President Bahls addresses Greek system
On behalf of Augustana College Magazine, Amy Mynaugh talked with President Steve Bahls about the status of Augustana's Greek system. Mynaugh was the college's assistant director of student activities and director of Greek Life at the time.
Mynaugh: Is there any truth to the idea that the college is considering doing away with Augustana's fraternity and sorority community?
President Bahls: No, the college cherishes the Greek system. The Greek system is a longstanding tradition in higher education and at Augustana College in particular. We have found over the years that members of the Greek system often are leaders in student government and other organizations. Much of the social life around Augustana College surrounds the Greek system, and we think college should be a time when students are academically engaged but also have a social life. Likewise, Greek alumni have helped with recruiting students, and many have been members of our Board of Trustees.
Mynaugh: Based on your observations and experiences at Augustana, can you share some of the other contributions you believe our Greek community makes to the Augustana experience?
President Bahls: I'm very proud of our Greeks in the way they serve our local community. Much of the community service done by Augustana College students is coordinated by the Greeks, and it's particularly heartening to me when I see the Greeks involved with the King Center in Rock Island, Relay for Life, Big Brothers Big Sisters-and they're often wearing their Greek letters when serving to let the community know. I'm also impressed with the way Greek students are fully invested in Augustana College. By that I mean fully invested in their studies, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. A higher percentage of Greeks graduate on time than non-Greeks, and that is the same with respect to athletes. Students who are heavily involved in the social, co-curricular or extra-curricular life of the college have very high retention and graduation rates.
Mynaugh: Why is it important for Greek life to remain a part of Augustana's campus community?
President Bahls: It is important that we do not turn our back on tradition. One of the great things about Augustana College is its co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, and this includes Greek organizations. They have served us well in helping provide a social life for students, along with community service and leadership opportunities. What's worked well in the past will work well in the future. The system is not broken, and we shouldn't change it.
Mynaugh: What concerns do you have about the Greek system?
President Bahls: The college is concerned when we see hazing activity or hazing-like activity. And it's a sad fact that over the last five years there has been some hazing done by members of the Greek system. This cannot be tolerated under the laws of Illinois or the policies of Augustana College. The college is under a legal obligation to penalize those who engage in this hazing conduct, which puts the health of our students in jeopardy. So when alumni hear the college has penalized a sorority or fraternity, it is not because we don't like sororities or fraternities. It is because of our obligation under the law not to tolerate hazing and to take actions to prevent hazing from happening. And sometimes that involves penalties.
Mynaugh: How can Augustana's Greek alumni support the ongoing positive growth of our fraternities and sororities?
President Bahls: Greek alumni can help us by staying connected and continuing to mentor our students, letting them know that one can have fun at Augustana College without endangering the health of others or breaking the law. It's also helpful when alumni of Greek organizations provide externship and job opportunities. In today's economy, these opportunities to add real-life experience to a resumé are like gold. Also in today's economy, some students struggle with staying in college. Often parents have lost their jobs or a significant portion of their retirement account. Greek alumni who have been financially blessed with stable jobs can help provide scholarship assistance to members of the Greek system so they can stay in school. The countless ways Greek alumni can and do help our students are invaluable to us.