Infusing Mission and Values Congruence in Accreditation Programs
John DiSarro, University of Rochester
Brandon J. Cutler, Ball State University
Monica Miranda Smalls, University of Rochester
In an age where fraternity/sorority advisors see news headlines reading “Prosecutors Charge Five in the Death of a Student” far more frequently than ones such as “Fraternity Uses Basketball to Keep Kids Busy During Summer,” it can be difficult to reduce the focus on risk management and have forward-thinking conversations about values congruence. What would happen if advisors confronted high-risk behaviors through that very discussion: by ensuring actions are congruent with fraternal and institutional values, bringing values into action, and affecting significant, positive change within the fraternal community? If campuses and organizations had values-congruent fraternal communities, would that not, in turn, reduce the risk about which advisors are usually so concerned? Integrating a values-based accreditation process is critical for empowering and educating students to become contributors to their organizations and institutions. One of the strategies to do this is through a successful, sustained accreditation program. The following are key ingredients.
Determine what it means for organizations to be “relevant.” First, identify the values, standards, or mission that will become the expectation for chapter performance and determine what it means for a chapter to be relevant. Looking at the inter/national guiding missions of the organizations aligns chapters with the standards they elect to uphold and creates longevity and sustainability. Additionally, implementing the curricular and co-curricular philosophy of the institution demonstrates congruence with the institution and resonates with faculty, thus increasing connection and relevance. Relevance is established by clearly linking the values and expectations of the chapter members to those of the organization and institution.
Develop chapter outcomes that promote success. A successful accreditation model:
- helps chapter leaders focus on chapter behavior that needs to be changed;
- challenges students to be honest and develop a greater self-awareness;
- serves as a guideline for growth, content, instruction, and evaluation;
- identifies specifically what should be achieved and learned; and
- conveys to members exactly what to accomplish.
The autonomy students experience through this process leads them to be more engaged in their activities and demonstrates higher performance, persistence, and creativity (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Autonomy can be supported by providing extensive, qualitative feedback about enacting practices chapters already see as having value. Provisions and sanctions should direct an organization to engage in behaviors that exemplify its values. Effective outcomes help the organization set realistic yet challenging goals and connect them with resources that will promote success. Creating these outcomes requires a comprehensive understanding of a chapter, and its particular needs, strengths, and challenges.
Support a philosophical shift in performance assessment.Implementing a values-based accreditation program requires certain paradigm changes. First, assessing a chapter’s achievement of its mission or values requires a qualitative rather than quantitative assessment. Success should be measured not through completing a certain number of criteria, but by setting realistic goals and examining the intended outcome or benefit of their activities. Chapters should reflect honestly on their accomplishments, shortfalls, internal accountability, and conduct expectations. Leaders need to invest in candid and honest conversations about chapter performance and allow chapters to chart their own course to success. As part of this philosophical shift, advisors must be committed to discovering and understanding the nature of fraternity and sorority student culture.
Utilize accreditation as an advising tool. Accreditation programs can be outstanding resources for advisors. Working with stakeholders to develop a chapter improvement plan and general outline for the year provides chapters with the rationale they need for change and the direction they need to improve. Additionally, advisors can utilize feedback from an accreditation review to provide chapters with honest and candid feedback regarding their accreditation proposals and chapter performance. Formal accreditation provides a consistent message between campus/chapter advisors and inter/national staff about chapter performance, increasing the ability of both groups to have values-based conversations that resonate with the chapter members. This collaboration also creates ample opportunities to support and challenge chapter leaders to demonstrate their values on a daily basis.
Allow students to plan their own success. Mission-focused accreditation models should emphasize student autonomy, leading chapters to discover for themselves how best to enact their values. Allowing students to self-reflect and develop their own perspectives promotes more mature decision making and effective citizenship (Baxter Magolda & King, 2004). Through a qualitative and reflective self-assessment, chapters identify their own strengths and weaknesses and correct their own shortcomings. Effective accreditation programs direct students to skill-development resources, such as staff or programs, which emphasize strategic planning and create favorable chapter outcomes based on their established standards. Utilizing these resources also improves students’ connection to the institution and enhances their ability to remain self-sustaining and goal-oriented. The central focus of an accreditation program should be their mission and action congruence, relevance to that mission, responsible behavior, and student ownership.
Partner with campus and fraternal organization resources. Mandating that chapters be values-driven organizations requires a support structure that provides resources to achieve success. These resources come through the intense commitment from the university and its constituents. Students, faculty, alumni, and staff must all be instrumental in the development and implementation of the community. These partnerships should extend between campuses and fraternal organizations. Starting a conversation about how organization and campus accreditation programs complement one another is a method that can help identify consistencies and leads the chapter to be more successful in both processes.
Recognize both challenges and opportunities for success.Implementing an accreditation model is not easy. There will always be naysayers, especially in times of change. Being persistent and repetitive in branding the accreditation program, as well as in finding allies in students, staff, and alumni can assist in getting non-believers to change their minds. The process takes time, relying on continuing conversations about how to support relevant and values-based fraternal communities. Human and financial resources are always a limitation, especially in the current economy, and advisors should be prepared to face challenges in finding both. Yet, accreditation programs provide great opportunities for partnership. The information gleaned from values-based accreditation models offers data to campuses and organizations that can inform budget considerations, resource alignment, and support for a chapter’s success. If chapters are more aligned with their values, they will recognize the importance of contributing to their campus and organization as leaders, both academically and socially. This recognition prompts an increased community presence and, for campus professionals, the possibility for greater access to decision-making arenas that affect the student community.
Baxter Magolda, M., & King, P. M. (Eds.). (2004). Learning partnerships: Theory and models of practice to educate for self-authorship (1st ed.). Sterling, VA.: Stylus Publishing.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 54-67.
For more information about Kansas State University's Fraternal Relevance Accreditation and Minimum Expectations, please visit http://www.k-state.edu/greek/berelevant/.
For more information about the University of Rochester’s Expectations for Excellence Accreditation Program, please visithttp://www.rochester.edu/college/fsa/ee/.