; (5) you must be willing to fail; (6) most people have the old mind-set; (7) it is easy to fall back into the old mind-set; and (8) there are no guarantees for quality creativity (Sheehan, 2010).

Change can happen in one of two major ways. Steve Veldkamp, the 2009 AFA Robert H. Shaffer award recipient, and I often have heated, insightful, and compelling debates about how change best happens. Steve thinks that it’s best to work from within the system. I think it’s often easier to work outside of the system. Ultimately, I’ll offer that we’re actually both right. Significant and profound change can come from within the system or outside of the system. An example of this that both Steve and I were involved in was with our collective work with a group called COMPASS. It’s an acronym that stands for A Convergence of Minds to Plan A Strategic Solution. Shelley Sutherland, the 1999 AFA Robert H. Shaffer award recipient, and I co-founded this group due to the simple fact that we were frustrated with the lack of and pace of significant change within our field. Shelley and I, along with our esteem colleagues (some of whom are listed here) – Ginny Carroll, Dr. Scott Carter, Mike Hayes, Jon Hockman, Mark Koepsell, Dr. Laura Osteen, Barb Robel, Pete Smithhisler, and Steve Veldkamp – met on the coast of Oregon in February 2001. Over the course of the next few years, we developed a manifesto and strategy to go about making a significant impact within the fraternity/sorority movement. We had no authority to do so – we just did. We presented our idea of a universal Good Housekeeping seal applicable to all fraternities and sororities called The Standard – initially at the 2002 American College Personnel Association Convention. We had submitted a program proposal to AFA first, but weren’t selected. Later that year we keynoted at the 2002 AFA Annual Meeting and did workshops at the 2003 National Association of Student Personnel Administrators Annual Conference. Our assertion was that while all of these minimum standards and standards of excellence programs were worthwhile from colleges, universities, and headquarters – the challenge was, and still is, that there was no universal standard. How do students and alumni/ae know what they should do if there are multiple requirements from several sources? Due to our collective efforts and presentations, we spurred a significant debate about this issue within the fraternal community, thus, making it possible for change to come from outside of the system. At the same time, we found out that a group of university presidents, called the Franklin Square Group, were meeting Summer 2011 / Perspectives


about this very topic. We realized that we would not have the same impact as university presidents could have. Steve Veldkamp contacted and worked with the Franklin Square Group to ultimately get our version of The Standard embedded within the now well-known, Call For Values Congruence. Steve, by working within a group, showed that significant change can come from within the system. Even though, arguably, the Franklin Square Group was outside of the system. This yin and yang of working from within and outside of the system, again, certainly isn’t unique to our field. There are many examples of this. Often we get caught up in the problem that we don’t have the _________ to be able to do what we need to do. Be it money, time, personnel, or whatever. I don’t assert that either approach – change coming from outside or within the system – is more successful than the other. I just tend to lean toward the text First, Break All The Rules (Buckingham & Coffman, 1999). Steve Veldkamp helps to remind me that that are other ways. I leave it to you to decide your path. Need another example? Take the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation and the compelling work that Ginny Carroll and others are doing to help girls and women access education worldwide. As of April 4, 2011, they’ve raised over $30,000. At the 2011 Southeastern Panhellenic Conference alone, they raised $5,250 and 46 campuses committed to raise at least $2,500 this year. What authority did they have to do this? None. They just recognized a need and provide an influential example of both working within and outside of the system to make deep change because it’s the right thing to do.

You don’t need everyone’s buy in. In fact, you won’t get it. I’ve often heard others say “people support what they help to create.” Now, while that makes sense intuitively, I just fundamentally disagree that we should coddle students on some issues. Hazing is one that immediately comes to mind. Education can sometimes help. And sometimes there is no amount of education that would convince someone who is hell bent on hazing to stop from doing it. I think it’s easier to just eject that individual from our community. The Tipping Point shares that a majority is not required for change, just the few key individuals who have influence (Gladwell, 2000). To challenge those of you who firmly believe that the only way to make change happen is for people to support what they help create, I present the following to the contrary. What level of participation is required by those involved, and do you have the ability to make decisions without others? In Leadership and Decision-Making (Vroom & Yetton, 1973), the authors provide a list of questions to help guide you: • Does the manager have sufficient information to make a high quality decision? • Is public acceptance of the decision critical to effective implementation? • If public acceptance is necessary, is it reasonably assured if the manager decides alone? • Are the public and stakeholders willing to engage in a dialogue in order to improve the situation?

• Would the quality of public input (or future relations) be improved if learning occurs among the public and stakeholders about the issues? Again from Mission Impact, the research is distilled in a cogent argument: Goal setting is one of the most researched topics in organizational studies. Many years of research and more than 1,000 studies have produced findings that provide very helpful information for practical application. Two of the leading goal-setting researchers are Edwin Locke and Gary Latham. They provide an extensive summary of this research in their book A Theory of Goal Setting and Task Performance (1990) and have authored numerous articles before and after that book. What is reviewed here are the highlights of the goal-setting studies that are of the most applicable use for practitioners. Unless otherwise noted, the following summary is based on Locke and Latham (1990). Research has shown that: ‘specific, high (hard) goals lead to a higher level of task performance than do easy goals or vague, abstract goals such as the exhortation to “do one’s best” (Locke & Latham, 2006, p.265). Specificity eliminates ambiguity, but – not surprisingly – specific and easy goals may produce low performance (for example, “lowering the bar”). So it is the combination of specific and difficult goals that increases performance. And when it comes to difficulty, Locke and Latham explain: “So long as a person is committed to the goal, has the requisite ability to attain it, and does not have conflicting goals, there is a positive linear relationship between goal difficulty and task performance” (2006, p. 265). Goals direct attention toward relevant activities and help people understand what to focus the intensity of their effort on. Goals also have an effect on persistence, as people tend to persist until a goal is met. For complex tasks, goals also stimulate the development of creative thinking if it is needed to achieve the goal. With these ideas in mind, it is also important that a reporting and feedback mechanism exists so that people know how well they are doing on the goal. Feedback tells them if they need to intensify efforts, persist more, and/or get more creative. People must be convinced that a goal is relevant and important, and that they have the capability of achieving it – or at least making substantial progress. Training can help build confidence that a goal is achievable. With respect to a goal’s relevance and importance, research shows that – surprisingly – participation in setting one’s own goals does not necessarily increase performance when compared to being asked by a supervisor to work on a goal that they think makes sense. (Sheehan, 2010, pp. 103-104) Now, I’m not suggesting being an authoritarian leader here. There are plenty of examples of the impact of bad leadership (Kellerman, 2004; Lipman-Bluman, 2005). But realize that students, and often alumni/ae, don’t have all of the information and knowledge you have. In many cases, you are in the best position to lead and set the direction. Stop waiting for everyone to be on board.


Perspectives / Summer 2011

How to better prioritize. Start with what you know and where you have access – then branch out. Start with yourself. Then others. Then a chapter. Then the councils. Then the fraternity/sorority community. Then the college/university (your school). Then other schools. Then the profession. For our friends that work for inter/national organizations, the order might be different but the concept is the same. Every new change initiative will have its early adopters, critics, and individuals who just take a while before they can see the new reality. Talk with colleagues from Sigma Phi Epsilon about their Balanced Man Program or Beta Theta Pi’s Men of Principle Initiative rollout. This concept of early adopters, critics, and folks that take time will be reinforced. It’s just how it happens. Mind you, nothing has to happen in sequential order. I’m not suggesting there is only one way to skin this cat. Quit thinking so literally. Get the concept and adapt it as you see fit. Your goal should be progressively moving up the ladder with larger, more significant change. Change needs to and should be happening at every level, but too often we are just pawns on the chess board and we aren’t thinking strategically about the next 37 moves that need to take place to actually win the “game.” We need to move the entire chess board, not just the pieces. Bottom line, the people reading this article should have already mastered how to make change at the campus/community level. We need you to step up your game to influence things on a much larger scale. Do you have a strategic plan? Every inter/national organization and university worth their salt does. But does your fraternity/

sorority life office? You’ve got to start thinking bigger than just your yearly academic cycle. First Things First provides a wonderful matrix of urgent/ important, not urgent/important, urgent/not important, and not urgent/not important (Covey, Merrill, & Merrill, 1994). From my fifteen years experience in the field, I think we spend the overwhelming majority of our time in urgent/not important and not urgent/not important. Where would Greek Week be on this scale? I thought so. If you are someone who appreciates a more detailed approach over a conceptual one, I’ll admit I’m a full adopter of the GTD – Getting Things Done – philosophy and would highly recommend it (Allen, 2001, 2003, 2008). I wonder what would happen if AFA started giving awards based on who developed the largest fraternity/sorority staff in country? If so, props to all those who work and have worked at the University of Maryland – they win hands down with 20 staff members (eight full time and 12 graduate students). Or talk with Mark Koepsell. Before he became the Executive Director of AFLV, Mark moved the Colorado State fraternity/sorority office staff from two to 11 (five full time and six graduate students) in nine years – and that was despite having five deaths on campus with intense media coverage. Friends, we need money to make things happen within the field. So if you aren’t OK with adding “development” to your list of skills, I suggest you start. The current horizon for funding within higher education isn’t a good one. In a recent conversation I had with Parker Palmer, author, speaker, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal, he spoke of one of the problems we have in corporate society known

Congratulations to the fraternity/sorority communities recognized through the Gamma Sigma Alpha National Academic Honorary Honor Roll!

If your fraternity/sorority community is consistently above the all campus GPA, submit Spring 2011 grades now and Fall 2011 grades next Spring. Need more information? www.gammasigmaalpha.org

Gamma Sigma Alpha National Greek Academic Honor Society


Albion College*+ Appalachian State University + Arkansas Tech University*+ Babson College*+

Oklahoma State University*+

Binghamton University, SUNY* California State University, Northridge*+ Clemson University*+ Drexel University*+

San Diego State University*+ Spring Hill College*+ The University of Louisiana at Monroe*+ University of Akron*+

Eastern Illinois University*+ Jacksonville State University*+

State University of New Jersey, Rutgers*+ Saint Francis University*+

Longwood University+ Loyola Marymount University*+ Miami University*+ Muhlenberg College*+

University of ArkansasFort Smith+ University of Central Florida*+ University of Georgia*+ University of Iowa*+ University of Miami*+ University of Michigan*+

Murray State University*+ Northwestern University*+

University of Nevada, Reno+ University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill*

University of San Diego*+ University of South Carolina*+ University of Southern California*+ University of Washington* Valparaiso University*+ Vanderbilt University*+ Washburn University*+ Washington & Jefferson College*+ Western Kentucky University*+ Wittenberg University*+ Indicates Spring Honor Roll: * Indicates Fall Honor Roll: + *Honor Roll designation is given to the fraternity/sorority communities whose GPA is above the non-fraternity and sorority GPA.

Summer 2011 / Perspectives


as “quarterly thinking.” He talked about how corporations have lost long-term thinking due to their overemphasis on quarterly earnings. Tell me we don’t do the same with our yearly academic thinking in higher education. We should be studying the chapters and councils that haven’t just won awards once, but have for the last decade. Built to Last got it right by focusing on and studying organizations that have been successful for fifteen years or more (Collins & Porras, 1994). If any of this is too overwhelming, let me provide you a simple guide. Start with the low hanging fruit – things you can easily accomplish and do. Simultaneously prioritize efforts that would make the biggest impact (top 3-5). Then leave what’s going to take several years to do until you’ve had some success in both of the aforementioned areas.

Think bigger than you are. Rosabeth Moss Kanter (2010) reminds us that we should not be thinking outside of the box, but rather we should be thinking outside the building. If you are more worried about your involvement and facilitation in programs like UIFI, LeaderShape, or the like, versus getting the students to attend – then you don’t get it. Stop saving your nametags from all the conferences you’ve been to and feeling that your or others worth is connected to how many ribbons you have on your nametags at conferences. As another example to prod you in thinking bigger, I share with you a portion of a speech that Jim Greer, then Executive Director of Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity, shared at the 1995 NIC/AFA Annual Meeting. A few Executive Directors were asked to each give a speech that would provoke compelling conversations among us. I recently reconnected with Jim to get his perspective and he shared the following as background about his speech, “It was given at a time when the debate between the ‘freedom of association’ advocates and the ‘compatible performance with the University’s mission’ proponents had become quite shrill. My approach was to suggest a way forward.” The principal ideas included: • 1st Amendment “freedom of association” demands were a nonstarter. Such demands focused on ‘my rights’ instead of ‘what’s right.’ Healthy communities exist in shared responsibility. • A liberal education and the institution that promotes it, is grounded in the notion of personal uniqueness, freedom of individual expression, and the consent of the community to authority. Coercion is also a non-starter. • So together, I suggested, we may find fruitful conversation/ solutions in acknowledging our responsibility to the community on one hand and our need to gather the consent of at least a majority, if expectations and performance standards are to be credible.

• As in all good mediations, those facilitating the conversation would need to seek win-win conclusions – challenging, but done all the time. • In support of my thesis, I suggested that by mutual agreement, membership in the interfraternity community be conditioned on fraternity recruiting practices that were pegged to the performance of the fraternities. I offered several suggestions. With a little thought others would become apparent.” Now, while I realize this example goes against the NIC’s Statement of Position on Recruitment (http://www.nicindy.org/ about/resolutions/#Recruitment) which specifically condemns any restrictions on men’s recruitment, the fact that Jim was an Executive Director at the time and knew this, made his comments all the more provocative. Here is an excerpt from his speech: • Any fraternity may recruit any man at any time, so long as the fraternity has had not been placed on academic probation. If the fraternity has been placed on academic probation in the last 12 months, the fraternity may only recruit sophomores and above. • Contingent upon condition #1, any fraternity may recruit any man at any time, so long as the fraternity has not had any hazing violations in the past 12 months. If the fraternity has had a hazing violation in the last 12 months, the fraternity may only recruit juniors and above. • Contingent upon condition #1 and #2, any fraternity may recruit any man at any time, so long as the fraternity has not had any alcohol violations in the past 12 months. If the fraternity has had an alcohol violation in the last 12 months, the fraternity may only recruit men who are 21 years of age and older (Greer, 1995). These ideas create a series of conditions that, based on the fraternity’s own performance, ensure the fraternity can only recruit men who will most likely never get them back into the same problems they’ve had. Have a problem with academics? Well then, you can only recruit men who already have a year under their belt academically. Have a problem with hazing? Well, you can only recruit older men who won’t put up with that crap. Alcohol issues? Why don’t we make sure you only recruit men who are already of legal drinking age. Brilliant. I don’t support restricting recruitment, but Jim’s comments did provide a good challenge. At this time in my career, an indication for me that I’m taking on a significant level of change is how much push back I get. I’m trying to recalibrate my personal gut feelings so that when I feel that “Oh s%*# should I be doing this” moment and I want to stop because I am concerned about how people think or feel about me – that I don’t stop. Rather than feeling that way, I’m now trying to realize that it’s just an indicator that I’m pushing at a level that’s getting people to think

Significant and profound change can come from within the system or outside of the system. 10

Perspectives / Summer 2011

differently. And that’s good. In the end, I can’t make anyone do anything and I don’t have authority to do so. Like you, I just have influence. So stop being a glorified social chair or event planner. Let’s roll up our sleeves and figure out how we can really move the needle to make significant and profound change within our field. You have permission to do so. Because right now, the house is on fire…and you’re mowing the lawn.

– Michael McRee currently works as the Vice President for LeaderShape, Inc. (@LeaderShape) developing students learn to lead with integrity. He is also the Assistant Executive Director for the Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values (@AFLV) and co-Founder of COMPASS (@GreekCompass). Michael is a former Greek Advisor at the University of Oregon and a consultant for the North-American Interfraternity Conference. Michael graduated from Kansas State University and received his masters in Educational Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois. He can be reached on Twitter (@mikemcree) or by email at mike@leadershape.org. References Allan, E. J., & Madden, M. (2008). Hazing in view: College students at risk. Orono, ME: University of Maine. Allen, D. (2001). Getting things done: The art of stress-free productivity. New York, NY: Penguin Group. Allen, D. (2003). Ready for anything: 52 productivity principles for getting things done. New York, NY: Penguin Group. Allen, D. (2008). Making it all work: Winning at the game of work and business of life. New York, NY: Penguin Group. Arseneau, A. (2007, July 17-22). Stretch goals. Paper presented at the The LeaderShape Institute, Allerton Park and Retreat Center: Monticello, IL. Buckingham, M., & Coffman, C. (1999). First, break all the rules: What the world’s greatest managers do differently. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. Carter, S. (2004). UCLA alumi advisor education series (AAES) A “how to” guide for advisor training (pp. 34-37). Carmel, IN: Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors. Center for the Study of the College Fraternity. (2011). Bibliography (with subjects) of Fraternity and Sorority Research, 1996-2010. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University.

Collins, J., & Porras, J. I. (1994). Built to last: Successful habits of visionary companies. New York, NY: HarperCollins. Covey, S. R., Merrill, A. R., & Merrill, R. R. (1994). First things first. London, UK: Simon & Schuster. Gladwell, M. (2000). The tipping point: How little things can make a big difference. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company. Greer, J. (1995, November 30-December 3). Perspectives from provocateurs. Paper presented at the NIC/AFA Annual Meeting: Ideals...Our Foundation for the Future, Kansas City, MO. Kanter, R. M. (2010). Think outside the building. [Article]. Harvard Business Review, 88(3), 34-34. Kellerman, B. (2004). Bad leadership: What it is, how it happens, why it matters. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. Lipman-Bluman, J. (2005). The allure of toxic leaders: Why we follow destructive bosses and corrupt politicians--and how we can survive them. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. McRee, M. A. (2004). That’s fratastic! Debating idiot fraternity and sorority logic. Perspectives (Winter), 17-22. McRee, M. A. (2006, November 29-December 3). Thinking errors: Debating fratastic logic. Paper presented at the AFA Annual Meeting: Strong Foundations, New Possibilities, New Orleans, LA. McRee, M. A. (2007). Jack L. Anson award acceptance speech. Paper presented at the AFA Annual Meeting: Our Envisoned Future, Cincinnati, OH. McRee, M. A., & Rich, S. M. (2007, November 28-December 2). The “unofficial” officer transition guide: Everything you ever wanted to know...not to do. Paper presented at the AFA Annual Meeting: Our Envisoned Future, Cincinnati, OH. McRee, M. A., & Sutherland, S. (2002). Chapter 11: Advising council and chapters. Advising Fraternities & Sororities (pp. 1-17). Carmel, IN: Association of Fraternity Advisors. Nuwer, H. (2005). Map of hazing deaths. Retrieved April 3, 2011, from http://www.bing.com/maps/?v=2&cp=38.015051%7E-96.69661&style =h&lvl=4&scene=1915478&cid=97FE2FE034ADBFEA%21106 Senge, P. M. (1990). The leader’s new work: Building learning organizations. Sloan Management Review, 32(1), 7-23. Sheehan Jr., R. M. (2010). Mission impact: Breakthrough strategies for nonprofits. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Vroom, V. H., & Yetton, P. W. (1973). Leadership and decision-making. Pittsburg, PA: University of Pittsburg Press.

Cobb, L. M., & McRee, M. A. (2007). Why we should close more chapters. Perspectives (Spring), 4-8.

Summer 2011 / Perspectives


From Where I Sit

By Krystal Clark


did not join a sorority like most of my friends as an 18-yearold first-semester freshman, nor did I join as a 21-year-old junior as did many of my other friends. Along the way friends in the fraternity/sorority advising profession got wind that I was not a member of a sorority. At the ripe old age of 26 I received a phone call from Delta Delta Delta offering me an invitation to join as an Honor Initiate. I became a member of the fraternity/ sorority community as a graduate student serving as a Student Affairs Residential Fellow at the University of Maryland, College Park, during which I resided with the Delta Psi chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha. My transformation from an unaffiliated to affiliated professional has provided me with a different perspective on the secrecy and exclusivity of fraternal organizations. I always had a great amount of respect for the secrecy of ritual because I felt that becoming a member of a fraternity/sorority was a personal choice and a personal experience that I was not privy to understand as a nonmember. At my undergraduate institution, The College of William & Mary, there are many secret societies on campus and I never questioned the value of secrecy, but instead thought it was fun and added something special to the students’ experience. Most of my best friends in college are members of fraternities and sororities. I trusted that they were making positive decisions for themselves and their collegiate experience. However, as a professional, I thought it important to develop a healthy skepticism towards what were actual secrets versus certain things that students chose to keep secret or had been taught incorrectly to remain secretive about as members of the organization. As professionals, we need to help students understand the difference between what rituals and other secrets can be freely shared with others. We need to help chapter members understand that in a culture of accountability, anything, whether deemed secret or not, that is proving damaging to members, themselves, or the organization, needs to be divulged immediately. There are many things that members are taught during new member education or that they pledge during a ceremony while wearing robes and holding a candle (wait, is that a secret?) that I as a non-member of your organization do not necessarily need to know. Those things are okay to treasure and only share with

From Where I Sit is a section in Perspectives featuring a personal perspective on the interfraternal community. 12

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Do you have an opinion to share on fraternity/sorority life? Tell us how things look from where you sit by emailing your thoughts to the editor at asg@dzshq.com, and you could see your ideas in a future issue of Perspectives.

your brothers/sisters. In my view, that’s part of what make this whole thing special – having something that is unique to each organization, shared only between its members. What I stress to students with whom I work is that even if I don’t know their ritual word for word, what I do know is that nothing in an official ritual should be leading to the detriment of a human being. The struggle with secrecy often arises when students stray from authentic ritual and begin adding things to “spice it up a bit” or unfortunately have been engaging in a revised version of the ritual or traditions for so long, due to the creativity of a long line of alumni, that they don’t understand that what they are doing is incorrect and in some cases, may be harmful. As fraternity/sorority advisors, we must work together to ensure that students aren’t “getting by” because we do not feel comfortable questioning “secret” practices. I remember calling an NPHC headquarters and asking about the intake process. The answers I was provided were completely different than those of the chapter members. The young men were quite surprised about the supposed “secrets” I knew about their intake process. We all know the importance of ritual, and having rituals and specific membership selection practices do make fraternal organizations exclusive and secretive. I don’t disagree with that. I think that’s a part of life. I work at a very exclusive university. Many apply and few are admitted. Our organizations have anti-discrimination policies, and in many cases, they have grown more diverse, though there is always work to do on that front. Exclusivity and secrecy aren’t negative characteristics. Unfortunately, because of the negative behaviors that are often on display, for fraternities and sororities, secrecy and exclusivity have developed a negative connotation. When I first began working with fraternity and sorority members as a graduate student, I remember being told as a live-in staff member, “It is fine if they ask you to not leave your apartment during initiation, but it is not okay if they offer you a hotel room for the night and ask you to leave the house.” My only thought was: “What in the world are they doing down there in that basement?” Instead of a feeling of reverence for the ritual, all I felt was concern.

After learning Delta Delta Delta’s ritual as a 26-year old, I now understand that those secrets should be all the fantastic stuff that makes up your identity as an organization. As a professional, to do my job, I don’t need to know all your secrets, but I do need to know their goal. Reading your creed; mission statement; perusing your organization’s publications; knowing your national programming, philanthropic, and service thrust; and meeting dedicated members from your organization helps me to know, without the revelation of any secrets, the goals of your organization. Groups can be exclusive and secret, but are they using their resources to better themselves and those around them, including the campus and local community in which they reside? The answer should be “yes.” Being exclusive or secret does not stop the ability of an organization to forward the community. As an unaffiliated professional, I never felt excluded by the culture of secrecy because I spent more time figuring out the bigger picture of fraternal life. Once I knew what that picture looked like, I didn’t feel the need to know an organization’s entire ritual book. Instead, I could easily see that students were engaging in matters that were not in line with their organizational goals as defined in the ritual. Rather, those matters had a lot to do with them not understanding and certainly not living the ritual. This hasn’t changed for me as I’ve become affiliated. Now, I enjoy a special connection with my sisters in Delta Delta Delta because of the ritual ceremony in which I took part. – Krystal Clark currently serves as the Associate Director of Greek Life at Vanderbilt University. Prior to this, she was the Program Coordinator of Fraternity & Sorority Life at Duke University from 2007-2011. She currently serves AFA as a member of the Educational Programs Committee.

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exploring morality By Dan Wrona


f you step back to browse organizational websites, attend educational workshops, and read member targeted magazines, it becomes clear that fraternities and sororities repeatedly promise the development of character, morality, and civic virtues as a result of membership. Despite all this emphasis on character, the extent to which fraternal organizations systematically develop students’ moral reasoning abilities is miniscule in comparison to investments in recruitment, operations, and leadership. Where character development does occur, it seems to be due more to chance and environmental circumstance than to a formal initiative. Any training that does occur tends to involve defining, clarifying, and applying fraternal values to case scenarios under a banner that implores students to “live your values.” Despite the popularity of this approach, whether it actually translates to improvement in moral reasoning remains in question. Additionally, the rationale behind the “live your values” approach ignores the fact that there is more at stake in a moral dilemma than fraternal principles, and that fraternal values may still lead to conflicting opinions. It also fails to account for a student’s level of moral development, and the fact that members’ values may actually be inconsistent with their organization’s principles. In their training, fraternity/sorority professionals become familiar with the basics of moral development, but are likely to gain only a cursory understanding of morality, modern ethics practices, the mechanics of ethical decision-making, and techniques for facilitating ethical development. If fraternities and sororities hope to make good on their promise of building character, and if student affairs professionals are responsible for facilitating moral development and reasoning, a more thorough understanding of morality, moments of ethical conflict, and the mechanics of character development is needed.

Central Principles of Morality For millennia, philosophers have attempted to identify a single, irreducible measure of morality, and each individual placed a different ethic at the center of moral inquiry. Early thinkers tied ethics directly to religion, relying on God’s law to define moral value (Shipka & Minton, 1996). Aristotle challenged this idea when he argued that, as rational beings, humans are able to distinguish for themselves what constitutes virtue (Aristotle, trans. 1999). He determined that living at any extreme was inconsistent with virtue, and that excellence involved the middle ground of their ability. Kant instead placed duty at the center of morality (Kant, trans. 1989). He asserted that actions made out of a sense of responsibility to society are virtuous, and that the intention matters most, regardless of the results. John Stuart Mill (1879) added the popular idea that the value is measured by pleasure and the absence of pain, and that the most ethical choice maximizes happiness and well being for the greatest number of people. In contrast, Ayn Rand (1964) placed the individual at the center of ethical dilemmas, arguing that it would be unethical for someone to sacrifice their own hierarchy of principles for any other idea or person. Gilligan pointed out 14

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that classic moral theory failed to recognize the relationship between individuals, and proposed that care for one another receive the same degree of consideration (as cited in Shipka & Minton, 1996). Pirsig (1992) argued for excellence by introducing the concept of quality, a zen-like interaction between form and function, as the ultimate value judgment. The intuitionists propose that individuals have a gut sense about what is ethical, and that with a thorough understanding of the facts, moral choices are intuitive (Shipka & Minton). Another field of thought, called relativism, insists that morals vary by culture and time, and they amount to little more than customs or social norms (Shipka & Minton). As shown in the chart, we can make these complex ideas more practical by considering each philosophical principle to be a competing factor in moral dilemmas. Each principle becomes apparent in the challenges that student leaders face on a daily basis. A student who feels compelled to promise a bid to a potential member may struggle with preserving their relationship (care), acting according to their own principles (self), following common practice (norms), and considering the written procedure (rule). The chapter leader who is considering whether to allow a member to remain active despite their low grades might consider their obligations as a leader (duty), the middle ground (virtue), and other members’ satisfaction (happiness). If a sober monitor is offered a drink when no one is looking, they could be debating their responsibilities (duty), the guidelines (rules), and the quality of their experience (excellence). Please resist the attempt to weigh these principles in order to identify the single “most right” ethic. Doing so would be futile, as no theorist has succeeded despite all of their collective effort. Instead, consider this glimpse into the study of morality as the beginning of a framework that can help us understand how students might experience an ethical dilemma.

Understanding Ethical Dilemmas In a given situation, there are a variety of principles at play. Notice that we cannot limit the situation to fraternal values, as there may be other principles involved. The experience of conflict does not arise from a dualistic struggle about whether or not to enact a single ethic, or as a scale about how closely to align with one principle. Instead, it results from the pressure to determine which “ought to” takes precedent among multiple ethical principles involved in the situation. In some cases, an individual might arrive at their decision and immediately turn to a specific principle without evaluating others. In other situations, someone may consider the two or three most prominent ethics and determine their relative weight to decide which one takes precedent. In many cases, there are ethics involved that go unexamined or ignored. As individuals develop, their understanding of which principles are involved becomes more complex.




Facilitation Questions



Morality is inseparable from religious behavior. Ethical choices are those which adhere to the rules and guidelines provided by religious authority.

How does your faith speak to what you should do? What are the rules?



The moral act lies in the median between two extremes.

Describe the extremes in this situation. If you chose the middle ground, what would that be?


Immanuel Kant, The Categorical Imperative

Only an action taken from a sense of duty is moral. The moral choice is the one which you would have everyone else make in the same situation.

What are you obligated to do in this situation? What do you wish anyone else in this situation would do?


John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, or The Greatest Happiness Principle

Moral choices maximize well being for the greatest number of people.

What would make each person involved in the situation happy? What would make the most people most happy?


Ayn Rand, Egoism, or Objectivist Epistemology

The highest moral purpose is the achievement of one’s own happiness. Each person has their own hierarchy of values, and they must never be sacrificed.

What are your principles? How do they tell you to act? What is in your interest, and what would make you most make you happy?


Carol Gilligan, The Ethic of Care

The connection between individuals, not equality among them, carries greater value. Moral actions are those which are performed from a sense of care and preserve the relationship.

How will this affect your relationships with each of the individuals involved?


Robert Pirsig

Value is placed on the quality of one’s interactions with the world. Moral choices are those which achieve excellence, or a higher quality experience.

What will you experience as a result of this choice? What would allow you to make the most of this memory?



Each individual has a moral vision, an immediate intuition about whether an act is right or wrong. After evaluating the facts, the proper choice follows this vision.

Are there any other facts to consider? What does your gut say? How comfortable are you with this?


Ruth Benedict, Cultural Relativism

There is no single universal moral truth. Morals are simply cultural habits unique to each social structure. An ethical decision is one that aligns with customs.

What is the norm? What would be socially accepted in this environment?

Modeling Moral Reasoning Armed with a better understanding of morality, knowledge about the source of conflict, and a picture of moral reasoning, we now have a framework which can be used to facilitate moral development. The chart can be used to guide students through ethical dilemmas, help them identify values-aligned behavior, and role-model the thought process in order to strengthen their moral reasoning skills. When faced with an ethical dilemma, ask students to identify each principle that they feel is involved and how it relates to the situation. Rephrase their statements as necessary in order to consistently use ethics language and to provoke conflict. If students have failed to identify an ethical principle, use the questions listed in the chart to introduce it. The order is not important, but it is essential that they wrestle with every principle, even in situations where the answer is obvious or

the ethical principle seems irrelevant. This models the moral reasoning process, something students must experience to develop the capacity to do it on their own. After students consider every principle, ask them to weigh those that are most relevant and determine which one takes precedent. Ask students to articulate their final decision and rationale. Plan to revisit the conversation to evaluate whether the decision played out as anticipated. Repeat the ethics-centered dialogue to determine whether they made the proper decision.

Avoiding Advisor Bias There seems to be an unspoken understanding among fraternity/ sorority professionals about what constitutes values-aligned behavior. It implies things like members following the rules, putting others above themselves, or maintaining a pristine reputation. These vague references are counterproductive because

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they fail to articulate how specific behaviors are inconsistent with fraternal principles, and more importantly, it involves the impartial advisor placing judgment. Even professionals who carefully avoid judging whether behavior is consistent with fraternal values must be wary of implying or imposing their own personal views on what is most ethical. It would be inappropriate for a practitioner, and doing so may actually impede the process of moral development. Take a moment to recognize and acknowledge your bias. Use this framework to address scenarios that students have presented to you in the past. What ethics are centrally involved in each scenario for you? How might the other principles be relevant? How would you answer the questions in the chart? What would be your decision? When facilitating students through the process, they may arrive at the same conclusion that you do. If so, do not stop and assume that your work is done. Instead, continue raising all remaining questions to ensure that they have considered each principle. Remember, the goal is to rehearse the process of weighing each ethic in order to develop the student’s moral reasoning ability. It is important to be prepared for what this discussion may bring. Since your objective is to facilitate and model moral reasoning, it is irrelevant whether these decisions align with your principles. It may be unfortunate, but it is also irrelevant whether a student’s decisions align with their organization’s values.

Conclusion There is more to developing character than aligning decisions with fraternal values; it also involves systematically and intentionally developing capacity for moral ethical decision making in students. This is only a beginning of the knowledge and techniques that fraternity/sorority professionals and volunteers need to understand morality. We must continue to explore moral theory, break down the anatomy of ethical dilemmas, assess the effectiveness of our techniques and understand the mechanics of moral development. With additional study and better training, the fraternity/sorority community can reliably cultivate students’ moral reasoning skills and fulfill the promise of character development. – Dan Wrona is the CEO & Project Leader for RISE Partnerships, a company that provides leadership skills training to college fraternities and sororities. He is an active member of the Charlotte chapter of the American Society for Training and Development and received his MBA from the University of South Carolina. He is also an Associate member of AFA. References Mill, J. S. (1879). Utilitarianism (7th ed.). London: Longmans, Green and Co. Pirsig, R. M. (1992). Lila: An inquiry into morals. New York, NY: Bantam. Rand, A. (1964). The virtue of selfishness: A new concept of egoism. New York, NY: Signet. Shipka, T. A. & Minton, A. J. (1996). Philosophy: Paradox and discovery (4th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.


Perspectives / Summer 2011

Should I Befriend the Students I Advise?

By Steven Sassman


ften when you think of professional ethics, clear immoral acts such as embezzling money or showing up to work intoxicated come to mind. A gray area however, is balancing the line between friendship with the students we interact with and maintaining our role as an advisor. As a new professional, younger than some of the students I advise, it is often difficult to maintain my position as an administrator. During my first week I was invited to an “unofficial” party hosted by one of the organizations I advise. This presented an interesting dilemma, as I had to decide whether or not to take punitive action, possibly creating an early barricade to developing a trusting relationship, or to allow the event to go as planned and be perceived as a “lenient” administrator. Instead, I chose a solution in the middle of the friend/advisor spectrum and used the invitation as a learning opportunity to discuss FIPG Policy and how to host parties that can be both fun and safe. Advisors must model the way (Kouzes & Posner, 2007) for the students with which they work. This includes being genuinely interested in building a relationship with not only chapter and council officers, but all members of the fraternal community. One particular challenge I had to overcome was to go beyond the expected business aspect of meeting with student leaders and instead have full values-based discussions with these members. Rather than having short, “efficient” meetings or standard email conversations about superficial information, a fraternity/sorority professional should spend time going deeper to truly get to know what drives each individual student. Question the student on their vision for the organization. Help students reflect on their values. Through this connection, the student is better able to relate to the advisor and form a collaborative partnership, as opposed to an obligatory hierarchical relationship. This strategy allows the fraternity/ sorority professional to build a relationship with the student out of mutual respect and a deeper personal relationship without resorting to trying to be the “cool staff member.” Those who work in the field of student affairs have the responsibility to act as mentors and to navigate the fine line between boundaries of friendship. New professionals may feel they have more in common with the students they interact with than colleagues, and are at particular risk for placing too much emphasis on friendship, potentially leading to the administrator revealing too much information about his/her personal life (Biaggio, Piaget, & Chenoweth, 1997). Doing so may result in the student perceiving the advisor as hypocritical if the advisor is perceived as engaging in behavior similar to that which they often address through policy enforcement and educational

conversations. Getting too personal also creates the potential for an inappropriate intimate relationship to ensue (Eberhardt & Valente, 2007).

only when too great an emphasis is placed on the friendship role over the responsibility to act as an advisor.

The tendency to take sides in cross-organizational conflict or willingness to overlook infractions made by “favored students” creates a new power dynamic in which those groups that feel less valued by the administrator can become combative towards the administration and other members of the campus community (Slimp and Burian, 1994). Though it may not be intentional, an advisor may have a tendency to grant preferential treatment on those students s/he interact with more frequently. It is crucial that advisors are cognizant of this risk and make a visible effort to interact with all groups and individuals equally. Creating positive relationships with the members of the organizations you advise does not need to rely solely on having deep conversations with the group’s members, but simply by being active in organization events, such as participating in a service project the group coordinates or attending speakers and events to show support. Participating like this demonstrates a willingness to interact with group members outside of the expected advisory duties and builds significant bonds of a trusting relationship.

– Steven Sassaman is the Student Activities Specialist at Cameron University and graduate student at Abilene Christian University. He also serves as an alumni advisor for the Mu Alpha Chapter of Phi Mu Delta Fraternity. References Biaggio, M., Paget, T. L., & Chenoweth, M. S. (1997). A model for ethical management of faculty—Student dual relationships. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 28(2), 184-189. Eberhardt, D. M., & Vante, A. M. (2007). The moral landscape of student affairs work. Journal of College and Character, IX(02), 1-6. Kouzes, J, & Posner, B. (2007). The leadership challenge (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Slimp, P. A. O., & Burian, B. K. (1994). Multiple role relationships during internship: Consequences and recommendations. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 25, 39–45.

The tendency to take sides in cross-organizational conflict or willingness to overlook infractions made by “favored students” creates a new power dynamic in which those groups that feel less valued by the administrator can become combative towards the administration and other members of the campus community. Individual institutional policies will often clearly outline restrictions on romantic relationships between staff members and students, but is often unclear about building friendships with students. It is important to set boundaries with the students with whom you interact. Reflect on what you personally feel comfortable with early on to prevent awkward situations later. For example, ask yourself “How frequently should communication via text message with my students occur? Do I feel comfortable with them even having access to my personal number?” Setting these guidelines within your comfort zone will help not only avoid getting too personal, but also alleviate any tension that could occur later. Often professionals are warned that making friends with the students they advise is taboo and unethical; however, I would argue that it is unethical to not establish these relationships. The issue with developing personal relationships with students arises Summer 2011 / Perspectives



By Teniell L. Trolian, Nathan P. Thomas, and Heather Matthews Kirk


o complement this issue’s theme on Ethics, the Perspectives Editorial Board has compiled a summary of current research related to ethics and moral development. Citations are included to encourage additional reading and review of the literature on this important topic. Dey, E. I., Antonaros, M., Ott, M. C., Barnhardt, C. L., & Holsappe, M. A. (2010). Developing a moral compass: What is the climate for ethics and academic integrity? Core Commitments: Educating Students for Personal and Social Responsibility. Retrieved from http://www.aacu.org/core_ commitments/documents/MoralCompassReport.pdf.

frequently stated that their peers were their biggest support when facing ethical decisions. They cited interactions with peers in co-curricular activities and social conversations as a guiding force to enhance their integrity. Campus organizations and activities introduced students to “many people with integrity… who usually take pride in themselves and their actions” (p.19).

Developing a Moral Compass (2010) is the second in a three-part series of research reports about the Core Commitments study, an initiative of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). The series features data concerning educating college students about personal and social responsibility. Researchers used a campus climate survey called the Personal and Social Responsibility Inventory to assess the perceptions of students, faculty, and campus administrators and professionals at 23 selected campuses. This article focuses on items related to competence in ethical and moral reasoning, as well as cultivating personal and academic integrity.

When faced with an ethical decision, students would most frequently go to a friend for support. Only 30 percent strongly agreed that they could go to a campus professional for this support.They are motivated by peer accountability systems. If campus professionals hope to aid students in learning personal and social responsibility, they cannot rely on students to stop by their offices to gain their advice or wisdom. They must help students create opportunities for engagement and learning around this objective within their organizations and programs. Professionals can teach students how to have conversations about personal and social responsibility with their peers.

The AAC&U defines values congruence – “continuing engagement with the meaning, scope and application of one’s responsibility to self and others” (p. x), – as a crucial foundation for community and justice. If members learn about and practice responsibility in college, they will be better equipped to enter a diverse, global society. Several key findings of this 2007 study impact our work as fraternity/sorority professionals. 93 percent of students and 97 percent of faculty and staff of the survey’s 33,000 respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that “preparing students for lives of integrity and ethical responsibility” (p. ix), is an essential goal of higher education. Students also indicated that they believe that integrity and ethical development is important and want it to be central to their education, yet they do not think it is important to the institution. Fraternity/sorority professionals can seize this opportunity to integrate this sought-out education into their work and programs. Nearly 80 percent of students noted that they were aware of campus integrity policies, but just one-third strongly agreed that those stopped dishonest behavior. Only 20 percent strongly agreed that judicial processes helped reinforce campus standards. While not strongly influenced by policy, students most


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Hamilton, N. (2008). Assessing professionalism: Measuring progress in the formation of an ethical professional identity. University of St. Thomas Law Journal, 2, 470-511. Hamilton (2008), in Assessing Professionalism: Measuring Progress in the Formation of an Ethical Professional Identity, discusses the importance of helping practitioners develop an ethical professional identity within a given profession. Hamilton argues that professions operate with autonomy under a unique social contract; professions are able to regulate their work so long as they hold high standards and ethical expectations for those who practice within their profession. In academia this has held true for centuries. Universities have been granted a great deal of autonomy, so long as they ensure that faculty hold the highest educational credentials and are self-regulating of those who fail to meet high standards and ethical expectations. In times where the public does not believe that academia is upholding its end of the social contract, there is a call for increased accountability, and the social contract is often renegotiated. In order for a profession to assert its standards and ethical expectations, it must first define professionalism in these terms.

ETHICS: Best Practices and Additional Resources By Jason Bergeron, University of Houston The Josephson Institute, headquartered in Los Angeles, CA, is a nonprofit organization created to “improve the ethical quality of society by changing personal and organizational decision making and behavior” (http://josephsoninstitute.org/about.html). The Institute focuses on programs In his article, Hamilton further explores the definitions of professionalism within the field of law, citing the core principles of professionalism – continued growth in personal conscience, compliance with ethical standards, internalization with standards and ethical obligations, willingness to hold others accountable to standards, and devotion to serving the public good within one’s profession. The topics discussed in this article can be applied to the work of fraternity/sorority professionals and within our profession as a whole. If we are to truly define our work as professional, we must first define what standards and ethical expectations those practicing within our field are expected to follow. While we can refer to the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors’ Core Competencies for Excellence in the Profession (2010) and Code of Ethics (1993), the social contract created between a profession and the larger society implies regulation of those practicing within it. Additionally, procedures and practices for such regulation must be established, and new members of the profession must be educated about standards and ethical expectations before they are able to begin their professional work.

and resources that promote the development of ethical competencies in a variety of sectors including youth, business, sports, and public service. Specifically designed for young people, the Character Counts initiative focuses on providing training and resources focused on moral and ethical development as a function of character development. The Josephson Institute promotes six pillars of character as a common language for character education: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship (http://charactercounts.org/sixpillars.html). Sponsored by the NASPA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, in cooperation with the Hardee Center for Leadership and Ethics in Higher Education, The Journal of College and Character is a professional, peer-reviewed publication that “focuses on character development in college, and how colleges and universities influence the moral and civic learning and behavior of students. The journal includes resources and information designed to encourage discussion, research, and innovative educational practices and publishing scholarly articles and applied research on issues related to ethics, values, and character development in higher education” (http://journals.naspa.org/jcc/about.html).

Additional Sources: Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors. (1993). Code of ethics. Retrieved from http://www.fraternityadvisors.org/Business/ Code_of_Ethics.aspx. Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors. (2010). Core competencies for excellence in the profession. Retrieved from http://www.fraternityadvisors.org/Business/CoreCompetencies.aspx.

The Character Clearinghouse, housed at Florida State University, is “an online center for research, curricula, and student affairs resources relating to moral development of college students” (http://characterclearinghouse. fsu.edu/). The website serves as a resource in pointing student affairs professionals towards offices, departments, and resources housed at colleges and universities across the nation that focus on ethical practices and character development within both public and private sectors.

Frisque, D., & Kolb, J. A. (2008). The effects of an ethics training program on attitude, knowledge, and transfer of training of office professionals: A treatment- and control-group design. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 19, 35-53. Frisque and Kolb (2008), in the Human Resource Development Quarterly, write about their ethical training research performed with over 1,500 female administrative assistants; 91 of them being professionals at a large northeastern university. This quantitative and qualitative study examined the, “effects of ethics training

Created and sponsored by the Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values (AFLV), The Fraternal Values Society provides a campus-based organization designed to elevate the level of dialogue on moral, ethical, and values development amongst undergraduate fraternity/sorority communities. “The Fraternal Values Society exists to provide a home for these issues, in order to provide voice to the values movement and to create a sustainable network within each fraternal community for those who want their fraternal experience to be representative of the founding fraternal/ethical values of fraternities and sororities” (http://www.aflv.org/TheSociety.aspx). AFLV has strategic plans to provide specific resources to campus groups to assist in directing that dialogue.

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on attitude, knowledge-based scores, and the ability to analyze ethical dilemmas among office professionals” (p. 39). Utilizing Gagne’s (1972) conditions of learning framework, the study focused on three of the four domains – attitudes, intellectual skills, and cognitive strategy – to create the ethics training program and subsequent four research questions. The study found a statistically significant positive change in professionals’ attitudes in identifying and dealing with ethical dilemmas immediately after completing the ethics training. After 90 days, however, there was no longer a difference in this attitude in relation to the control group. There was also not a statistically significant difference from the participant and control group in their knowledge scores of what was in the code of conduct. In the qualitative analysis, the training group immediately noted professional responsibility to ethics as an important issue, while the control group did not mention this once. Additionally, after 90 days 65 percent of the training group noted the training helped to heighten their awareness to ethical issues; while only 25 percent noted this heightened awareness immediately following the training. The study provides at least two applicable points for fraternity/ sorority advisors creating ethical training programs. First is the overall importance of providing ethics training to undergraduate members. Frisque and Kolb (2008) identify, while the training may not necessarily teach a new understanding of codes of conduct, the outcome is more confidence in and understanding of ethical dilemmas when they are faced. This emphasizes the importance of the transfer of knowledge in situations involving ethical dilemmas and the need for students to take the next step and act. Second, trainings should be ongoing and not one-time events. If the effect of the initial training has lapsed after 90 days, continual trainings should follow-up on those changes of awareness to ethical dilemmas noted in the study. Specifically, it would be good for on-going training programs to provide strategies for students to deal directly with the ethical dilemmas they face in order to provide them the confidence to make positive changes; building on their new sense of responsibility to ethics. Additional Source: Gagne, R. M. (1972). Domains of learning. Interchange, 3, 1-8.


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Taft, S. H., & White, J. (2007). Ethics education: Using inductive reasoning to develop individual, group, organizational, and global perspectives. Journal of Management Education, 31, 614-646. Taft and White (2007), in the Journal of Management Education, discuss the importance of and a best practices approach to ethics education for business students. The authors propose a four-level model for ethical analysis, where students explore “individual, group, organizational, and international perspectives” (p. 615). In the individual level of analysis, students explore their own definition of ethics; discerning “between ethics and related concepts such as integrity, morality, values, religious beliefs, legal and illegal conduct, and personal philosophy” (p. 619). This exploration allows students the opportunity to develop their own personal and unique definition of ethical behavior within the context of their future profession and personal life. In the group level of analysis, students examine the ethical standards and principles of particular groups or communities to which they belong. This level of analysis allows students to discuss ethical conflict that may arise when one person or group’s definition of ethical behavior comes into conflict with another. In the organizational level of analysis, students are able to explore the broader ethical expectations of an organization, institution, or larger profession. This gives the concept of ethics additional context and encourages students to integrate these organizational norms and expectations into their own definitions of ethical behavior. In the final international level of analysis, students can examine the ways in which our own society influences how ethics are defined and how ethical expectations may differ across cultures. This article has many applications for ethics education within our work with fraternities and sororities. As we consider the ways in which we engage students in conversations and programs about ethics, are we designing experiences that allow them to explore all four levels of ethical analysis – individual, group, organizational, and international? This framework for ethics education can provide an opportunity for students to fully explore their own definition of ethics within the context of our organizations and communities.

Appreciative Advising:

A Positive Approach to Developing Fraternity/Sorority Community Action Plans By Dustin B. Struble


or decades, corporations, government agencies,

Appreciative Advising

and non-profit organizations have spent millions of

Originally developed for use in academic advising, Appreciative Advising is based on the organizational development theory Appreciative Inquiry (Bloom, Hutson, & He, 2008). Appreciative Inquiry has been used for strategic planning purposes and has produced excellent results in corporations, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and educational institutions (Silbert, 2011). Appreciative Advising builds upon the principles of Appreciative Inquiry and uses positive psychology to create an advising relationship based on trust and focused on helping students fulfill their potentials (Bloom, Hutson, & He, 2008). Several educational institutions across North America have incorporated Appreciative Advising into their day-to-day operations (Bloom, Hutson, He, Amundsen et al., 2009).

dollars and countless hours creating or updating their

strategic plans. Similarly, many educational institutions have turned to strategic planning to address issues of enrollment, retention, student services, and budgetary constraints. An institution’s division of student affairs often plays a vital role in the implementation and orchestration of these strategic plans. Success requires the coordinated participation of several departments within a division of student affairs to collaborate to achieve a common mission and goals. For many departments this requires administrative leadership that is able to garner investment in the strategic plan from staff members, graduate assistants, and student workers. Advisors working with fraternities and sororities, on the other hand, are presented with an additional and rather lofty expectation: ensuring that affiliated students, chapters, and

Appreciative Advising is composed of six phases (See Figure 1) – Disarm, Discover, Dream, Design, Deliver, and Don’t Settle (Bloom, Hutson, & He, 2008). By applying the six phases of Appreciative Advising to developing community action plans, a fraternity/sorority advisor has a new framework and methodology for reviewing mission statements, identifying opportunities, developing vision statements, and applying existing best practices.

fraternal community are aligned with the mission statements and values of the institution, the inter/national organizations, and respective umbrella organizations (if applicable). In order to aid fraternity/sorority advisors in facilitating a strategic

Figure 1: Six Phases of Appreciative Advising

planning process with their chapters and communities, this


article will explore how the six

• Warm Introduction • Mutual Expectations • Icebreakers

phases of Appreciative Advising can be utilized to develop and implement fraternity/sorority community action plans.



• Revise Vision Statement • Assess SMART Goals

• Review Mission Statements • SOAR Analysis



• Distribute Goals to Officers and Constituents • Follow-up Individual Meetings

• Develop Vision Statement

These action plans will benefit affiliated students, chapters, fraternity/sorority communities, and the institution as a whole. The six phases of Appreciative Advising are intended to facilitate open discussion, learn about students’ experiences, explore common values, and develop a shared vision aligned with their institutional and

DESIGN • Develop SMART Goals • Assign Goals to Officers

organizational missions. Summer 2011 / Perspectives


Disarm Disarm, the initial phase in Appreciative Advising, is focused on creating a safe and welcoming environment for students. Given the high level of transition among chapter and council officers, a fraternity/sorority advisor is constantly inundated with new and often inexperienced student leaders. These leaders may be reticent to spend time developing a community action plan and unhappy about having to spend their valuable time engaging in the development of the plan. For this reason, it is imperative that an advisor make a positive first impression on every student with whom he or she interacts (Bloom, Hutson, & He, 2008). Failing to “disarm” students at the outset of your interaction could cause individuals to disengage from the change initiative process or to engage in counterproductive behavior. On an individual level, a fraternity/sorority advisor can disarm students through warm greetings, mutual expectations, and ice breakers. Advisors should also find ways to make their offices feel inviting and comfortable to students. When facilitating a retreat, a mutual expectation exercise can be conducted to create an open, non-judgmental atmosphere for discussion. It is of vital importance that the advisor is present during these exercises and that verbal and non-verbal behaviors are genuine and positive. The advisor should select exercises with intentionality; seeking activities that are both enjoyable and applicable to the desired learning outcomes of the retreat.

Discover The discover phase provides the fraternity/sorority advisor with an opportunity to learn more about the students. Using positive, open-ended questions, the advisor can gain insight into the strengths, passions, and skills of students through listening to their stories (Bloom, Hutson, & He, 2008). When developing action plans with students, fraternity/sorority advisors are occasionally guilty of pointing out the problems within the community rather than focusing on the positive features of the community. One way to redirect this conversation is to center questions around the relevancy of mission statements in fraternity/sorority life. The advisor should explain to the students that a mission statement “is a statement of purpose or function for the organization” (Stavros, Cooperrider, & Kelley, 2003, p. 11). Having copies of the open mission/creed/purpose statements of each chapter is important in case the student leaders cannot recite them from memory. Questioning students on these statements and how the actions of their chapters and community are congruent with their professed values can elicit powerful, thought-provoking discussion. Sample discover questions include: “How are the institution’s mission statement and the organization’s mission/creed/purpose statement similar?” and “When have you seen a member of your chapter demonstrate a value discussed in your organization’s mission/creed/ purpose statement?” As the discussion transitions to the actions of all chapter members there will undoubtedly be disparities between the professed values and actions; however, an appreciative advisor should view these as a series of opportunities rather than problems. One appreciative exercise that can help students identify opportunities to affect positive change is the SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results) Analysis (Stavros et al., 2003). The SOAR Analysis, an alternative to the traditional SWOT 22

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(Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis, uses positive psychology to focus on the students’ hopes for the future rather than dwell on the negatives of the past (Stavros et al., 2003). During this exercise the greatest strengths and opportunities of a community are discovered and explored through student discussion facilitated by the advisor. Students are invited to share their aspirations and work together to construct their most preferred future. Finally, recognition and reward programs are designed to inspire chapter members to achieve measurable results (Stavros et al., 2003, 11).

Dream In the third phase, the fraternity/sorority advisor should work with students to develop a vision statement that reveals their hopes and dreams for the fraternity/sorority community (Bloom, Hutson,& He, 2008). Stavros et al. (2003) assert that a vision statement answers the question, “What do we ultimately want to become?” (p. 11). The vision should build upon the foundation set by the mission statement and should contain complementary values. Providing example vision statements from successful corporations (i.e. Coca-Cola, Disney) may help to add necessary guidance and structure. As a general practice, students should only try to express three to six shared values in their vision statement. Developing a shared vision statement in which the students will be invested is critical to the success of the community action plan and the next three phases. Therefore, the fraternity/sorority advisor will need to allow ample time for consensus building among the group. Once shared values are established, the advisor should divide students into smaller groups and have each group develop statements that correspond to each value. The students will then reconvene, share their value statements, and make any necessary edits.

Design The design phase calls for the students and the fraternity/sorority advisor to co-create a community action plan as a tool to make their dreams a reality (Bloom, Hutson, and He, 2008). Many educational programs have been utilizing SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Oriented) goals to assist students in developing action plans for fraternity and sorority chapters for several years. SMART goals assist students in creating goals and objectives that reflect the values espoused in their mission and vision statements. It is imperative that the advisor challenge the students to create goals and objectives true to the SMART Goal format (Stollman, 2010). Advisors need to be able to articulate and identify the difference between goals, objectives, and outcomes. Goals are statements describing the general purpose and direction one is working toward. Objectives are the steps that must be taken to reach a goal (Ideally, there should be no less than two and no more than six objectives for each goal). Outcomes are the actual cumulative results produced by the goal’s objectives (Parmelee Consulting Group, 2007). Once SMART Goals have been completed, reviewed, and agreed upon, the students should assign responsibilities to the appropriate officers and set realistic deadlines for completion.

Deliver The deliver phase involves students adhering to the vision statement and carrying out the SMART goals developed in the design phase (Bloom, Hutson, & He, 2008). Although the responsibility inevitably lies on the students, the fraternity/sorority advisor must find ways to reassure students that they are capable of completing their goals and objectives. A responsibility of an advisor is to ensure that students feel confident in their skills to address obstacles that may arise as they execute their community action plan. Beta Theta Pi Fraternity is among several fraternal organizations that devotes a significant portion in leadership conferences to ensuring that the messages conveyed at their conferences are delivered when students return back to their host institutions. The Wooden Institute for Men of Principle teaches participants about the basic concepts of self-governance, addressing bystander accountability, utilizing confrontation skills, developing partnerships with constituents, and creating change initiatives (Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, 2011). An advisor should maintain copies of the vision statement and SMART goals and have them readily available to discuss in follow-up individual meetings with student leaders. Chapter advisory teams, house corporation officers, and fraternity/sorority staff should also receive copies of these documents. All too often, students abandon goals when faced with obstacles. By providing them with these skills and outside support resources, they are far more likely to deliver on their promises to better the community.

Don’t Settle The sixth and final phase, don’t settle, requires fraternity/sorority advisors to challenge and support students to raise the bar of expectations (Sanford, 1966). This phase is addressed with all of a community’s chapters regardless of their performance. Although high-performing chapters often excel in a number of areas, Appreciative Advising encourages members to always seek new opportunities for improvement. If a student does not recognize opportunities, the advisor can always use the mission and vision statements as well as the students’ accomplishments and strengths as justification for raising the bar (Bloom, Hutson, & He, 2008). It is important that the previously developed community action plans are revisited in future meetings and retreats. Students may need to update or revise their vision statements to reflect the hopes and dreams of the new leadership. Further, reviewing past goals and objectives can provide new leaders with insight into opportunities that have been realized as well as those that have yet to be completely addressed.

hopefully contribute to the overall prosperity of countless students’ development as well as the gradual improvement of both the fraternity/sorority community and institution. – Dustin B. Struble is in his first year in the Higher Education and Student Affairs master’s degree program at the University of South Carolina, Columbia. Prerviously, he was a Leadership Consultant and Director of Expansion for Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. References Beta Theta Pi Fraternity. (2010, July). Leadership in practice. The John and Nellie Wooden Institute for Men of Principle Workbook (pp. 54-70). Presented at The John and Nellie Wooden Institute for Men of Principle, Oxford, OH. Bloom, J. L., Hutson, B.L., & He, Y. (2008). The appreciative advising revolution. Champaign, IL: Stipes Publishing. Bloom, J. L., Hutson, B. L., He, Y., Amundsen, S., et al. (2009, April). How eight institutions have incorporated appreciative advising. The Mentor. Retrieved from http://www.psu.edu/dus/mentor/090422jb.htm Goodstein, L. D., Nolan, T. M., & Pfeiffer, J. W. (1993). Applied strategic planning: How to develop a plan that really works. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. Parmelee Consulting Group, Inc. (2007). Goals, objectives and outcomes worksheet. Retrieved from http://www.parmeleewriting.com/dev/newsite/ pdfs/goalsobjectives.pdf Sanford, N. (1966). Self and society. New York, NY: Atherton Press. Silbert, T. (2011, January). Appreciative inquiry for strategic planning (AISP). Appreciative Inquiry Commons. Retrieved from http:// appreciativeinquiry.case.edu/news/eventDetail.cfm?coID=13515&month =1&year=2011. Stavros, J., Cooperrider, D., & Kelley, D. L. (2003). Strategic inquiry > appreciative intent: Inspiration to SOAR. Appreciative Inquiry Commons. Retrieved from http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu/practice/ executiveDetail.cfm?coid=5331 Stollman, D. (2010, January). SMART Goals. Phi Delta Theta Recruitment Boot Camp Small Group Facilitator’s Guide (pp. 11-12). Presented at the Phi Delta Theta Recruitment Boot Camp, St. Louis, MO. Taylor, S. H. & Matney, M. M. (2007). Transforming student affairs strategic planning into tangible results. NASPA Journal, 44(1), 167-171.

Conclusion The key to effectively using the Appreciative Advising approach is to understand that it is not designed solely for one-time use with students at a meeting or retreat. Rather, by utilizing this technique in a meeting or at a retreat the advisor is committing to an on-going process of assisting students, chapters, and communities in living their professed values daily and achieving their goals. A student that has been advised in an appreciative manner is more likely to view the advisor as an ally to seek out when faced with an obstacle rather than an enemy that is “out to get us.” Most importantly, the development of this meaningful and lasting relationship through Appreciative Advising will Summer 2011 / Perspectives


Why Reinvent the Wheel? Using the CAS Learning Domains and Dimensions as a Framework for Fraternity and Sorority Advising Program Learning Outcomes

It is important for those who work with fraternities and sororities to consider in the development of their educational workshops and retreats how knowledge acquisition, integration, construction, and application might occur. An example of a fraternal movement initiative that reflects the connection between fraternity/sorority membership and cognitive development is the residential learning model adopted by Sigma Phi Epsilon, which emphasizes faculty interactions with students in the fraternity facility.

By Dan Bureau, Ph.D.

Cognitive Complexity


The second domain focuses on students wrestling with exploring diverse perspectives on common issues. Cognitive complexity emerges when students are forced to examine various perspectives and determine an opinion or stance on an issue (Evans, Forney, DeBrito, Renn, & Patton, 2010). Issues examined are often in concert with others and explorations about one’s final opinion often emerges through discourse. Dimensions of this domain are critical thinking, reflective thinking, effective reasoning, and creativity (CAS, 2009).

uch has been written about the need to assess, both indirectly and directly, student learning within student affairs programs (Bresciani, Zelna, & Anderson, 2004; Keeling, 2004; Upcraft, 2003). If student affairs is broadly concerned with assessment of learning outcomes, so should those who administer fraternity/sorority life programs on campuses and at the international staff and volunteer level (Perlow, 2007; Strayhorn & Colvin, 2006). Measuring learning outcomes can help demonstrate that student affairs programs, including those in fraternity/sorority life, are in line with priorities of an institution, support holistic student development, and contribute to the broad goals of higher education (Bresciani et al., 2004; Council for the Advancement of Standards, 2009). Over the years, I have seen professionals ask the question “what should students who are members of fraternities and sororities learn?” Within divisions of student affairs and across fraternal organizations, we often work in silos trying to identify what matters to student learning; however, the fraternity/sorority experience is only one context in which students experience college. Higher education has a collective responsibility to promote learning across all students’ experiences (Keeling, 2004; Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh, Whitt, & Associates, 2005). To demonstrate how functions across student affairs can accomplish shared learning outcomes, the Council for the Advancement of Standards (CAS) has developed six learning domains. These domains consist of dimensions that provide opportunities to further demonstrate important aspects of student learning, growth, and development. This article provides an overview of these domains and dimensions and offers ideas as to how they might be applied in a fraternity/sorority advising program (FSAP). It will also provide recommendations for how fraternity/sorority staff and volunteers might use these domains. Additionally, I will offer some advice on writing learning outcomes using the domains and dimensions:

Knowledge Acquisition, Integration, Construction, and Application The first domain focuses on aspects of students gaining and using knowledge. Often articulated as the primary goal of participation in curricular activities, it has long been heralded that student affairs functions, including fraternity/sorority membership can encourage knowledge acquisition, integration, construction, and application (Roper, 2003). Dimensions of this domain are understanding knowledge from a range of disciplines; connecting knowledge to other knowledge, ideas, and experiences; constructing knowledge; and relating knowledge to daily life (CAS, 2009).


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Students in fraternities and sororities likely experience conditions that force them to examine diverse perspectives every day. These conditions may be with other members of their organization or through interactions with others such as non-affiliated students. Because of the expanding global society, it is vital that fraternities and sororities expand students’ perceptions about issues (Asel, Seifert, & Pascarella, 2009). Conversations that fraternity/sorority professionals have with student leaders can advance students’ thoughts about issues and expand their cognitive complexity. Creating conditions that permit students to reflect and reason, such as what might come from serving on a judicial or standards board or through participating in a national program such as the Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute (UIFI) or Leadershape™, is pivotal to ensure students leave the proverbial walls of their college and chapter, and understand how to explore diverse approaches to common situations.

Intrapersonal development Know thyself – a basic condition of leadership. Once you know who you are, then you are best able to lead others. The intrapersonal development domain has become particularly important given the research on self-authorship (Baxter Magolda, 2008), which is the movement from being externally defined to developing an accurate inner sense of self, which can serve as a foundation to make decisions. Many theories on student development focus on the growing sense of self a student develops as they progress through their time in college (Evans et al., 2010). Such development is focused on developing intrapersonal competence. Dimensions in this domain are realistic selfappraisal, self-understanding, self-respect, identity development, commitment to ethics and integrity, and spiritual awareness (CAS, 2009). Specific to the experience in fraternities and sororities, those working with FSAP and at the international and volunteer levels might add the dimension of values development. As fraternities and sororities are values-based organizations, considering the extent to which students develop, refine, and demonstrate their

values in line with those espoused by the organization could be a prioritized learning outcome. Efforts such as the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity’s True Brother Initiative provide opportunities for members to increase their selfesteem, self-awareness, empathy, and altruism, which helps them create a sense of self, while also forging meaningful relationships with others. Through journaling about their experience, members use reflection to examine their personal growth as a result of membership. Professionals should examine to what extent they might use student development theory as a foundation for educational experiences they create. The intentional use of such theories may promote the outcome of intrapersonal development.

Interpersonal competence Students must be able to interact with others. It is particularly important for students to interact across differences such as one’s background. Additionally, because they will be entering a collaborative global economy, students must leave college with the competence to contribute to and lead a team (Komives, Lucas, & McMahon, 2007). Under conditions in which college graduates will be forced to interact and lead others, it is vital they are able to collaborate and develop shared responsibilities for goals. Dimensions in the interpersonal competence domain include: meaningful relationships, interdependence, collaboration, and effective leadership (CAS, 2009). Fraternities and sororities were built to promote interpersonal competence; relationships with others are at the core of what these organizations say they are about. Therefore, it is likely that fraternities/sororities are best able to support this learning domain. It is vital for those who work with these organizations to assess how interpersonal skills are strengthened as a result of interacting with fellow chapter and fraternity/sorority community members. Professionals might look at how students’ selfperceptions of these interpersonal skills as one participates in intake and recruitment activities increase as they progress through membership and graduate.

Humanitarianism and Civic Engagement To actively participate in a global society, one must be committed to serving others. Service toward others can bring together diverse individuals committed to a shared cause of improving the world (Jacoby, 2009). Helping students to learn to exhibit humanitarianism and civic engagement must be a priority of higher education. Dimensions of the humanitarianism and civic engagement domain are

understanding and appreciation of cultural and human differences, social responsibility, global perspective, and sense of civic responsibility (CAS, 2009). It has been well-noted that fraternities and sororities contribute to civic causes through their hands-on service and fundraising (Asel et al., 2009). However, the influence of these experiences on student learning has not been well documented. Therefore, it is certainly an area in which we can increase assessment of learning. FSAPs often organize full-scale service or philanthropic activities, but equally important to the event details are creating opportunities for students to learn and reflect on their experiences. Talking to students about their experiences and interpreting perceptions of what they learned could be an assessment priority. We know that many fraternal organizations have begun providing large scale efforts to engage their members in local and international service. For example, Delta Upsilon Fraternity has recently implemented the Global Service Initiative that allows members to conduct service activities in Jamaica. Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity has formed a partnership with the American Heart Association where members raise money for and participate in service initiatives for the Association. These initiatives likely encourage learning.

Practical Competence Because students, including fraternity/sorority members, spend most of their time outside the classroom, it is important to consider how students learned basic life skills through the programs and environments constructed by student affairs and interfraternal professionals (Strange & Banning, 2001). CAS (2009) provides the domain of practical competence to reflect the collective goal of a student developing the wherewithal to be a successful and healthy adult. Dimensions of the practical competence domain are pursuing goals, communicating effectively, technical competence, managing personal affairs, managing career development, demonstrating professionalism, maintaining health and wellness, and living a purposeful and satisfying life.

Those committed to the fraternal movement at the headquarters and campus level should implement programs that help students learn the skills necessary to be successful. Many of the educational initiatives of the last 15 years that focus on overall membership development (e.g. Sigma Phi Epsilon’s Balanced Man, Beta Theta Pi’s Men of Principle, Sigma Gamma Rho’s The Torch) emphasize these skills through structured educational experiences such as requirements to serve others and participate in an arts or cultural event. International organizations should be concerned with and therefore assess the extent to which these programs have successfully helped students develop practical competence. Additionally, FSAP leadership can use such tools as the Fraternity/ Sorority Experience Survey and the AFA/EBI Fraternity/Sorority Assessment to examine how students perceive the development of these skills. Both surveys solicit students’ perceptions of how their involvement in a fraternity/sorority supported this outcome.

A Note on Learning Outcomes Using Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom, 1956), professionals can develop outcomes that explain what students should learn as a result of membership, and they can find both direct and indirect ways to measure to what extent the outcomes explained in this article are accomplished. Writing a good learning outcome requires a simple formula: As a result of (some event), (student population) will be able to (insert Bloom’s Taxonomy verb) (an aspect of the CAS learning domain). Using the interpersonal domain and the collaboration dimension, an example is: As a result of the annual leadership retreat, presidents will be able to identify strategies to developing collaborative relationships with other student organizations. Once this outcome has been developed, FSAP leadership could develop a simple way to assess the extent to which it was accomplished. For example, at the retreat, the professional could have the last activity could ask participants to complete a survey asking them to name three strategies for building collaborative relationships.

Conclusion Fraternities and sororities, as a part of the fabric of student life on college and university campuses, should contribute to the broad goals of higher education. Specifically, they should support the overall goal of student learning. There is no need to identify aspects of student learning distinctive to the fraternity/ sorority experience. Those that are shared across student life, and articulated through the CAS Standards, should be sufficient for the FSAP and those who work and volunteer at the international level of the fraternal movement. This article provided an overview of the six CAS learning domains, explaining specific dimensions of these domains that might be priorities for programs in which fraternity/sorority members participate. Using these domains and assessing the extent to which they are facilitated by the fraternity/ sorority experience, those invested in the fraternal movement can structure learning experiences and support the overall growth and development of the students they serve.

– Dr. Dan Bureau is the Director of Student Affairs Learning and Assessment at the University of Memphis. He worked for the Center for the Study of the College Fraternity while completing his doctorate in the Higher Education and Student Affairs Program at Indiana University

References Asel, A.M., Seifert, T.A., & Pascarella, E.T. (2009). The effects of fraternity/sorority membership on college experiences and outcomes: A portrait of complexity. Oracle: The Research Journal of the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors, 4(2), 56-70. Baxter Magolda, M.B. (2008). Three elements of self-authorship. Journal of College Student Development, 49, 269-284. Bloom, B.S. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives, the classification of educational goals – Handbook I; Cognitive domain. New York, NY; McKay. Bresciani, M., Zelna, C., & Anderson, J. (2004) Assessing Student Learning and Development: A Handbook for Practitioners (3rd ed.). USA: NASPA. Council for the Advancement of Standards (2009). CAS professional standards for higher education (7th ed.). Washington, DC: Council for the Advancement of Standards. Evans, N.J., Forney, D.S., Guido, F.M., Patton, L.D., & Renn, K.A. (2010). Student development in college (2nd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Jacoby, B. (2009). Civic engagement in today’s higher education. In B. Jacoby (Ed.), Civic engagement in higher education: Concepts and practices (pp. 5-30). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Keeling, R. P. (Ed.). (2004). Learning reconsidered: A campus-wide focus on the student experience. Washington, DC: NASPA and ACPA. Komives, S. R., Lucas, N., & McMahon, T. R. (2007). Exploring leadership for college students who want to make a difference. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J., Schuh, J. H., Whitt, E. J., & Associates. (2005). Student success in college: Creating conditions that matter. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Perlow, E. (2007, Summer). Refresh, reframe, refocus: Using assessment as an improvement framework. Perspectives, 13-16. Roper, L.D. (2003). Teaching. In S.R. Komives, D.B. Woodard Jr., & Assoc. (Eds.) Student services: A handbook for the profession (pp. 466-483). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Strange, C. C. & Banning, J. H. (2001). Educating by design. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Strayhorn, T. L. & Colvin, A. J. (2006). Assessing student learning and development in fraternity and sorority affairs. Oracle: The Research Journal of the Association of Fraternity Advisors, 2(2), 95-107. Upcraft, M.L. (2003). Assessment and evaluation. In S.R. Komives, D.B. Woodard Jr., & Assoc. (Eds.), Student services: A handbook for the profession (pp. 555-572). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


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