Greek Life study rooms: An unfair benefit?

The Observer

Anyone who ever attended a Greek life informational event probably remembers seeing numerous uplifting statistics about Greeks. They have better retention rates, they are more likely to be leaders on campus, they do a lot of service, or perhaps your favorite celebrity was a member of a Greek organization that we also have on campus. Most importantly, they statistically perform better academically than non-Greeks. In fact, one of the most important values Greek life wants to emphasize is academic excellence.

According to the website of the Office of Greek Life at CWRU, the Greek community offers plenty of resources for its members to exceed academically. The list on the website includes “tutoring programs, time management workshops, chapter mentor programs, opportunities for scholarships and grants, Greek honor societies, chapter competitions, awards, and more.”

As it happens, the website fails to mention one aspect of Greek scholarship that may not be so well-known by non-Greek students. What is included in the ambiguous “and more” is the Greek scholarship room system.

In practice, this means that each fraternity and sorority has a room where their members can collect old tests, notes, textbooks and, in some cases, lab reports. This way, any members of the group can get help for their studies by looking at the archives collected by members who were here years before them.

While recycling textbooks and notes is certainly not an issue, old tests and lab reports might become one. There are many grey areas that together call the fairness of the scholarship room system into fairness.

Lab reports belong in this grey area. While one person might take a look at an old report just for formatting purposes, another person might copy the entire lab (and this has happened in the past). There is no way anyone can make sure that the lab reports are used just as reference. The Academic Integrity Board (AIB) has not released an official policy that states whether or not lab reports are allowed in Greek scholarship rooms.

Another problem arises with the inconsistency between different professors’ exam return policies. Some professors are happy to show their students their past exams and give them back. Others keep their exams strictly to themselves and prohibit their distribution. How can anyone be sure that the scholarship rooms include only the tests of those professors who do not mind if another student sees them?

One might argue that the scholarship system is the equivalent of two friends sharing an old test together. Yes, a member of a Greek organization can help his or her friends succeed in a class, and there is nothing wrong with that. But in many instances only a small, exclusive group of people have access to years’ worth of material, which makes the system unfair.

Currently, the Greek community at CWRU constitutes about 36 percent of the entire undergraduate student body. The number of members in a fraternity averages out to 55 members, while sororities have 84 members on average. In a class of 200 students, the number of people belonging to a certain organization can be small, but big enough to allow them to have an unfair advantage with respect to the rest of the class. Not only can they look at the tests from the past year, but they can look at the tests from a decade ago. And who knows how often a professor might recycle his or her tests.

Extremely grey areas of academic honesty and professor-specific exam distribution policies make the scholarship room system a concerning area. There should be an articulated guideline, either through the AIB or the Office of Greek Life, which explains what exactly defines wrongdoing in this situation. Some Greek organizations have established these kinds of rules already, but not all have.

Another alternative to consider would be a public test archive to which every CWRU student would have access. This kind of system is in place at some prestigious universities, such as Yale and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Regardless of the vehicle, the university needs to ensure scholarship rooms are not abused and that no student has the upper hand in a class just because they happen to be Greek. Greek life can offer its members numerous benefits, but it should not offer its members questionable advantages in making academic achievements.