To say this Fall has been unique would be an understatement and as Executive Director of Psi Upsilon I wanted to take a moment to pass along a progress report to let you know how our chapters are performing. This summer, as we were trying to predict the fall, there was a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. Now that we are into October, and most campuses are starting to learn their new routines, we are finding that ‘fraternity’ can truly endure in this environment. While no one will deny that this semester has offered distinctive challenges, an organization that offers “A Mighty Friendship” has a place on college campuses, possibly more so now than ever before. If you aren’t familiar with how your chapter’s campus has responded COVID-19 The Chronicle of Higher Education has created a helpful resource (you will need to create an account to view the webpage, but it is free).
Retention was a primary concern with most of our campuses offering few opportunities for in-person classes. Like many fraternities, we anticipated a drop in membership of about 30% from prior years. As of now I am thrilled to report that we only saw a 15% drop in membership. Recruitment is the next concern, and while our Fall statistics are still incomplete, chapters are performing similar to prior years and are reporting an average reduction of only 10% of their Fall New Member classes. I have been impressed with the adaptability of our members to pivot to a hybrid, or even completely virtual, recruitment environment. The good thing is the feedback we’re receiving from many of our chapters is that since they are recruiting and taking classes in a remote environment, transitioning New Member Education to a virtual experience isn’t as daunting a task as we anticipated for them.
Our chapter support model has changed a lot without in person chapter visits, but I think this has accelerated some necessary modifications rather than hindered the support we offer. I would break this new model into four components: Improved Assessment, Consistent Support, Chapter Collaboration and New Opportunities.
Improved Assessment: We’ve had a committee reviewing how we measure chapter performance, and prior to COVID-19 were developing a way to better evaluate chapter performance and mindsets over time – we’ve collected many quantifiable items for years (GPA, Service hours and money raised, retention of new members, size) in the past but knew this was an area to improve and only tells a part of a story. We just introduced a new survey this fall, asking every chapter to report back on their perceived performance, strengths, and weaknesses. This data will help us guide our conversations and over time should lead to some meaningful observations about how to better assist chapters.
Consistent Support: While staff have always made it a priority to visit chapters and respond to needs as they arise we’ve found ourselves to be more proactive in this environment. Jason Allen, our Director of Chapter Services and I have had regular contact with the leadership of our chapters and pivoting to remote meeting software has facilitated this. While I still believe the in person handshake matters, no one can deny the ability to set up regular Zoom chats with leadership has built some stronger relationships. The fact that remote meetings are more normalized in the current environment has helped greatly.
Chapter Collaboration: One of the advantages of an organization like Psi Upsilon is our membership. We have been holding regular Town Hall meetings between alumni advisors and leadership, as well as chapter officers, to not only improve transparency but allow one another to connect and share best practices. The input and ideas shared during and in between these meetings from our leaders was indispensable as we designed guidance for this year. An example of this in action is the fact that undergraduate members of our Delta (NYU), Phi (Michigan), Eta (Lehigh) and Alpha Omicron (NJIT) chapters have been developing an e-sports league to encourage interaction between chapters.
New Opportunities: Another development that has been evident in this current environment is a more collaborative effort across organizations and our professional partners. Whether this is town hall meetings from our insurance company, the fact we were able to make the annual Foundation for Fraternal Excellence seminar accessible to all our board members or finding other events that would be meaningful to our members like “Dignity U” (A program for Chapter Officers to consider how dignity impacts a person’s own thoughts and actions, in both their lives and in their respective organizations) or “Brotherhood, Sisterhood and the Power on Belonging” (A program for advisors hosted by Pennington and Company). We have been able to distribute this information to those who need it. Even 10 years ago these opportunities were not as widely available. The fraternal marketplace has always been incredibly collaborative on a professional level, and I am truly excited about being able to make that collaboration accessible to more of our brothers. We have also been making these opportunities available on our website when we can – either on our events page or our Covid-19 resource page.
I would personally like to thank the continued involvement of all our volunteers – at the chapter level to our Foundation and Executive Council. Without their ongoing commitment and generosity we would not be able to achieve so much. If you would be interested in getting more involved, please take a moment to review our involvement page, fill out an interest form, and feel free to contact me.
I am always honored and humbled to be able to serve as the Executive Director of Psi Upsilon and excited about the great future we have ahead.
Yours in the Bonds,
Thomas Fox, Omicron ’00 (Illinois)
Psi Upsilon Fraternity