Heather Reed, assistant vice president, also serving as the senior associate dean and director of student life sits down with PFA Intern Annie Jewell to discuss the recent changes regarding student clubs and organizations at Kansas State University.
Annie: Heather, thank you for taking the time to discuss the new Center for Student Involvement and what this means for the K-State students. The K-State Parents and Family Association aims to communicate changes that occur on campus to parents in a timely, thorough, and direct manner.
Heather: Of course!
Annie: Let’s get to it. K-State encourages all students to get involved in student organizations, which provide many opportunities for leadership, personal growth, community service, professional development and learning from others. Tell us about the newly formed Center for Student Involvement.
Heather: This summer, the Office of Student Activities and Services and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life merged to form the Center for Student Involvement (CSI). The center, in the newly renovated Student Union, assists with registration, provides information to students and offers programming on topics such as leadership development and offers resources to nearly 500 student organizations. We just hired a new executive director, Kelli Farris.
Annie: Can you share the catalyst behind why we transitioned to the new model provided through the Center for Student Involvement?
Heather: We had been in discussions for a couple years about updating the student organization policy to clarify the benefits for and the relationship with K-State that student organizations have. Student organizations serve a variety of purposes and goals, and it is important to distinguish between those that are sponsored by university departments and those that operate independently. You can read more here.
Annie: How has CSI educated the community about the changes?
Heather: Advisors, professors, and staff as well as the public have had the opportunity to learn more about the CSI and new policy though K-State Today articles, Alumni letters, and four public forums this fall. The forums were well attended and were instrumental in receiving comments and questions about the changes. The CSI staff and student life leadership has been responsive to these comments and concerns and have responded by providing information about the policy itself, along with resources, which can also be found on the CSI website. We have re-registered nearly 500 student organizations this fall, under the new policy guidelines.
Annie: So, what changes might a student notice during this transition?
Heather: That each student organization had to re-register under our new policy and had to determine whether they would be an Independent or departmental student organization.
Annie: You said that student organizations have to register as an Independent Student Organization (ISO) or a Departmental Student Organization (DSO). Can you describe the differences between them and name an example of each?
DSOs are registered organizations sponsored by a department and have a purpose critical to the university and department’s mission. The sponsoring department oversees day-to-day operations and activities planned by the organization and designates an employee to support the organization. An example of a DSO would be college ambassador groups, competition teams, the veteran’s student organization, and some honoraries and multicultural organizations. These groups make up about 48 percent of all student organizations.
An ISO, is a registered organization not operated by or affiliated with the university. University employees are not permitted to act as advisors to ISOs within the context of their university employment. Examples of ISOs are special interest clubs, club sports teams, fraternities and sororities, academic clubs and religious groups.
Annie: Do all clubs and organizations have advisors? What’s their role?
Heather: DSOs must have an advisor who is an employee of the sponsoring university department. An advisor of an ISO who is otherwise employed by the university may only serve the ISO outside of the context of their university work. ISOs are not required to have an advisor.
In addition, every student organization has a liaison at the Center for Student Involvement. There are four CSI staff liaisons and the new director who provide direct support to organizations by categories and assist with registration, organizational development, and training and information on best practices on a variety of topics that could include leadership, risk management, event planning, how to conduct a meeting, financial best practices, new leaders or member orientation, working with advisors, and serve as a contact for national and regional organizational leaders.
Annie: Will any of these changes decrease the presence of Greek Life at K-State?
Heather: We expect that the presence of Greek organizations registered with K-State will remain strong. Fraternities and Sororities will continue to have their own selected independent advisors and may utilize the fraternity and sorority liaison at CSI. The governing boards of fraternities and sororities, Intrafraternity Council (IFC) and PanHellenic Council (PHC) have organized as an ISO and will govern their member Greek organizations. IFC and PHC have non-University advisors assisting them with their day-to-day operations. They have also leased space in the K-State Student Union for convenience and for visibility.
Annie: Some students, who are members of the Greek community at K-State, have expressed concern about the change. How can parents provide support through the transition process?
Heather: K-State has always respected the independent nature and governance of fraternities and sororities, which are located off-campus and often have housing units owned by private third-parties (not the University). For most students, the merger into the center will have little impact on them related to their membership in a Greek organization. This policy and the Center merger now better clarifies the university’s role and responsibilities related to ISOs and DSOs. The registration as ISOs will be fairly easy for our individual fraternities and sororities. IFC and PHC have worked diligently as the ISOs who will oversee the Greek community and their independent policies, to bolster their model of support.
Annie: How will this affect campus activities such as Greek Week or Homecoming?
Heather: Homecoming and Greek Week continue to thrive and be a cherished tradition of the university.
Annie: Who can parents or students contact if they would like to get more information and/or express thoughts and concerns?
Heather: Myself, by contacting the Office of Student Life at 785-532-6432 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Annie: Thank you for your time, Heather
Heather: My pleasure! Thanks for communicating this information with parents and families of K-State students.