Outcomes of the 2021-2022 University Theme House–Special Interest: Fraternity & Sorority Life application and selection process
In a message to student leaders and advisors for Greek-letter organizations, the Undergraduate Residence Governance Council provides an overview of its considerations and decisions.
Dear Greek leaders and chapter advisors,
We’re pleased to share that we have completed the first University Theme House–Special Interest: Fraternity & Sorority Life (UTH-SI: FSL) application and selection process.
Thank you for your leadership and the support that you have given your organizations through this extremely challenging year. Leading a student organization is a huge undertaking under normal circumstances, and we are especially grateful for your willingness to do so during this difficult year of remote campus activities. We are writing today to share an overview of the application processes for University Theme Houses (UTH), the process and outcomes from this year’s UTH-SI: FSL process, the length of appointments to houses, and preliminary information about the next application cycle.
- Delta Delta Delta, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Sigma, Phi Kappa Psi, Pi Beta Phi, and Sigma Nu are previously housed organizations that will continue to be housed for the 2021-2022 academic year.
- We are also pleased to welcome five new organizations to housing for the 2021-2022 academic year: Chi Omega and Kappa Kappa Gamma, which were approved in the 2019-2020 process; and alpha Kappa Delta Phi, Alpha Phi, and Sigma Phi Epsilon, who were approved through this year’s process.
- Like all UTHs overseen by the CoRL process (discussed below), these organizations have received a one-year appointment for the 2021-2022 academic year.
- In the next application process, which will launch in winter of 2022, the ten fraternity and sorority houses will be allocated to the applicants who demonstrate the highest achievement according to the selection process criteria. Those chapters will be given four-year appointments that will begin in the 2022-2023 academic year.
We congratulate the continuing and newly housed organizations, and we thank those who put time and effort into submitting applications. We hope the feedback offered to all applicants will support chapters’ continued growth and improvement and provide helpful direction for those who reapply next year.
We recognize that this is a considerable shift in our practices and rationale for fraternity and sorority housing, especially for those chapters that have had campus housing for many years. We do not take this change lightly, and it is our intention that this new housing structure will affect positive change for the Greek system and our campus community. As our lengthy discussion below explains, we are confident that the values underlying this change — fairness and transparency of processes; inclusive, equitable access; accountability to values-driven high standards — are what can create the brightest possible future for Stanford’s Greek community at a time when Greek life is being contested here and across the country.
University Theme House process overview
As we shared with the ResX announcement in February, there are four types of University Theme Houses (UTH) including Academic, Co-op, Ethnic Theme Dorms and Fraternities and Sororities that are overseen by two governance structures with all decision-making ultimately residing with the Undergraduate Residence Governance Council (URGC).
Governance of Academic, Co-op, and Fraternities and Sororities
In the 2018 ResX report, the ResX task force affirmed the importance of a diverse set of themed housing options to continue to foster the unique learning and community experiences that characterize Stanford’s undergraduate education. The ResX recommendations also identified the need to establish a themed housing governing body to “ensure high programming standards and continued relevance to the student population.” The Committee on Residential Learning (CoRL) comprising faculty, staff and students and established via the Faculty Senate in 2017 to “ensure the highest standards of liberal education in the undergraduate residential experience,” was assigned oversight responsibility for three distinct types of University Theme Houses (UTH): Academic; Fraternities and Sororities; and Co-op.
CoRL has designed separate cyclical application and renewal processes for each of these three theme types, with some common elements and some that are specific to the type of student community they represent. Through these processes, CoRL reviews applications and submits recommendations to the Undergraduate Residence Governance Council (URGC), which is composed of the vice provosts for budget and auxiliaries management, student affairs, and undergraduate education. The CoRL process sets clear criteria for the various themed housing types, ensures that theme houses are achieving those standards, and allows new themes to be proposed periodically. The URGC receives the CoRL recommendations and makes the final determination on which proposals will be awarded housing as well as the house locations and the term length for approval. At the end of a UTH’s approved term, the UTH may apply for renewal, and new UTHs may also be proposed in each application cycle.
As you may know, this year the UTH-Academic (UTH-A) houses were the first to undergo the application and approval process. CoRL received twelve UTH-A applications and approved nine, with eight launching in fall 2021 and the ninth launching in fall 2022. Given the newness of the CoRL process, the abbreviated application window, and the new implementation of UTH-As in the ResX system overall, the UGRC granted eight approved houses an introductory one-year term, academic year 2021-22, and the ninth will defer its launch until fall 2022. UTH-A houses will reapply next year, along with any newly proposed themes, for a four-year term that will begin in fall 2022.
In the case of co-ops, student leadership is tied to houses being in operation, which was not the case this year, so there was no student leadership in place to develop a plan and apply. The co-op review process has thus been deferred to 2022. Academic year 2021-22 will constitute an interim year for co-ops, and the next review cycle will similarly result in new four-year terms.
Governance of Ethnic Theme Dorms
Ethnic Theme Dorms are also a part of the UTH program and are overseen by the URGC, through a subcommittee, much like CoRL, with expertise in the scholarship of race and ethnicity. The leadership of CoRL and the URGC jointly determined that the ethnic theme programs require a unique form of governance and oversight provided in partnership with the community centers. Ethnic theme communities have a longstanding, robust model to engage students in structured intellectual discovery and advance diversity, inclusion and belonging through a range of formal and informal programs. They are also tightly interwoven with the programming and communities of the four ethnic community centers. While a distinct form of governance, all decisions for all UTHs ultimately rest with the Undergraduate Residence Governance Council.
UTH-SI: FSL process and outcomes
The UTH-SI: FSL process launched in early April 2021. CoRL provided organizational leaders an overview of the process, the timeline and criteria for review. It also offered an information session (recorded for those unable to attend) and the opportunity to receive feedback on application drafts. In addition to the written application, each chapter participated in a short conversation with the CoRL subcommittee.
CoRL received sixteen UTH-SI: FSL applications with fourteen completing the process. Currently housed and unhoused organizations were evaluated separately. The URGC has approved eleven applications for UTH-SI: FSL housing for fall of 2021, applying the following priorities:
- Honoring the CoRL criteria and recommendations;
- Aligning with the ResX guiding principles (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Community and Belonging; Intellectual and Personal Growth; and Health and Well-being).
URGC also matched chapters to the houses that best meet the needs of each organization.
Delta Delta Delta, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Sigma, Phi Kappa Psi, Pi Beta Phi, and Sigma Nu are previously housed organizations that will continue to be housed for the 2021-2022 academic year. We are also pleased to welcome five new organizations to housing this year: Chi Omega and Kappa Kappa Gamma who were approved by the process in 2019-2020; and alpha Kappa Delta Phi, Alpha Phi, and Sigma Phi Epsilon who were approved through this year’s process. The four fraternities will be placed in four houses and the seven sororities will be placed in six houses filling the ten allocated fraternity and sorority houses.
With this year’s process, it was important that we recognize that our fraternities and sororities have gone through an annual review process with the Standards of Excellence since 2014. Through that process, currently housed organizations have effectively received a commitment from the university to be housed for the 2021-2022 academic year, and we are honoring this commitment. However, this year’s review process demonstrated that not all currently housed organizations are achieving equal outcomes. Some currently housed chapter applications were truly excellent; others fell significantly short of expectations for what we consider to be high-achieving organizations. We have shared our specific feedback with each organization to ensure that there is clarity on what areas need improvement for the organization to be a competitive applicant for housing in the next cycle.
Length of term for housing
The UTH-SI: FSL process raised the question of how long an organization should be appointed to occupy a house. In our current system, some houses are allocated in perpetuity (unless removed for violations of university policy) while others have been allocated for a specific number of years. The URGC deliberated extensively on what, if any, term length should apply to UTH-SI: FSL. Four primary considerations emerged that merit substantial discussion here.
First, as the URGC reviewed the applications, the CoRL recommendations and feedback from Fraternity and Sorority Life professional staff advisors, there was clear evidence that the 15 months of the pandemic significantly disrupted the level of activity and coherence of multiple chapters, as has been the case with many other Stanford registered student organizations. Given this, the URGC wished to provide an opportunity for chapters to regroup and reconnect before committing to long-term housing assignments. Thus, all chapters approved in this year’s process are granted a pilot one-year term (academic year 2021-2022) and will be asked to reapply, alongside unhoused chapters interested in housing, for the fall of 2022. This will also allow chapters time to incorporate feedback effectively.
Second, the URGC gave lengthy consideration to the campus context surrounding access to dedicated Greek housing. Greek housing has been a controversial topic on our campus for a number of years. Most recently, Abolish Stanford Greek (ASG–a coalition of students and alumni) and the ASSU Executives have advocated for eliminating Greek housing altogether. We have spoken with ASG and ASSU about their student-led campus survey and their objections to Greek life housing. While we share their goals of improving equity, inclusion, safety and wellbeing, we envision a different path to achieving these goals. The opportunity to learn and grow should be a core component of all recognized student organizations. We believe that Greek chapter members should be given the opportunity to learn and effect change in the areas listed above with support from the many resources in VPSA, VPUE, SHARE and more.
Several chapters shared that this year’s UTH-SI: FSL process and the CoRL criteria constituted the most transparent process to date, and CoRL intends to use further feedback and lessons learned from this year to refine criteria and processes for the fall 2022 application cycle. It is critical that we do our part, as a university, to provide clear, transparent standards that embody university values and the core ResX principles — and that define for Greek chapters what constitutes excellence and how it will be assessed. Chapter leaders have been asking for clear criteria and metrics, and the criteria applied in this year’s CoRL process are a strong step in this direction. The CoRL committee will continue to work with the Fraternity and Sorority Life office to develop the criteria and ensure alignment with the Fraternity and Sorority accreditation process, currently known as the Standards of Excellence (SoE).
Third, unhoused Greek chapters have voiced their dissatisfaction and frustration that, prior to the pandemic, they had no hope of gaining housing unless another chapter was removed for serious university policy violations. Several have also contended that their organizations are equally, if not more, deserving of the privilege of housing than some currently housed chapters. We agree that access to a dedicated campus residence should be a privilege afforded to the highest achieving chapters as demonstrated through clear alignment with established criteria. We also believe that chapters that gain housing should be assessed and held accountable to these criteria on a predictable cycle — and that all organizations that desire housing should have the opportunity periodically to apply and demonstrate their achievements.
Fourth and finally, and very importantly, our decision was influenced by the work of the Greek life working groups and by reading through your applications. It is clear that you know there is work to be done, that you are committed to that work, and that you want to be a part of making our campus better for all students. We believe in you and your ability to take on this work.
In summary, with these considerations, we have decided to: (1) assign housing for one year (academic year 2021-2022) for the organizations that were approved in this application cycle; (2) appoint chapters to four-year housing terms, beginning in the 2022-2023 academic year. The 2022-2023 process will be open to all interested Greek chapters, and houses will be allocated to the highest performing chapters according to the process criteria. This timeline will also provide the opportunity for all chapters to strengthen their organizations and to gather and incorporate feedback for the next application cycle.
Next application process
As we continue to refine this housing allocation process, we will seek feedback. The next application process for housing through CoRL will begin early in winter quarter 2022. We hope that all fraternities and sororities that believe that housing will strengthen their organizations, their neighborhoods and our campus will consider applying to be housed. We do anticipate that next year, in addition to the application materials and feedback from your Stanford organizational advisors, we will include Organization Conduct Board records and, if you are housed, feedback from your organization’s neighborhood community council in the review process.
As you plan for next year, we encourage you to focus on the CoRL criteria, which will continue to be the foundation of the application process, along with certain refinements as to what constitutes success in each of the criteria categories. Also, consider what contributions your organization can make for its members as well as for the broader campus community, and, for housed organizations, the neighborhood in which you are housed. Given the current campus-wide work through IDEAL and the most recent data from the AAU and alcohol and drug surveys, we also ask that you each consider how your organization can make a meaningful, action-driven commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, combating high-risk behaviors with drugs and alcohol and eradicating sexual violence on our campus.
We recognize that this is a lot of information and change to process. Some of you may be concerned about how this may affect your organizations, your members and your time on campus. We and your FSL advisors are here to help you lead your organizations through this change. You may also be concerned about the impact these changes will have on campus social life. We share this concern, and we also want to see social life become more robust than in the recent past. We are optimistic that the current student-led initiatives like The Social Project, as well as efforts in your chapters, have already begun to transform students’ experiences of social life. There is more to do, and we believe that we can make our campus better together. Through the many individual and group conversations we’ve had with you over the last few years, we know you are committed to this work and to ensuring excellence in our fraternity and sorority community. Thank you for your continued partnership and commitment to our campus.
Vice Provost for Student Affairs
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education
Vice Provost for Budget and Auxiliaries Management