Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Are Fines Really Fine?

Note: The primary audience for this post is College Panhellenics.

As we navigate College Panhellenic recruitment processes, one concept appears over and over again: Accountability. It is often difficult to confront our peers when our procedures are violated and it can be very hard to propose and agree upon sanctions that serve as a reminder to the offending organization while restoring harmony within the community. Often, because it is one of the first things to come to mind, it seems that a fine would suffice. People may even assume the sanction for every offense can be dealt with by paying a fine, even asking before breaking a rule, “What’s the fine if we do X?” However, the NPC Unanimous Agreement regarding the judicial procedure has some very specific instructions:

In short, fines should be used sparingly and only in certain conditions. Here are some key takeaways and deeper explanation for understanding:

Fines are for very limited use.
As women of good character, we should use violations as opportunities to develop and improve our actions. Simply fining one another does not accomplish this. Because fines are so prescriptive, they can lead to nit-picky rules that take more effort to enforce than they are worth and can often overwhelm the spirit of Positive Panhellenic Contact. The best sanctions give the offending organization a clearer picture of what went wrong, an opportunity to correct the mistake and a plan for improvement in the future. Additionally, some chapters may choose to save up for fines, allowing a certain amount of disregarding the rules, which defeats the purpose of having agreed-upon standards. So, fines should be reserved for very specific violations and should only be used in those circumstances.

Fines must be clearly stated in the College Panhellenic’s policies.
Here are some examples of a rule that discusses a fine:
Not good: Chapters that submit their invitation list late will be fined.
This example leaves a lot to be desired. What if a list is late? Should the College Panhellenic charge the chapter $10,000? Certainly not. Should the College Panhellenic charge $10 to one sorority and $500 to another? Again, no. The fine amount should be included in the recruitment rules.
Better: Chapters that submit their invitation list late will be fined $25.
This one is closer to correct. The amount of the fine is included, but consider where you want to stop. Is being 25 minutes late the same thing as being six hours late? In this case, it probably isn’t.
Best: Chapters that submit their invitation list late will be fined $25. For every hour they are late, another $25 will be added.
This rule states the amount of the fine, when the period for the fine begins, and when/if it compounds. There is no room for debate about how to apply this fine; it is all set beforehand.

Because fines are measurable amounts, they must be for measurable offenses.
For example, if a College Panhellenic wants to have policies about whether or not flowers will be permitted in a certain round of recruitment events, a fine would not be an appropriate sanction for a sorority that violates that rule. That sorority would need to participate in the College Panhellenic judicial process, beginning with informal conversation and then moving forward with a mediation if needed to determine what sanction would be appropriate. The best examples of fineable offenses include timelines ($50 per day that the College Panhellenic dues check is late) or the ability to accurately determine the number of times a specific violation occurs ($10 per time a chapter is not represented at a scheduled College Panhellenic meeting). Digging deeper, many fineable offenses are accidental or at least unintentional, such as missing deadlines. In the example of the 'flower rule' above, rather than simply writing a check, the sorority involved really should have to sit down and explain why they disregarded a clear rule prohibiting flowers.

Fines must be voted on by the chapter delegates in advance.
For a fine to be enforceable, the fine must be clearly stated and it must be voted on in advance by the chapters’ Panhellenic delegates. The College Panhellenic cannot arbitrarily assign fines to organizations that violate policies and those organizations should not accept arbitrary fines. For example, if a chapter violates a policy, the College Panhellenic may not simply decide to fine them unless it is already clearly stated in the rules. A fine that was not voted on by the delegates beforehand is never an acceptable sanction.

Fines are not the same thing as restitution.
The restrictions around fines do not mean that sororities cannot face sanctions that cost money. For example, consider that Alpha Beta Gamma sorority painted signs for an event and made a mess that damaged the property of Delta Epsilon sorority next door. While a fine would not be an appropriate sanction, it would be appropriate for Alpha Beta Gamma to take responsibility for the cost of repairs at Delta Epsilon. Or, if Delta Epsilon’s members have used social media to slander other sororities on campus, it is completely appropriate to ask that they fund and host a snack-supper and facilitator to meet with all of the chapter presidents to discuss the social media issues on campus.

Fines should not be a part of your College Panhellenic budget.
When fines are collected from sororities, they should be set aside and used for an agreed-upon cause. The Panhellenic Council might consider giving the fines to a charitable cause, a scholarship fund, or a one-time expense such as a new computer for the office or contribution to an ongoing campus project. But, they should never be included in the College Panhellenic’s plans and budgets. Expecting and needing certain amounts of fines to make ends meet creates a goal for collected fines, which is not healthy. The job of the College Panhellenic is to support its chapters and enable their success, rather than look for opportunities to punish them. Ideally, no one will violate and policies and no one will accrue any fines.

Panhellenic judicial procedures still apply.
If a sorority commits a fineable offense, the College Panhellenic should still complete a notice of infraction form and send it to the sorority. The sorority can choose to pay the fine, or they could still choose to have a mediation if they wish. For example, if a sorority submits an invitation list late and receives a notice of infraction form, they can still ask for mediation. Say the list was 45 minutes late and the sorority wants to ask the fine be excused or reduced because they experienced a power outage during the time they were working on the list. The College Panhellenic could choose to take that into consideration based on any number of things (e.g., Was it a two-hour power outage or a 10-minute power outage?), but the sorority has the right to ask for the mediation and both sides have the right to appeal if they cannot agree, as they would in any other proceeding.

How are fines handled on you campus? How can your College Panhellenic help improve how fines are handled in your community? How can you utilize the judicial process better to help create change? See Helpful Tips for the College Panhellenic Judicial Process for more information. 

Share your responses in the comments! 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

From the NPC Chairman: A sincere commitment to academic excellence

In the coming weeks college students will be returning to campuses to begin the 2019-20 academic year. With their arrival comes the excitement of a new year, the welcoming of new members and the importance our organizations and Panhellenic communities put on lifelong learning and academic excellence.

Research indicates that students today have an intense focus on career readiness. They are more career-driven and academically focused, with many of them finding that being in a sorority holds them back as opposed to enhancing their academic focus. This puts the burden of providing relevant and engaging academic and career programming on our member organizations and Panhellenic communities so they are preparing members for life after college.

According to a 2014 Gallup-Purdue University Index study of U.S. college graduates, it’s not the type institution you attend, but it’s the support you receive that matters. Graduates who were emotionally supported during college have more than double the odds of being engaged in their work and nearly three times as likely to be thriving in life after college. Sorority members report higher well-being and workplace engagement, which they attribute in large part to the support of their member organization as well as the institutions of higher learning they attended. This is confirmation that sororities do indeed provide significant benefits in helping women graduate and as sorority women it is our mission to educate others about the role our organizations have in ensuring the success of members. 

As we begin a new academic term, I encourage our Panhellenic Councils and member organization chapters to take an active role in providing effective programming and recognition in order to establish a culture in the sorority community that fosters academic excellence. Scholarship is one of NPC’s building blocks for advocacy and we need to teach our members to take an active role in their education and learn to be their own advocate. Encourage them to be proactive about using resources available on campus and be the person who’s not afraid to speak up when they need help. Talk about the importance of getting to know their professors with the goal of attending professor office hours during the first few weeks of the semester. This lets the professor know they are serious about doing well in class.

According to the Gallup-Purdue survey results, college graduates who had a professor who cared about them as a person, made them excited about learning and encouraged them to pursue their dreams, are more engaged in the work force than those that did not. Building strong mentoring relationships is key to establishing a support system whether it’s with a professor, sorority/fraternity advisor, chapter advisor, alumnae member or peer. Those mentoring relationships and the academic standards you set will enable NPC and its 26 member organizations to continue to promote our consistent message that the sorority experience adds value and enriches lives.

By educating sorority women on the importance of academic success, you are helping them fulfill their academic potential and live up to the scholastic ideal stated in the Panhellenic Creed:

We, as Undergraduate Members of women’s fraternities, stand for good scholarship, for guarding of good health, for maintenance of fine standards and for serving, to the best of our ability, our college community.”

Moreover, through effective programming and recognition, a College Panhellenic can establish a culture within the sorority community that demonstrates a sincere commitment to academic excellence.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

From the NPC Chairman: A new journey for NPC

“It takes courage to let go of the familiar and embrace the new.” Anonymous

On July 1, the National Panhellenic Conference transitioned to a new organizational and governance structure designed to make the Conference more nimble and responsive to the most pressing challenges facing students, campus partners and the greater Panhellenic community. The new structure includes a seven-member Board of Directors with an elected chairman, a Council of Delegates with one delegate from each of NPC's 26 member organizations, many opportunities for NPC committee and volunteer service and an enhanced staff.

The NPC Board of Directors consists of five members elected to service by the Council of Delegates and two directors appointed by their member organization on a rotational basis. The directors lead NPC and have authority and responsibility for overseeing the affairs of the Conference by establishing corporate policy, setting the strategic direction, overseeing and securing resources and monitoring organizational performance. The Council of Delegates elects the NPC chairman.
The 2019-21 NPC Board of Directors include:
Carole Jones, chairman, Alpha Omicron Pi
Cheri De Jong, treasurer, Sigma Kappa
Mary Baker, Alpha Chi Omega
Laura Doerre, Kappa Alpha Theta
Rie Hoehner, Alpha Gamma Delta
Malaea Seleski, Zeta Tau Alpha
Laura Sweet, Sigma Sigma Sigma

The NPC Chief Executive Officer, Dani Weatherford, serves on the NPC Board of Directors as corporate secretary with a voice but no vote.

(Pictured front row, left to right: Malaea Seleski, Laura Sweet, Rie Hoehner;
Pictured back row, left to right: Dani Weatherford, Laura Doerre, Carole Jones,
Mary Baker and Cheri De Jong)

This historic change in governance will equip NPC to be a stronger, more strategic ally to our campus-based colleagues on topics such as changing demographics, college affordability, different educational experiences that impact our organizations and the relevancy of lifetime membership when more and more of our members are looking for a transactional experience. As Panhellenic communities continue to look to NPC as a resource and a convener, this new organizational structure reflects our desire to further expand our capacity to serve such a role.

An important component of the new structure is the addition of the chief Panhellenic officer (CPO) for each member organization. The CPO now is the primary member organization contact for NPC and the 26 member organizations for campus issues and directs all incoming and outgoing communication regarding chapter and alumnae issues specifically as it relates to College and Alumnae Panhellenics.

As we embark on this new journey in NPC, staff and volunteers will partner together to accomplish their work ensuring that greater resources and staff-level engagement will focus on priorities ranging from recruitment and membership growth, enhanced data collection and communication efforts advocating for the sorority experience.

It’s an exciting time for NPC and our member organizations, and I am confident that with all of us working together we will continue to provide a transformational and meaningful sorority experience for today’s young women.


Carole J. Jones
NPC Chairman 2019-21

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A Message From the NPC Chairman: Living our values and telling the positive story of sorority

Summertime…and the living is easy! That is certainly a phrase we all need to heed so we can use the summer months to step back from our busy lives, slow down a bit and approach the fall and new academic year refreshed and ready to recruit new members.

As sorority members, we all know our organizations provide great value to every member and to every potential member on campus. Our respective groups were founded on ideals and standards of behavior that respectable members of society would applaud. However, even though collectively, we are one of the largest, most visible and most active values-based organizations on college and university campuses, the perception–and too often the reality–is that fraternities and sororities have fallen away from their values. That said, it’s all of our responsibilities, collegians and alumnae, to live our values and tell the positive sorority story.

  • Every NPC organization is guided by founding principles and values that serve as a moral beacon for its members. We use educational programming to help our members incorporate these principles and values into their daily lives, and our emphasis on values helps college women develop the moral foundation for their future actions.
  • We are the nation’s largest network of young volunteers. Sorority women are committed to improving the world in which we live. Each year, NPC-affiliated collegians and alumnae donate more than $28 million to worthy causes and volunteer almost five million hours in their communities. Our emphasis on volunteerism prepares members for a lifetime of community involvement.
  • Our comprehensive leadership programs teach values-based management skills to our members and our members graduate with the management and interpersonal skills needed to excel in today’s work environment.

Then there’s the softer side. Sorority membership provides our members with a safe environment for personal growth and development. Friendship is the cornerstone of sorority membership and it was friendship that brought together the founders of all 26 member organizations.

There’s also the support we give one another as Panhellenic sisters, enabling us to meet the challenges we face in today’s world. NPC has a rich history that embodies unified coalitions among women. I am certain that each of you, as a collegian or alumna, has experienced the power of Panhellenic women working together.

All of these components–living our values, volunteerism, philanthropy, leadership programming and friendship–are part of each of our stories. It’s our responsibility to share our experiences so that the young women participating in recruitment today will have heard about our organizations long before they enter college. We are the best public relations we have.

So, this summer, as potential new members consider sorority membership, remember to share your sorority story and promote the sorority experience!


Carole J. Jones
NPC Chairman 2017-19

Monday, June 10, 2019

2019 Photo Contest : Share Your Story

Today marks the beginning of the 2019 NPC and TSL Photo Contest! The contest will be open until July 10 with the two winners selected by July 15. The winners will either receive an instax mini 9 camera or a $50 NPC Store Voucher.

Every sorority woman's story is unique and we want to showcase the authentic experience through real sorority women! Whether it is spending time with your sisters at home or volunteering to read with children at the local elementary school, we want to see it! Share your pictures with us and have a chance to be featured on the National Panhellenic Conference website and social media or on our soon-to-be revamped The Sorority Life website and social media page.

Submit photos here.

The contest rules are as follows.

We know that sorority isn't just for four years, so photos of all collegiate and alumnae women are welcomed and appreciated. All that we ask is that there be 1-15 women and that the photo is brightly lit and not edited. Each photo will count as one submission towards the drawing with a max of six submissions per person. You are more than welcome to submit more than six photos since they may still be selected for the sites; however, only six submissions to the drawing will be counted. 

NPC can't wait to showcase all the adventures you have as sorority women! This is your chance to share your story. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

A Message From the NPC Chairman: Taking our priorities directly to Capitol Hill

Cherry blossoms weren’t the only things making their presence known in Washington, D.C., during the month of April. On April 10, more than 250 fraternity and sorority members, both alumni and students, were on Capitol Hill advocating for sororities and fraternities and the value the experience provides to our members. 

Our organizations create a unique community of support. They are the one place on a college campus, where through a shared single-sex experience, young women or men can enjoy a sense of belonging, empowerment and personal development.

This is why, each year since 2002, the Fraternal Government Relations Coalition (FGRC), which is a collaborative effort between the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), Fraternity/Sorority Political Action Committee (FSPAC) and Fraternity and Sorority Action Fund (FSAF), goes to Washington, D.C., to advocate for and educate legislators on the value of sororities and fraternities and the policy priorities important to NPC and NIC.

The FGRC collectively represents 92 single-sex fraternities and sororities nationwide with more than 800,000 undergraduate members at over 9,500 chapters on almost 700 campuses, as well as more than 9.1 million alumni. The NPC and NIC set and execute the advocacy agenda for the FGRC.

This year, our group had more than 460 meetings on Capitol Hill between fraternity/sorority members and legislators or their staff, focused on the value of the fraternity/sorority experience and two higher education policy priorities. The first priority is to ensure our members’ freedom of association rights are not being violated by any institution of higher education that accepts federal financial aid. The second is for Congress to enhance federal disclosure laws related to hazing so parents and students will know which student organizations provide an experience that is meaningful and does not risk the health and safety of its members.

These topics directly align with the NPC Government Relations Platform, specifically Pillar One: Preservation of the sorority experience and Pillar Two: Advancement of student and campus safety. 

Working together with like-minded individuals and organizations, we will continue to build support for the soon-to-be-introduced Collegiate Freedom of Association Act (CFAA), which focuses on:
  • Preserving students’ ability to choose the organization they want to associate with by preventing universities from taking adverse actions against students who are members of fraternities and sororities simply because they chose to join a single-sex organization.
  • Protecting the rights of single-sex organizations to define their own membership criteria by preventing universities from requiring our organizations to admit members that do not meet our membership criteria.
  • Providing all student organizations with equal treatment under the law by ensuring universities cannot impose operational policies or restrictions on single-sex organizations, including the timing of recruitment, that are not imposed on other student organizations.
We are also working with elected officials to introduce the END ALL Hazing Act that requires colleges and universities to have a webpage with information about any student organization that has been disciplined for hazing or other misconduct that threatened the well-being of students in the last five years. Additionally, we continue to support the REACH Act (H.R. 662/S. 706) – Report and Educate About Campus Hazing – which would require universities to include incidents of hazing in their Clery Act reporting and provide students with educational programming related to hazing.

Our organizations’ values of character and dignity guide our members in their daily lives as they serve their university communities. The value of protecting our single-sex experience and keeping our members safe now and into the future cannot be overstated, and NPC will continue to lead the way in advocating for the sorority experience and the health and safety of our members.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Alumnae Panhellenic Success Story: Northern Nevada Alumnae Panhellenic Welcome Program

NPC recently spoke with representatives of the Northern Nevada Alumnae Panhellenic Association (NNAP) located near Reno, Nevada, about the programs they hold throughout the year. Here's what they shared: 

NPC: What topics does your Alumnae Panhellenic typically highlight during the year for programming? 
NNAP: We have a Welcome Ceremony every May to welcome graduating sorority members into alumnae status. We hold an International Badge Day luncheon and invite collegians to the luncheon as well. Starting in 2020, we will be adding a scholarship component to the luncheon and we will be giving out one or two scholarships at the luncheon. We host multiple Sorority 101 events in the spring and summer for young women graduating high school and their parents to inform them of the benefits of sorority membership in college. We hold a minimum of two sisterhood events a year, and we provide outreach to other Panhellenic groups.

NPC: What do these events look like?
NNAP: We will hold the Welcome Ceremony one of the sorority houses near the University of Nevada-Reno campus. We expect 25-30 graduates as well as 10-15 alumnae to attend.

The International Badge Day Luncheon grows every year and this year we hosted approximately 60 sorority members. We are hoping for 75-85 attendees next year. It is held at a local event space.  

Sorority 101 will take place at some of the high schools and another location to be determined during the summer. We have been doing this event for several years.  

Our two sisterhood events this year were a Halloween-themed Bunco event, where we brought items for Lexie’s Gift, a local nonprofit (see below). We recently held an arts and crafts themed-event at our local “Board & Brush,” which is a place where you create wooden signs and artwork for your home.  

Finally, we hold an annual membership party in the summer where we come together to socialize, plan for the upcoming year and celebrate our sisterhoods. It is also a time when we collect dues and encourage membership in the Northern Nevada Alumnae Panhellenic (NNAP)!  

We also have continued our book club. They meet every other month at the homes of the members.

NPC: How does your Alumnae Panhellenic promote and support programming opportunities? Why is programming a priority for your Alumnae Panhellenic?
NNAP: We have an extensive email list that includes delegates and members and we promote our events through our meetings and emails. Programming has always been a priority for NNAP as we realize we are bigger than our individual sorority membership and it is a wonderful way to get to know so many sorority women in our community. 

NPC: What else would you like to share with fellow Alumnae Panhellenics about your events and programming?
NNAP: We have continued to be involved in our local community and supporting other women through various community entities, one of which is Lexie’s Gift. Lexie’s Gift provides clothing, school supplies and other items that students and young adults in the Northern Nevada area need. NNAP members regularly volunteer here and we just finished working with Lexie’s Prom Closet during the months of January-March, where prom dresses, shoes, accessories and tuxedos/suits were provided, free of cost, to any high school student in the area.  

We also support the individual sorority’s philanthropies by attending events held throughout the year. It is just another example of “women supporting women” in the Northern Nevada area!