Last August, Kansas State redesigned how it categorized student organizations, creating a distinction between departmental student organizations (DSOs) and independent student organizations (ISOs).
This distinction is outlined in Chapter 8540 of the Policies and Procedures Manual. The new processes, which also changed the categorization of K-State’s fraternities and sororities, prompted concern from some students.
The Campus Unity Project began last fall in response to the student organization changes. As reported by the Collegian, some students like Jacob Boyce, then a junior in computer science, feel like the university took a “hands-off” approach to the change.
“The university wants to protect themselves against litigation — and that’s a perfectly reasonable thing for them to do, but students think that there is probably a better way to go about it and a way that it could be shaped with student involvement,” Boyce said in Oct. 2017.
One year later, the relationship between Greek organizations and the university has remained nearly the same, only now more defined by the policy, Jordan Kocher, director of Fraternities and Sororities at K-State, said.
“Fraternities and sororities are independent student organizations,” Kocher said. “Much like religious groups or special interest groups or other kinds of organizations [that] are independent of the university. They function outside of the university control; they don’t have a departmental relationship, they don’t fulfill the mission of the university, but they are something that the students are a part of.”
Registered student organizations — independent or departmental — have certain rights, Kocher said, like the right to reserve rooms on campus for meetings and to use OrgSync.
The DSO/ISO distinction initially prompted queries on how independent organizations can interact with university-sponsored events, namely Homecoming. Kocher said she hasn’t heard of any hiccups so far with Greek life and Homecoming involvement.
“Last year, it was agreed upon that groups would still be able to use the K-State name and the Powercat and things on their float because it was Homecoming, and how else are you going to talk about purple pride and Kansas State as a part of Homecoming if you can’t use those trademarks?” Kocher said. “I assume it would be a similar structure this fall.”
In regards to issues concerning Greek organizations or their members, the university has jurisdiction in the matter if the issue happened on campus or at a university-sponsored event, or if the action violated the student code of conduct, Kocher said.
For concerns that involve fraternities or sororities outside of the university’s domain, they are under the jurisdiction of either the Interfraternity Council or the Panhellenic Council, which govern K-State fraternities and sororities, respectively. These entities are both independent student organizations as well.
“IFC and PHC would follow their governing policies — looking at chapter behavior, chapter culture and saying, if that falls into their realms, they’ll deal with it,” Kocher said.
In addition to distinct governance, fraternities and sororities each manage their own finances, Kocher said.
“All of the individual chapters have their own billing systems,” Kocher said. “Some of those are through some online vendors: Billhighway, OmegaFi, things like that. No bills are ran through any of the university’s accounts. Even recruitment, we use an external vendor to process those fees.”
The only exception is the extra cost to move into residence halls early during Recruitment Week, but like students who move onto campus early for marching band camp or other commitments, that cost is related to Housing and Dining Services.
“Women who go through recruitment and are living in the residence halls during the school year, they do have to pay to live in Housing and Dining early,” Kocher said.
Kocher added that housing payments for a Greek living situation operate much like paying rent for an apartment.
The only difference between fraternities and sororities and other ISOs is additional documentation if they provide group living.
“The Center for Student Involvement, in part of their student organization policy, there’s a clause in there that as an independent group, if you also provide group living, you do have to provide additional documentation,” Kocher said.
Kocher said the documentation ensures the property owned or rented by the Greek organization is separate from K-State. This extra registration applies to any student organization that provides housing for its members.
“Even if the knitting club got together and bought a house together, they would have to provide documentation that they’re separate,” Kocher said. “It’s one more piece of the registration that you have to provide documentation.”
Though the DSO/ISO distinction did not change much for Greek organizations, Kocher said over the past year, adapting and interpreting the new policy has raised some issues.
“I think we’re just now, nearly a year later, hitting our groove,” Kocher said.