This past week, I was able to sit down with Vanderbilt’s Director of Greek Life, Kristin Torrey, to discuss the status of one of Vanderbilt’s most important traditions.
The purpose of our discussion was to identify the state of Greek Life this semester, something that seems timely given the numerous setbacks in the past year. There are many on campus that convey legitimate concern as to the future of the Greek system, and these concerns are certainly worth addressing.
Despite criticism, Torrey believes that Greek life is off to a good start this year, and she has been encouraged by the leadership of chapter presidents and council members. Torrey was impressed by students on the Greek Leader’s Retreat, and she concluded that the leaders of the Greek community are “truly committed to making important changes in Greek life.”
Specific improvements have been focused on health and wellness, new member education, Greek unity, balance, and self-governance (which is most important to Torrey, because it includes the accountability that will make all of the difference this year).
The fraternity recruitment system has undergone some major, controversial changes, but Torrey emphasized that they were not handed to the Greek community. They were taken out of proposals to the administration made by Delta Force, a committee of students.
The changes were “created by undergraduate men who are members of fraternities,” she said. ”They were proposed to chapter presidents and voted upon.”
These changes have mainly been enacted in order to patch up a major flaw in the recruitment system. According to Torrey, there were 420 men in the recruitment process last year, and only about 260 received bids.
“There was greater interest than was fulfilled,” she said.
Torrey concluded that these problems stemmed from the lack of control potential members had in the recruitment process and the fact that they are expected to make decisions sooner than they should have to. A formalized recruitment period has been put in place to remedy this situation and to form more of a “mutual selection process.”
Starting this year, freshmen boys will not be permitted to attend winter semi-formals. Also, new community service requirements have been put in place to give Greek Life a more “well-rounded” image.
Torrey has observed an improvement in Greek unity. Chapters are starting to exhibit “protection, not just of an individual chapter, but of the whole community.” She said that due to the leadership of chapter presidents and council officers this year has started off much better than last year.
Torrey believes that the system as a whole will improve if members remember what it means to be Greek.
“It will still be thriving in 100 years, as long as members take their oaths seriously.” Greek life, she said, “is an important tradition, but we must be willing to evolve.”
The Greek tradition means a lot to Torrey, and it is meant to have a large impact upon each student involved.
“These people will be the men and women at your weddings,” she said.
Greek life serves to help new students find their place at Vanderbilt and give them a sense of belonging. Torrey believes that involvement in Greek life makes students, “more marketable, better employees, and better employers in the future because of their leadership experience.”
Torrey sees importance in how old and well established our chapters are, and she sees strength in the Greek alumni groups. She also acknowledges that Vanderbilt is unique because it is a top 20 school.
“In that peer group, I am not sure there are a lot of schools that have a 43% Greek student body,” she said.
These are unique aspects that the community can utilize in order to improve. This year’s Greek theme is to “Be More.” Torrey notes that it will be a great year if Greek students are more for the community, and most importantly, more for each other. She believes we need more accountability, more protection of the system as a whole, and more respect for the Greek tradition in order to preserve it.