TIME Education

3 Ways to Fix Fraternities

How to prevent problems before they start

It’s been a rough school year for fraternity bad-boy behavior.

A spate of high-profile incidents—and the swift response from national fraternity organizations and the universities themselves—suggest that the institutions responsible for these young men are becoming less inclined to say “boys will be boys.”

A video of members at the University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter singing a racist chant went viral. Not long after, members of Penn State’s Kappa Delta Rho chapter were accused of sharing images of nude unconscious women on a Facebook page. And a notebook filled with racist and sexist slurs allegedly belonging to members of Phi Kappa Phi was found in a restaurant on campus at North Carolina State. The universities and national fraternities in charge of these men acted fast. SAE closed the University of Oklahoma chapter and two students were expelled, Penn State suspended the chapter in question and North Carolina State disbanded it all together.

MORE: Civil Libertarians Say Expelling Oklahoma Frat Students May Be Illegal

But how can fraternities and universities prevent these problems in the first place? Here’s what experts told TIME.

Get rid of alcohol

When it comes to “going dry,” it’s easier for the national fraternities to make the change than it is for the host universities. In 1997, Phi Delta Theta announced plans to ban alcohol in every chapter house across the country by 2000. Skeptics said the move would hurt its ability to recruit new members. But the opposite has been true. Since the change, Phi Delta Theta has grown from 8,500 student members to over 12,000, according to Bob Biggs, the frat’s executive vice president. There have been other positive changes, too. The average GPA for members has gone from 2.7 to 3.1 and liability insurance costs have dropped by half, from $160 per person per year before 2000, to $80.

“We wanted to get out of the entertainment business and into the fraternity business,” Biggs said.

While private colleges can mostly make any policy they like, it can be more difficult for public universities to govern fraternities on campus. But it can happen. Colorado State University made changes to its alcohol policy at fraternities after 19-year-old sophomore Samantha Spady died of apparent alcohol-related causes at a fraternity house in 2004. Today, fraternity houses at Colorado State University are dry.

Bring in the adults

In most on-campus residential life, colleges typically have one staff member for every 15-20 students, according to Mark Koepsell, the executive director of the Association of Fraternity and Sorority Advisors. But when it comes to Greek life, the ratio is one staff member to every 750 students.

The reason for this may be that many colleges don’t want to assume the liability that comes with fraternities. “There’s [variation] across the country between campuses that pull fraternal organizations close and those that put them at an arms length distance,” Koepsell said. “Campus attorneys are of the belief that an arms length distance is better for reducing liability. My personal opinion is that’s the environment where problems occur and it blows back on the university anyway and no one wins. The first advice: Pull them in close.”

Koepsell prefers models like the “Greek Village” at the University of South Carolina, where frat and sorority students live in University-sponsored housing, which comes with more supervision.

But it’s also possible for national fraternities to spend more money themselves to ensure better staffing in the houses. In 2000, Sigma Phi Epsilon began creating Residential Learning Communities through some of its chapters, which now exist at 40 of the 227 chapters across the country. As part of this program, some chapters have what is called a resident scholar, a graduate student who gets free room and board and a stipend or a scholarship to live at the fraternity house and provide some structure for the students.

Integrate or eliminate

Eliminating fraternities or allowing women to join is not an option at public universities where students have the First Amendment right to associate. But private schools have more leeway. Last year, Wesleyan ordered its fraternities to admit women. It is now facing a lawsuit from Delta Kappa Epsilon trying to block the move. The case is being closely watched.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 26

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Al Qaeda and ISIS are locked in an ideological war, and for once, it’s good to be their mutual enemy.

By Daniel Byman and Jennifer Williams in Lawfare

2. For the millions left behind by America’s new economy, disability claims — legitimate or otherwise — are skyrocketing.

By Chana Joffe-Walt in Planet Money by National Public Radio

3. Maybe universities shouldn’t measure prestige by the number of applicants they turn away.

By Jon Marcus in the Hechinger Report

4. When younger women have heart attacks, they’re twice as likely to die as their male counterparts. Is medicine’s gender bias to blame?

By Maya Dusenbery in Pacific Standard

5. Can the triumph and tragedy of soccer help Harvard students appreciate the humanities?

By Colleen Walsh in the Harvard Gazette

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Education

Education Does Not Make You a Happier Person

Silhouetted profile of woman wearing graduation cap
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A new study finds that the chance of happiness is the same, whether you went to college or not

There is no link between your education level and your personal happiness, says a new mental-health research study published by the British Journal of Psychiatry.

According to a press release, researchers from Warwick Medical School were inspired by the strong association between poor education and mental illness and wanted to investigate if the opposite was true: Does being educated lead to happiness?

The team discovered that the odds of happiness were equivalent throughout all levels of educational attainment.

“These findings are quite controversial because we expected to find the socioeconomic factors that are associated with mental illness would also be correlated with mental well being,” said Sarah Stewart-Brown, the lead author on the study. “But that is not the case.”

Researchers defined happiness as a state of high mental well-being in which people “feel good and function well.” They applied this to data from the Health Survey for England, which was administered to 17,030 people in 2010 and 2011.

Stewart-Brown said that her discovery means that socioeconomic factors may not be applicable to programs aimed at boosting mental well-being.

TIME Education

Dartmouth Investigates Frat for Branding Pledges

The Alpha Delta fraternity at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. on June 9, 2006.
Larry Crowe—AP The Alpha Delta fraternity at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. on June 9, 2006.

Its Alpha Delta chapter inspired Animal House

Dartmouth College said it is investigating its Alpha Delta chapter for branding the skin of new members. If found guilty, the chapter could be suspended or lose recognition by the college permanently.

A group of pledges for the fraternity that inspired the film Animal House (1978) say they voluntarily agreed to be branded, a lawyer for the chapter, George Ostler, told Bloomberg Business. The permanent marks were “a form of self-expression, similar to body piercing or tattoos,” he said. “The facts are that no hazing occurred. No one has been injured by this activity.”

This is far from Alpha Delta’s first infraction on the Dartmouth campus, the report adds. Within the last two years, the chapter has been fined for serving alcohol to minors, publicly apologized after hosting a “Crips and Bloods Party” and had one of its members admit to urinating on a woman from the frat’s balcony. The fraternity is currently suspended for violating drinking-related campus rules.

Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon, a former Alpha Delta member, has taken measures to curb the dangerous aspects of greek life on campus. In January, he banned hard liquor. Dartmouth’s Interfraternity Council also recently outlawed any form of pledging due to complaints of abuse. (The branding incident took place before these rules went into place.)

MORE: Fraternities Are Their Own Worst Enemies, Not Drunk Girls

Critics of greek life at Dartmouth have called for a complete overhaul of the fraternity system. Andrew Lohse, a former member of Dartmouth’s SAE fraternity who wrote a book called Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy, told TIME last September that many fraternity members at Dartmouth ignored and even joked about school rules. He went on to tie the hazing culture in fraternities with rape culture on college campuses. “When you talk about hazing, nobody is really consenting to it,” he said. “The power dynamic of being coerced to do all these humiliating and sexualized or homoerotic things [during hazing] mirrors this power dynamic that many people would argue occurs when women walk into a fraternity.”

The Dartmouth investigation comes as fraternities across the country face allegations of racism, sexism and hazing. Two Sigma Alpha Epsilon members were suspended at the University of Oklahoma for using racial slurs and referencing lynching in a video. And Penn State is reviewing its Greek system after discovering a Kappa Delta Rho-run Facebook page featured naked or partially nude women who appeared to be passed out.

READ NEXT: Will Ferrell Says Oklahoma Incident an ‘Argument for Getting Rid of’ Frats

[Bloomberg]

TIME Education

How ‘Reform’ Hurts My Teaching

hand-holding-chalk-chalkboard
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Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

National education 'reform' programs are getting in the way of improvement efforts by local teachers for local schools

Being a teacher has always been a challenge. It is a much greater challenge in the era of “reform.” It has been infuriating to read all the silliness, even worse to have to comply with the misguided mandates. But we teachers are ourselves partly at fault — for reacting rather than acting.

The “reform” movement has been an obstacle to our own organic reform efforts at Hillsdale High School in San Mateo, California, where I have been teaching since 1985. Although the impact is hard to quantify, “reform” has too often distracted and diverted us from reform.

By “reform,” I mean the primacy of standardized testing; the concomitant elements of merit pay; a focus on individual teachers and classrooms, on heroes and entrepreneurs; and attacks on teacher seniority and due process rights and the unions that support them. Teachers react against “reform.”

By reform, I mean a staff working together at a site over years to create a collaborative working environment for teachers and establish better structures and instruction for students. The goal is to build a culture in which we know students well, hold them and teachers to high standards, and take collective responsibility for student achievement and wellbeing. Reform means recognizing that there are no silver bullets, no quick fixes, no heroes, except everyday ones. Teachers act on reform.

At my school, tenure, seniority and the union have been key to effective reform. We are a school where culture — informed by a combination of talented newcomers and stable, secure, senior teachers who can speak their mind, lead by example, drive initiatives, and provide mentorship — is more important than the quality of any individual teacher. We are a school where it is nearly impossible for one teacher’s efforts to be measured without taking into account the work of others.

The uncomfortable juxtaposition between our reform and “reform” emerged in all too clear focus over the last two days of January. On a Thursday, after many months and long hours of preparation, our assessment committee, of which I am part, guided the staff through the process of coaching and evaluating students for their Senior Defenses in March.

We conceived of the Senior Defense as a kind of graduate interview in which our students show us who they are, academically and personally, what they know, and what they can do. In the fall, the whole staff participated in auditing how students had progressed on our Graduate Profile, a definition of achievement we established in 2009 that is similar to, though broader than, the Common Core State Standards. We have five main categories: Read, Communicate, Think, Understand and Apply, and Respect. Within each category we have a number of subcategories, which, for the defense, we winnowed down to those we believed are the most essential.

In February the staff would coach students in presenting and defending three parts in front of a panel of teachers: 1) a summary of previously written reflections on three subcategories of the graduate profile; 2) one piece of work, usually a major essay, class project, or research paper, in a particular subject; and 3) an application task, during they are given – an hour before their defense — four prose and visual sources on a controversial subject and they have to evaluate the sources, take and support a position, make connections between the topic and previous course work, and describe the reading strategies they used to make sense of the sources After the presentation the majority of the defense consists of students answering questions from the panel.

We have chosen this path because we expect a lot of our students and a lot of ourselves. We readily admit that plenty of work remains for students and teachers to meet these expectations.

On the Friday morning after that preparation for the Senior Defenses, I had to deal with the California State High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), one of the first mandates that appeared in California in the name of “reform.” In my advisory student meeting, I went over the rules and guidelines with the sophomores I am responsible for mentoring and coaching along with several other teachers. In the advisory teacher meeting we went over logistics and talked about snacks, one of the bribes we have developed to motivate students and mitigate the sheer drudgery of the six-hour test.

From Senior Defenses to CAHSEE in less than 24 hours is a microcosm of a teacher’s pendulum. They say that in education reform the pendulum swings back and forth every ten years or so. But in actuality, teachers swing back and forth all the time. To reach one side of the pendulum’s arc, you fight against gravity to help human beings reach their potential. Then gravity pulls you back and you focus on the mandates that generate numbers that mean little to you or your students, say little to nothing about what you and they actually do, yet upon which you and they are judged.

The CAHSEE was first instituted in 2001, with the claim that it would be an accountability measure of basic competency. But for the vast majority of students, the only challenge is how to interpret poorly constructed questions unrelated to what they have been doing in class, and how to occupy themselves once they’ve finished. For those who struggle with the test, primarily special education students and English language learners, the standardized format is half of the problem. Those who support testing say that it’s the only way parents can know how their kids are doing in school. However, it is hard to point to a single thing we learn about our students from the exam results that we didn’t already know. And if parents don’t know what their kids are doing in school, the solution is in better communication, not worse assessment.

The California Standards tests that we followed for so many years were a similar time drain. The instructional and administrative time involved — adding special prep classes, administering the tests and retests, gaming the test to avoid the phony judgments that come from published ratings, etc. — robbed us of hours and resources we could use on smarter things.

The tests also dehumanize the education process with reductionist thinking. Tests define achievement in a narrowly inhuman, and therefore unproductive way that produces vast amounts of useless data and sloppy reports. Words like achievement, performance, success, and proficiency all conflate around “good test scores.”

This trend has made me doubt most educational research. We used to say anecdotes were not useful; instead you have to look at “the research.” Any teacher will be familiar with the phrase “the research shows…” But digging into most of “the research” I’ve seen in the last five years, standardized testing data is at the root of almost any conclusion. If we can’t trust that data, why should we trust the conclusions?

One final negative of the “reform” mandate has been the de-professionalization it demands. Because it is a mandate, because teachers and students are judged based on the mandates, teachers lose agency, they lose the ability to make professional judgments and they fall in line as school district officials chase after “reforms” by adopting programs that promise to deliver results based on “research.” When one “reform” decade peters out and is replaced by the next one, teachers must chase again, as we see now with the Common Core standards.

The elements of “reform” came together in the 2014 Vergara case, in which a wealthy Atherton businessman brought a lawsuit supposedly on behalf of poor school children, claiming that teacher seniority deprived them of their civil rights. The judge generally agreed, and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who has called for “hero teachers” and been a cheerleader for “reform,” lauded the decision.

But there’s a whole lot of experience that shows poverty plays a more significant role in the problems identified in the suit. So why don’t these “reformers” attack poverty with the same passion they attack teachers’ rights? And what plan do they have to find better teachers? Where is the pool of more talented replacements? What kind of talented hero would want to become a teacher in this climate of “reform?”

The only answer is the tired business analogy; competition, differential salaries, managerial control. I can’t contemplate this ill-conceived nexus without wringing my hands in indignation. For it is the loss of dignity that teachers feel most acutely when it comes to “reform.”

But what has bothered me most about “reform” has been the fact that we teachers and our unions have spent too much time reacting to “reform” rather than acting against it. We’ve been playing defense when we need to play offense.

We need to craft a message about real reform and act on it. Learning is a complex human endeavor and hard to measure. Teaching is difficult. Our education system faces some overwhelming challenges, for which there are no simple solutions, partly because of resources, partly because of training, partly because of differing values. But there is also no excuse for not trying to confront the challenges.

If teachers act as professionals, collaborate, and make decisions in the best interests of students, they can gradually enact real reform. They will have a better shot at success if they don’t have to comply with misguided “reform” and be better prepared to stand up to them if they act rather than react.

Greg Jouriles has been teaching social science at Hillsdale High School in San Mateo since 1985. He is presently working on school wide performance assessment. He wrote this for Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Education

UVA Fraternity Considers Legal Action Over Rolling Stone Article

UVa Fraternity
Ryan M. Kelly—AP Protestors carry signs and chant slogans in front of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia, Nov. 22, 2014, in Charlottesville, Va.

The Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi said it is "exploring its legal options to address the extensive damage caused by Rolling Stone"

The fraternity at the center of the controversy over a Rolling Stone article on an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia may seek legal action against the magazine, after a police investigation found no evidence of the sexual assault depicted in the article.

“Following the publication of the defamatory article, the chapter launched an extensive internal investigation, which quickly confirmed that the horrific events described in the Rolling Stone article did not occur,” Stephen Scipione, president of the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi, said in a statement.

He said that Phi Psi is “exploring its legal options to address the extensive damage caused by Rolling Stone.”

A November story in Rolling Stone depicted a brutal gang rape at a party at the Phi Psi fraternity house, which ignited a national conversation about campus rape. But Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said Monday that its investigation was “not able to conclude to any substantive degree” that the events described in Rolling Stone had actually taken place.

“These false accusations have been extremely damaging to our entire organization, but we can only begin to imagine the setback this must have dealt to survivors of sexual assault,” Scipione said to ABC News. “We hope that Rolling Stone’s actions do not discourage any survivors from coming forward to seek the justice they deserve.”

Read more:

No Evidence of UVA Gang Rape Depicted in Rolling Stone, Police Say

TIME Education

This Is How Long Your Teen Needs to Spend on Homework to Be Better at Math and Science

It's not that long, but long enough

How much time to spend on homework has always been a major sticking point between teenagers and their teachers and parents. And many teenagers will agree that spending time on math and science is the worst.

But a group of researchers in Spain has arrived at an optimum time that should be spent on that kind of homework — an hour a day.

The researchers, from the University of Oviedo, analyzed the academic performance of 7,725 students for their paper, which was published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Educational Psychology. The students answered questions on how often they did homework and what the distribution of subjects within that time was, following which they were given a standardized test for math and science performance.

“The data suggests that spending 60 minutes a day doing homework is a reasonable and effective time,” said the study’s author Javier Suárez-Álvarez.

Suárez-Álvarez and his co-lead author Rubén Fernández-Alonso found that the average amount of homework assigned is about 70 minutes a day, while some teachers raised that duration to 90 to 100 minutes. However, the researchers found that students’ math and science scores decline with a greater amount of homework.

“Assigning more than 70 minutes of homework a day does not seem very efficient,” Suárez-Álvarez added.

So teens can take heart from the fact that they don’t have to spend more than an hour on math and science homework. As for parents, well, even getting them to spend that much time will be a win.

[Science Daily]

TIME Education

Penn State to Review Its Greek System After Facebook Scandal

After learning one chapter ran a Facebook page featuring pictures of naked or partially nude women

Pennsylvania State University announced Monday it will conduct a review of its Greek system following the discovery of a fraternity’s Facebook page that featured pictures of naked or semi-nude women who appeared to be passed out or asleep.

“This comprehensive examination of fraternity and sorority life and its culture will not be simple and it may not be comfortable,” Penn State President Eric Barron said in a statement Monday, calling the actions by Kappa Delta Rho members “intolerable and disturbing.”

The chapter was suspended by its national organization last week after it was revealed that some members ran at least one Facebook page that contained images of naked or partially nude women who appeared to be heavily intoxicated or unaware the photographs were being taken.

Barron said next week he intends to name a task force that will include undergraduates, alumni and trustees, as well as prevention experts and representatives from national organizations. Among the topics that will be evaluated are alcohol abuse, sexual assault, diversity and whether the university’s fraternities and sororities behave in line with their organizations’ values.

Read next: Before You Pick a College, Decide If You Want to Go Greek

TIME celebrities

This SAT Practice Question Has Taylor Swift Totally Stumped

Taylor Swift SAT Question
John Shearer—WireImage Singer Taylor Swift performs onstage at The 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on Feb. 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, Calif.

See if you can find the error in the following question

Taylor Swift is having a little difficulty with a practice question a fan came across while studying a Princeton Review SAT prep book.

The singer took to Tumblr on Monday to re-blog the question posted by the fan:

Pop lyrics are a great source of bad grammar. See if you can find the error in each of the following …

Taylor Swift: Somebody tells you they love you, you got to believe ‘em.

The book’s answer is presumably that the indefinite pronoun “somebody” is always singular. So (despite gender issues) the lyric to the 2009 hit “Fifteen” should read: Somebody tells you s/he loves you, you got to believe him/her.

But Swift and her fans seem to have spotted a different error relating to accuracy — this is the SAT writing section, after all — that complicates the question. As it turns out, the lyric that appears in the book is slightly incorrect. The correct lyric, if you listen to the song, is: Somebody tells you they love you, you’re gonna believe them.

“Not the right lyrics at all pssshhhh,” the singer wrote on her Tumblr. “You had one job, test people. One job.”

Read next: Taylor Swift Reportedly Bought TaylorSwift.Porn Before Someone Else Got There First

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TIME Education

Now There’s Adult Preschool With Naptime and Finger Paint Included

THE $1000 ADULT PRE-SCHOOL: NEW YORKERS REDISCOVER THEIR INNER CHILD
Ruaridh Connellan—Barcroft Media/Landov Students of the Adult Pre School take part in dressing up on March 10, 2015 in Brooklyn, New York City.

But it'll cost you

Adults who miss the squish of Play-Doh between their fingers and the feeling of a stiff cot beneath their head can now reconnect with their inner preschooler—for a price.

Brooklyn, New York’s Preschool Mastermind is the world’s first day-care-like experience for adults, reports ABC News. The course features all the staples you probably remember from your pre-K days, like finger painting, naptime, musical chairs, dress-up and show-and-tell.

“You still CAN be anything you want when you grow up! And this class will give you the hands-on wisdom, intuition and playfulness you need to get there,” founder Michelle Joni explains on Preschool Mastermind’s site.

“In this one-month adventure, we’ll explore preschool concepts, like sharing and friendship, in order to apply and inject play, wonder, self-belief, and community into our grown-up lives.”

The current session of Preschool Mastermind started at the beginning of March and runs until the end of the month. Joni’s classes meet weekly and have six students, each looking to gain something different from returning to their youthful roots.

This trip down memory lane isn’t free. The price of a Preschool Mastermind course is determined by a sliding scale, staring at $333 and going all the way to $999. For that money Joni, who has a degree in early education, promises a magical return to the beneficial lessons of preschool.

Her current batch of students are preparing for an upcoming field trip and “parents day,” when the adult children of Joni’s class will bring in two grown-ups to talk to the group.

While some may scoff at the idea of paying to act like a child, Joni believes a trip back to the carefree days of make-believe and macaroni art can be beneficial for everyone.

“I realized all the implications of what we learn in preschool,” the teacher told ABC News. “People come here and get in touch with their inner child. It’s magical.”

For those young at heart, or just in need of a good nap, Preschool Mastermind is preparing to start a new course in the fall.

This article originally appeared on People.com

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