Fraternity & Sorority Life External Review
August 23, 2019
Dear Friends and Colleagues of the Fraternity and Sorority Community:
On behalf of Chancellor Blank and myself, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Student Affairs is committed to strengthening Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) as evidenced by the initiation of an External Review process in the spring of 2019. By working with external experts in the field, we had the opportunity to explore specific areas of the community and our students’ experiences, to set shared priorities, and determine next steps to ensure we continue to have a strong and productive partnership. Our shared goal is for students to be healthy and safe and for fraternities and sororities to contribute positively to the campus community through their shared values of scholarship, leadership, service and sisterhood/brotherhood.
I appreciate the work of many who have taken their time to contribute to the External Review process. The engagement of students, alumni, advisors and campus partners leave me encouraged and appreciative of the breadth of support for this important community. I am writing to provide an update and next steps on the report submitted by the External Review Team. I am excited by the opportunity to share this report with the broader Fraternity and Sorority community and collaborate on a shared vision.
The report highlights complex challenges related to student safety, sexual assault, alcohol use, inclusion, and mental health. While these social issues exist across our campus and society, the fraternity and sorority community is uniquely vulnerable due to its scope, structure, and aspects of culture. This community of fraternity and sorority leaders is also uniquely positioned to engage in necessary social change that will elevate fraternity and sorority life and, in turn, UW-Madison. I have the greatest respect for our student leaders and I know they will rise to this challenge.
A few action steps have already been taken that I want to share with you. First, a special session was offered at Summer Orientation and Registration (SOAR) led by our FSL staff to talk about opportunities in fraternities and sororities and answer any parent or new student questions. This is the first time this has been offered, was well received by participants, and demonstrates our commitment to promoting this opportunity to all new students.
Secondly, during my first year and through this external review, we heard concerns about the Committee on Student Organizations (CSO) Processes. I want to acknowledge the valuable work our staff and students have done in this area. We have decided to move this process from being managed by the Center for Leadership & Involvement (CfLI) to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards (OSCCS) effective Fall 2019. This will allow for the professional staff in OSCCS to provide expertise in this area. We will continue to have students involved in this process and will communicate other changes as they are developed with new oversight.
Finally, our work to enhance our efforts to create a safe and excellent fraternity and sorority community is just beginning. We know continuing the work from the external review process will require additional leadership and support. We have asked Maggie Hayes to lead our next steps on the external review process and we are providing additional staffing in FSL for this year to allow this to happen. We have great respect and confidence in the work Maggie, Sarah and the FSL team has done and will do to take us to the next level. In addition, I have asked Maggie to collect benchmark data from other Big Ten Schools and similarly sized FSL communities across the country. Using that data and then analyzing the required support needed to move the initial report priorities forward, a recommendation for future staffing levels, financial and program support of the community as well as a possible funding mechanism in support of their recommendation will be submitted.
As stated from the beginning, a primary value guiding this process is transparency. We will continue to involve all voices in the process and share information on our website: https://fsl.cfli.wisc.edu/external-review/. The next step is to host listening sessions to provide feedback on the report and our priority areas.
We hope you will work with us to create the most meaningful and safest experience for our fraternity and sorority members. On, Wisconsin!
Lori Reesor, Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
"The UW-Madison Panhellenic community is excited to continue to grow in size and in excellence for many years to come. In order to set ourselves up to achieve this long-lasting success, however, it is crucial to reflect upon both the strengths we possess and the areas in which we can improve. It is for this reason that I am excited for the announcement of this review - it will provide our community with an ability to look comprehensively and critically at ourselves so that we may continue to achieve our goals and ambitions as women and men in Fraternity & Sorority Life"
Katie Paxon, Panhellenic Association President
"I fully support the charge for an external review of the entire FSL Community. It will give our institutional leadership the awareness of the issues the community is having on a systematic and community-wide level, and this review could show where and what improvements could be made to give our students the ability to thrive as Greek leaders on this campus. With a community of 4,000+ students, this is a powerful number that can create lasting change on this campus if provided with the tools to do so."
Ace Hilliard, BS 2014, MS 2018, Sigma Lambda Gamma Sorority, Inc.
“I commend UW–Madison and the current leaders of UW fraternities and sororities for working together and taking this proactive step. I’m confident it will help the fraternity and sorority community remain a strong, vital, positive part of campus for years to come.”
Michael Shannon BBA 1980, Theta Chi Fraternity
"As one of the largest student organizations on campus here at UW-Madison, it is essential that we are continuously working to build a safer and more inclusive community for all. Thus, the reason I support this review is that it will allow us to identify where our community's strengths are and where there is room for improvement. I am confident that the findings from this review will provide beneficial insight and a strong foundation for Fraternity and Sorority Life to thrive at UW-Madison for years come."
Joey Levin, Interfraternity Council President