Every year, the fraternities and sororities on Lehigh University's campus go through a process known as "accreditation" in which our engagements with the campus and outside communities, growth within our own chapters, and excellence in various areas both academic and otherwise are judged and given a ranking based upon the way the university perceives our respective organizations. The rankings range from "gold" to "poor," of course, with gold being the highest honors, whereas poor falls somewhere in the category of "unacceptable" in the eyes of the university.
Each accreditation meeting consists of a randomly assigned board of members throughout the Lehigh community. The panel consists of professors, organizational leaders, and members of the interfraternity greek council (IFC) or panhellenic council. Unfortunately, this arbitrary assignment leaves room for a discrepancy between councils who are given the duty of determining the outcomes for each chapter. My chapter can attest to said disparity given experiences with one faculty member whose background results in a rigid outlook on the greek community, particularly as it pertains to women's rights.
Going through accreditation as a first-year and sitting through her apparent attempt to berate our chapter left me with a sour taste in my mouth toward the process as a whole. I felt the process was unfair and judgmental on a rather mundane basis, as we are forced to summarize all of our chapter's endeavors in a mere 40 minutes. When I walked into accreditation this year, her face was the first I saw. I immediately felt myself and the rest of my sisters tense up, ready to cringe at the assorted list of wrong-doings she was going to pull from our presentation.
When our chapter's accreditation board concluded its presentation and it was time for questions, the faculty member, as expected, said her piece. However, although riddled with harsh undertones and perhaps a slight distaste for our tactics, I found myself appreciating her viewpoints and her concerns. They were simply a matter of us learning how to prepare our chapter, as women, for the future, whether that be in finding our own voices in the workplace, or combatting sexual harassment and other malicious actions we may face.
It was then that I realized that accreditation is not simply a panel of judges looking to castigate groups of young men and women for the way they have built up their chapters, but rather a group of adults who want to prepare us for the world that lies ahead of us, as we have never experienced life outside of the walls of a school. I believe it is extremely important for the men and women of the Greek organizations at any university who is forced through the accreditation process should learn not to take it for granted, but with the perspective of using the meeting to better ourselves as individuals within a larger community, and one day, the outside world. So, to the woman on our accreditation panel who so vigorously challenged us in order for us to see where it is that we are going wrong in order to learn to go right, I thank you. Your criticisms are appreciated perhaps more than you know.