Five Questions

By kvitare1@johnshopkins.edu

calvin-smithDirector of Fraternity and Sorority Life Calvin Smith serves as an advisor for students who participate in the university’s 21 active chapters of Greek-life organizations.

1. How many students at Johns Hopkins belong to a fraternity or sorority?
About 30 percent of our undergraduate population—about 1,500 students—belong to one of our 21 chapters. Different chapters have different requirements, but each one expects its students to engage in a certain amount of community service and philanthropy.

2. What is your job as director?
The chapters are self-governing, but my team and I work to guide their success. We meet with members to review university policies, and we try to give students as much information as possible so they make educated decisions. We review and approve the recruitment process; meet with the national office reps; and we speak frankly with students about risk management, alcohol abuse, and the right way to operate as a recognized fraternity or sorority on campus. Our goal is for them to see that their values are consistent with the missions they espouse.

3. Are there misconceptions about fraternities and sororities?

Yes. One misconception is that they are not assets to the institution. In reality, the funds students raise and the service they perform have a massive and valuable impact on the university and in the community. Another misconception is that they foster unhealthy behavior. But it is a very small percentage of students here and at fraternities at other universities who get in trouble. Sadly, the rest get painted with a broad brush.

4. What are the benefits of joining a fraternity or sorority?
Fraternities and sororities give students the kind of skills that will allow them to flourish throughout their careers and lives. They learn how to manage large budgets, manage large groups of people, engage in conflict resolution, organize events and programs, interact with alumni, fundraise, and communicate effectively. Just as important is the sense of camaraderie that can be found in every chapter. The students are building lifelong bonds with friends they will have forever.

5. You were in a fraternity in college. What lessons did you learn that inform your work now?
The biggest lesson I learned from my experience with my fraternity is the power of “we.” I have always worked in teams through sports and in my education, but to see thousands of men with a core set of positive values working to achieve positive change was amazing. It left an impression of how I could wield that power to make a difference in the world.