Student Life seeks to implement Greek fee

Student Life employees have been working with Greek Life in addition to the jobs they were hired to do, a practice that the fee would end.

In the 19 years Director of Student Life Mark Lucas has worked in the department, he has struggled to find ways to support one of MU’s most active communities.

Only two people, fraternity leadership educator Jonathan Rummel and Interfraternity Council adviser Nick Evans, are currently paid to work in the Office of Greek Life. Lucas said comparable Greek communities require six to eight full-time staff to be effective. To get the money to hire more people, Lucas aims to levy a fee of $39 per semester on each member of a fraternity or sorority. The fee was modeled after one implemented by Louisiana State University of $53 per semester for its own Greek students, Lucas said.

Student Life Business Manager Chris Provorse said in an email that the fee would bring in $565,500. if the fee is implemented, total staffing costs for the Office of Greek Life, would cost about $464,000. The state of Missouri is looking to cut funding for the UM System, and enrollment for the fall 2016 semester is projected to drop, which Lucas and Provorse estimate to equal a loss of $150,000 per year.

Possible Implementation

Lucas is working to gain support for the fee from the four Greek councils, who all have mixed opinions. He and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs hope to get it approved by interim Chancellor Hank Foley in early March. Foley will decide if the fee will be implemented either August 2016 or January 2017. Regardless of the start date, Lucas plans to spend the fall 2016 semester educating students about the fee.

“I want all internal and external constituents to understand the issues around the fee and understand why we believe this is the only strategy that can provide our Greek community with stability and a path for success,” Lucas said in an email.

In early February, he sent a letter and a list of frequently asked questions about the fee to Greek Life advisers, housing corporations and national headquarters. According to the FAQ list, students can apply their financial aid toward the fee, and students who join a Greek organization mid-semester will not have to start paying the fee until the following semester.

“Improving the experience for members of your chapter will make the Greek community at Mizzou stronger, more sustainable, with an eye to the future,” the document states. “We want your chapter to be here in 5, 10 or 15 years when you visit regardless of how many members it has.” The document also states that the Office of Student Life will fund “one full-time staff position, one graduate assistant, and the cost of physical space, utilities and other overhead expenses.” The fee, if implemented, will allow each Greek council to have its own full-time adviser.

Understaffing Issues

In the past, Lucas has attempted to compensate for the lack of Greek Life staffing by assigning people from various departments in Student Life to work with Greek Life. This practice is unsustainable, he said, and he will not continue it.

He said Associate Director of Student Life Janna Basler was hired as a department supervisor, not as Greek Life director.

“She is the biggest supervisor I’ve got in this department,” Lucas said. “She is not able to do her job because, by default, I have no one else to be director of Greek Life.”

Basler will no longer be working with Greek Life effective July 1, Lucas said, because it is not the job she was hired to perform. Her departure from Greek Life has no connection to her involvement in the Concerned Student 1950 protests, which resulted in her being placed on administrative leave for attempting to block a student journalist.

Lucas and Basler assigned Kathleen Duffy, originally a coordinator in the Center for Leadership and Service, to work with formal Panhellenic Association recruitment last summer. Without Duffy, Lucas said, recruitment could not have happened. However, the Center for Leadership Development does not have the staff to complete all its responsibilities.

In the Center for Leadership and Service, Duffy works with the Emerging Leaders Program, the Involvement to Career program and the Caring for Columbia Day of Service. Since she began working with Greek Life, graduate assistants have taken over most of her previous responsibilities with the Leadership Certificate program and Center Ambassadors, and her work with ELP is less direct than it used to be, she said.

Covering all the responsibilities in the Center for Leadership and Service is a group effort, Duffy said. She meets weekly with the graduate assistant she supervises in order to keep up communication while she works in a different office.

Duffy agreed with Lucas that the Office of Greek Life needs more staff in order to accommodate the Greek student population of about 7,500. She estimated that working with Greek Life takes up at least half of her time. Having some staff dedicated to Greek Life and other staff dedicated to the Center for Leadership and Service would serve the students well, she said.

“If the fee is how Dr. Lucas and Dr. Scroggs see that being accomplished, I think that would be a positive thing,” she said.

Lucas asked Jonathan McElderry to be the adviser to the National Pan-Hellenic Council in addition to his full-time job as coordinator of the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center. Multicultural Center coordinator Stephanie Hernandez Rivera also had to figure out how to do her job while advising the newly formed Multicultural Greek Council, Lucas said.

McElderry and Hernandez Rivera could not be reached for comment.

Lucas also said Student Life Office Support Assistant Kristina Estes spends most of her time working with Greek Life, even though she is paid to work in the Center for Leadership and Service.

“This has been the structure of this department for all of my 19 years,” he said. “It’s killing this department and depriving the majority of MU students of programs and services they are paying for. All the work that should be getting done, in the areas where these people are hired, is not getting done.”

Greek Councils’ Opinions

The Greek councils have mixed opinions of the potential fee.

MGC President Phillip Nguyen said the council has discussed the fee and is concerned about where the money would go. Despite the claims that the Department of Student Life suffers from a lack of staffing, Nguyen said MGC has not seen proof of this and worries that the money from the fee might be abused. “A lot of students (in MGC) are against the fee because whether we support it or not, it’s going to be passed,” he said.

Nguyen also said he doesn’t think students trust administrators after the events of last semester. The council members want more resources, which could include more funding or administrative support and advice for their organizations. At the same time, they fear that they may not benefit as much as the other three Greek councils because MGC as a whole is smaller than the individual IFC and PHA chapters.

“If everybody is paying the same amount of the fee, how is that going to be distributed among the councils?” Nguyen said. “Is most of our money going to go to IFC and PHA?”

Lucas said in an email that the councils will not be receiving any of the money as the fee is for staffing.

Both Nguyen and NPHC President Khalil Simmons said they would like the fee to be better organized. Simmons said some NPHC members are against the fee because they do not see the benefits beyond hiring a new adviser, and other members support the fee but acknowledge it needs revisions.

The NPHC executive board is neutral on the matter, Simmons said.

“If the fee isn’t the greatest opportunity for us, then we’re against it,” he said. “We definitely see the positives of the fee, but we also see where it needs work. We just want it to be revised before it is passed, and we need to see how it can benefit NPHC as a whole.”

The IFC executive board believes the fee will make Greek Life more self-sustaining, Vice President of Public Relations Jacob Farkas said.

“We feel like this will help ensure that Greek Life is able to keep the resources we currently have, hire more staff and improve programs for IFC men,” Farkas said.

He also said Greek Life has put together a task force to help general members understand the purpose of the fee.

If the fee does not pass, Farkas said, Greek Life will attract fewer people and its growth rate will decline because it won’t be able to sustain as many members. Without more funding and staff, the Office of Greek Life will be unable to hold various programs and events, such as Emerging Greek Leaders and Greek Week.

PHA declined to comment on the fee.

Looking Forward

Lucas said the fee is necessary enough that he and Dr. Scroggs feel they must proceed with it, but they want all internal and external members of the community to understand why it is needed. He said it is difficult to explain the potential consequences of not passing the fee to the members of Greek Life because students cannot directly see how the Department of Student Life has been struggling.

“If we do a lot of things behind the scenes to prevent something bad from happening, (almost) nobody knows about it,” Lucas said.

Edited by Waverly Colville | wcolville@themaneater.com

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