It seems only appropriate that Timothy Dunn, Union’s new director of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, began his career with Greek groups as a result of talking with a fraternity brother.
“Fraternities and sororities are about having lifelong relationships, building real bonds among brothers and sisters,” he says.
Dunn earned a bachelor’s degree in speech communications at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma, where he “was exposed to my first real large dyed-in-the-wool Greek system.” He went on to get a law degree from the University of Oklahoma, where he was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi. He was working in social services in California when his KAPsi brother hired him as an assistant director of residential life at the University of Hartford. In that position, he began co-advising for Greek organizations.
“Greek advising gave me a great understanding of the challenges faced on the academic side when dealing with problems created by an unhealthy Greek system, which is why I worked so hard to make it healthy and an asset to the university,” said Dunn.
He also was an adjunct professor of ethics, teaching an applied ethics course, “a great way to evaluate the students’ moral behavior and codes.”
A native of Abilene, Texas, Dunn had a brief stint as an advisor to fraternities at the University of Georgia, responsible for 2,100 fraternity men, before settling into the close-knit Union community this fall, full of goals and confident about making a positive impact.
Indeed, Dunn’s training and experience seem perfectly suited to a job that is one part counselor, one part liaison, many parts champion for the 12 fraternities and five sororities at Union.
Speaking recently from his office on the fourth floor of Reamer Campus Center, Dunn reflected that he faces “a lot of the same challenges I’ve seen before. One is to broadcast the positive aspects of the Greek experience to the campus. The only thing people see is the quite visible social life, but there are lots of good things going on.”
Greek life at Union dates to 1825, with the founding of the nation’s first fraternity, Kappa Alpha. Over the next few years, two more fraternities were founded at Union, Sigma Phi, which is still active, and Delta Phi. They comprised the well-known Union triad.
Currently, about a third of all Union students belong to fraternities and sororities, which are governed by the Inter-Fraternity Council, Pan-Hellenic Council and Multicultural Greek Council. Forty-seven percent of eligible students (sophomore, juniors and seniors) are members.
“I want them to be one unified Greek community,” Dunn said. Recently, members of the three governing bodies volunteered together on the Habitat House on Barrett Street, and “to my knowledge, it was the first joint community council endeavor,” he said.
Another goal of Dunn’s is to formalize the Greek system. “For a system to be valid and healthy, certain elements have to be in place,” he said. These include formalization of accreditation process, annual awards and recognition ceremonies for chapter accomplishments, and academic success and rehabilitation programs.
He also would like to work on new member education and membership recruitment and retention.
“Lifelong relationships are among the core values that the organization builds,” Dunn says. “Society today isn’t founded on too much. A colleague and I were talking about how genuine relationships don’t happen much. People text, they IM, they seek friends on Facebook. At their core, the Greek organizations stand for the very principles that our country was founded on – brotherhood, service to the community and living lives of integrity. We call it a values congruence.”
While Greek numbers at Union have remained steady over the last decade, today fraternities and sororities exist as one choice among many for social, recreational and community service activities, along with Minerva houses and theme houses.
“It all works together,” said Dunn, noting that some of the most dynamic students on campus are leaders in all realms.
“Another piece of the puzzle is to make sure there’s something for everyone. The social life associated with fraternities and sororities is never going to go away; that’s college. But we’re making a move nationally to live the ritual, or the values congruence, so students will begin making better choices in their lives.
“The Greek system definitely provides a good social outlet, and it will go a long way toward building loyalty in their alma mater among our young alumni, which is important for the overall vitality of the College.”
Dunn was hired through a search committee chaired by Director of Residential Life Todd Clark and made up of faculty members and students. And as one indicator of how Greek life permeates the campus culture, Dunn said he will be working with a cross-section of campus staff and groups, including Clark; Officer Daniel Darling and other members of Campus Safety; Prof. Deirdre Hill Butler, Multicultural Greek Council advisor; members of the Student Affairs Committee; and Environmental Health and Safety Compliance Officer Michael Hilton.
He is gratified at the good will he’s experienced on campus and eager to build on existing relationships.
“I was very pleased when I found such willingness on parts of the community to really reach out and include my students in work and other experiences in ways that will benefit them.”Read More