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Initiative To Assist FSILG Retention

By Marie Y. Thibault

A new spending initiative from MIT will commit $250,000 to building community in fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups — an effort with unclear benefits, said Interfraternity Council President Christopher P. Child ’06.

The new plan, called the Recruitment and Retention Initiative, is intended to help FSILG members become more financially self-sufficient. It will allocate money for workshops and retreats designed to educate FSILG members, develop chapters, and strengthen alumni and community relations.

Stephen D. Immerman, senior associate dean for student life, said he did not know exactly how the $250,000 RRI figure was determined, but that most likely it was calculated by taking the fixed cost per person, $5,000, and multiplying it by the number of beds open, then subtracting savings from the FSILG cooperative and various grants.

“We want to focus on how we can enhance a chapter’s ability to be competitive instead of just pay for empty beds,” said Stephen D. Immerman, senior associate dean of student life, this summer.

Unlike its predecessor, the Financial Transition Plan, RRI funds will not be distributed directly to houses. Instead, chapters can apply for hardship grants funded within the RRI allotment if they have made efforts to improve their financial situation but continue to struggle, said David N. Rogers, director of FSILGs .

The FTP, which ended last spring, distributed $250,000 to FSILGs during the 2004–2005 year, Immerman said. IFC officials and MIT administrators disagreed over the total amount the FTP should have disbursed over its three years, with student officials asserting a $220,000 shortfall.

Since Fall 2002, when all freshmen were first required to live in undergraduate dormitories, FSILGs with houses have had fewer residential members, resulting in less income for most.

Immerman was uncertain about the most recent gap between FSILG operating expenses and income.

RRI to include retreats, speakers

The RRI will fund several programs including a three-week leadership course, called Greek Institute, as well as Recruitment 101, a type of boot camp on recruitment methods, Rogers said. Participants will also listen to speakers and learn to change the way they think, act, behave, and recruit.

RRI will be successful if it becomes more than just a one-year fix and effects a long-term increase in FSILG pledges and permanent members, Rogers said. It aims to build a foundation for improvement, he said, and “we need to keep the momentum going.”

FTP was based on a formula using numbers of empty beds, but the goal of RRI is to provide a lasting solution to the FSILG struggle to remain financially viable, he said.

Child said that he does not expect the RRI to have as direct and helpful an impact as the FTP since many fraternity members may not be aware of it. Even if they participate in the activities, the positive effects are unclear, he said.

While some details of the RRI are yet been determined, $3,000 has already been spent on retreats, Rogers said. A committee, made up of members of the Association of Independent Living Groups, Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Association, Living Group Council, and FSILG staff, is forming subcommittees focused on marketing and development, Rogers said.

Empty beds an ongoing problem

Has the financial viability of the fraternities improved over the last year? Immerman said that he was certain that on average it had, though the situation varies from chapter to chapter.

Child said that the main deterrent to financial viability has been the lack of members. There has been a dip this year and last year in freshmen pledges due to the both smaller size of and lower percentage of males in the Class of 2009. Although recruitment percentage increased compared to last year, the actual number of pledges remained at the same low.

All houses are also eligible for aid through the Independent Residence Development Fund Construction Loans, Educational Project, and Educational Operating Grants. The educational grants reimburse FSILGs for educational space such as libraries and study rooms in their houses. Christopher R. Rezek, executive director of the FSILG Cooperative, said that “pretty much everybody” has applied for IRDF grants, which amount to an estimated total of $500,000 to $700,000.

Students have become more interested in pursuing several activities, and some worry about the time commitment of an organization such as an FSILG, Immerman said. One if the aims of the RRI is to send a clear message about the value of being an FSILG member, he said.

The effects of RRI this year will be observed before decisions are made about future funding, Rogers said.