Greeks praise, critique weekend conference
| Audrey Dighans copy editor |
Each year at about 5 a.m., 400 Pitt State students are up, dressed and loading onto charter buses, paid for by the university, on their way to the Fraternal Leadership Summit (FLS). This year the $60,000 annual conference on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 16 and 17, was no exception.
Held in Fayetteville, Ark., at the University of Arkansas, Pitt State Greek students attended a weekend of seminars, speakers and various breakout sessions aimed at improving recruitment processes, philanthropy and leadership.
“FLS is designed to bring the Greek community together,” said Steven Erwin, associate vice president of campus life and auxiliary services. “This is our sixth or seventh year of holding FLS. It kicks off the school year and builds a better relationship with administration and PSU’s Greek community, which is a major portion of the campus community.”
Meagan Smejdir, programming coordinator for campus activities and PSU Greek adviser, also says FLS is a good opportunity for Greek students to focus on goal setting and be in the correct mindset for a successful year.
This year’s summit had two keynote speakers, one for the morning and afternoon sessions on Saturday. After the speakers, students attended breakout sessions on a variety of topics to improve their chapters, with a break for lunch and dinner.
“At the end of the day on Saturday we have what is called ‘chapter time’,” Erwin said. “For most of the chapters it is the first time they have been together all summer.”
Erwin added any alumni and regional members who attend also meet during chapter time, a time reserved for the members of each house to sit down and discuss what they have learned throughout the day.
“There is also some free time and evening entertainment,” Erwin said.
Josh Bergeron, sophomore in accounting, elaborated on this year’s entertainment at FLS.
“This year they paid $400 for the movie rights to ‘Hitch,’” he for the movie rights to ‘Hitch,’” he said. “It was meant to tie in after seeing the Date Dr. [David Coleman, one of the keynote speakers] give a presentation, but not a single person went.”
Bergeron added that last year when the summit was held in Kansas City, the entertainment was going to Worlds of Fun for a few hours.
“FLS doesn’t cost us anything,” Bergeron said. “It is all paid for by the university, but we’re fined if we don’t go. We’re the only campus organization fined for not going.”
Luke Walker says he was fined $75 last year for not attending the summit.
“I gave the school two months’ notice that I would still be working and wouldn’t be able to go,” said Walker, junior in automotive technolog. “This year I had some family plans that I canceled on because I figured the school doesn’t value me working, they won’t excuse me to attend family functions either.”
Walker added he doesn’t understand why Greeks should be fined for not attending FLS after they give advance notice.
Walker and Bergeron both added they disagree with the summit being held the weekend before classes start.
“It’s meant to ship us out of town so that the incoming freshmen don’t come over their first night at college looking for a party,” Bergeron said.
Bergeron is referring to what was traditionally known as Shark Night, the Saturday night before classes start, a night in which Gorillas went wild. Fraternity and off-campus parties attracted students and nonstudents alike. Injuries, underage drinking and recklessness were some of many reported incidents.
Despite Shark Night, Smejdir agrees the timing is less than ideal.
“Both my sorority women and fraternity men are pretty tired after a week of formal recruitment and house work week during the summit,” she said.
Walker also added he feels the university doesn’t trust the Greek community and it is silly to spend so much money just so fraternities don’t party.
“FLS is great for our new freshman sisters,” said Kristina Adams, junior in family consumer sciences. “They have just finished recruitment and it is their first real chance to get a feel of the Greek community.”
Though there is controversy over the attendance and benefits among PSU Greeks about FLS, Adams fully supports it.
“It’s a big Greek weekend getaway that builds a better community,” she said.
In contradiction to Bergeron’s statement of the Greeks being the only campus organization fined for not attending FLS, Adams says that is because the summit is open only to Greek students.
“That’s because no one has ever expressed wanting to join us in attending,” she said. However, Adams did say no invitation to other campus organizations has been extended.
Erwin says FLS is only open to the Greek community. Smejdir says because some of the funding is provided through student fees, it is open to all students.
“However, I don’t feel students outside of the Greek community would benefit from attending because the information would not be relevant to them, it’s focused on the Greeks,” she said.
Adams says she believes students who come with a positive attitude to FLS really do learn from attending.
“I got great ideas for this year’s upcoming Big Event, which I am directing,” she said.
Adams also says she agrees with the university’s idea of keeping Shark Night out of the equation.
“The Greeks get a bad rep already for partying,” she said. “I feel us attending FLS is a good tradeoff. If we’re out of town we can’t be blamed for partying on Shark Night and it makes us look good.”
Where da money at?
Charter buses. Guest speakers. Facilities. Food and $400 on movie night. So where exactly does the funding for FLS come from?
“I don’t have exact numbers,” Adams said. “From my understanding it is the university and student fees that pay for FLS.”
Walker and Bergeron also say the summit is paid for by student fees, as well as a few donations by alumni and the university.
“FLS costs about $100 per student,” Erwin said. “Labette Bank, Sodexo, Barnes & Noble have donated money and I believe $20,000 comes from the student fee council.”
This year’s summit averaged about $120 per student, with $20,000 of the total $60,000 spent coming from student fees while other organizations, such as Labette Bank and the Campus Activities Center, covered the other $40,000.
Erwin says the group of Greek leaders and their adviser, Smejdir, work hard to plan the weekend to save money.
“That’s why it has jumped around from location to location,” he said. “We’ve even held it on campus, which ended up costing us more on the entertainment side because we rented inflatables and opened it up for the whole university to attend.”