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Travis Martin, Northwestern University’s Director of Fraternity & Sorority Life, Opens Up About The Future of Greek Life

In an effort to highlight the professionals who are in charge of Fraternity and Sorority Life at colleges and universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Northwestern University’s Director of Fraternity & Sorority Life, Travis L. Martin, to get his perspective on greek life in 2019 and his thoughts of what the future of fraternities and sororities will look like over the next decade nationally.

Martin is a Spring 2003 initiate of the Zeta Phi Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha at Mississippi Valley State University and has worked in the field of advising Fraternity and Sorority Life for 10 years.

We interviewed him about his campus, his position and his thoughts on future of fraternities and sororities on college campuses nationally over the next 50 years.

Read the full interview below.

What does your job as a Fraternity and Sorority Life Professional entail?

I lead a team of capable advisors in providing guidance to 43 fraternities and sororities at Northwestern University particularly in the areas of risk management/harm reduction, leadership development education, social justice, membership recruitment and education, problem resolution, and community planning. I cultivate relationships with multiple stakeholders including, but not limited to, national headquarter staff, alumni volunteers, campus partners, and student governing elected leadership.

Why did you decide to go into a job as an advisor of fraternity sorority life?

Although fraternities and sororities can be challenging constituents to work with on many college campuses, I continue to remember that my fraternity experience was transformative in my academic development.

Why do you think NPHC and Multicultural fraternities and sororities are important on your campus?

Historically Black and multicultural fraternities and sororities (cultural-based fraternities and sororities) play a vital role in telling the counter-narrative of life in fraternities and sororities. Although these organizations come with their own unique challenges, cultural-based fraternities and sororities often bring students a sense of community for individuals of minoritized identities. This is vitally important for a highly selective private predominantly White institution such as Northwestern.

With the prevalence of stories about sexual, assault, hazing and substance abuse, why do you think NPHC and MGC greek life should continue to be supported by colleges and universities?

Fraternities and sororities are unique vehicles to address sexual assault, hazing, and substance abuse. Although these stories happens less (in number of incidents) in cultural-based fraternities and sororities, these issues still are permeating all of college campuses, beyond fraternity and sorority life. However, we know that studies have shown that fraternity and sorority life cultivate unique cultures that make these issues more prevalent in fraternity and sorority spaces. However, I believe that in no other place on a college campus, particularly a campus such as mine, where almost 40% of the undergraduate student population are affiliated, can the needle be moved on these issues through intentional programming.

Looking at the future from a campus administrative perspective, where do you see greek life 10 years from now?

Fraternities and sororities are faced with unique and tough challenges. From the issues mentioned above, as well as issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity, these organizations will be challenge, both my universities and through a less tolerant public in dealing with these issues. I believe that we will see less fraternities and sororities on college campuses in the coming years due to this intolerance and through universities taking a more active approach in the governance of these organizations on college campuses. We are in a period today, much like the 60’s, which I deem the “anti-Greek era”. Many college students are questioning the validity of these organizations in times where college campuses are becoming more diverse. Fraternity & sorority life on many college campuses, stratified mostly by race and ethnicity, will have to figure out how to become more welcoming to a more diverse student body that have salient identities that reaches beyond race.

What is something undergrads need to do to ensure that undergraduate greek life on college campuses will survive and be around 50 years from now?

I am often amazed at the generational differences on many issues, particularly those dealing with diversity, equity, and inclusion. I believe that our current undergraduates will be the members we need to address this issue. That is my optimism. However, I am pessimistic when it comes to risky behaviors such as alcohol, hazing, sexual assault, etc. Our undergraduate members will need to view this experience beyond the contemporary social outlet. Although many of the organizations are social, undergraduates have to understand align with the values and ensure that the experience is safe.

How do you see individuals who join NPHC/MGC orgs benefit personally from going greek?

I believe that NPHC/MGC organizations offer their members opportunities for leadership skills, networking opportunities, and informal mentor/mentee relationships.

We now live in a digital world, what do you think undergraduate chapters across all orgs need to do to represent themselves online in 2019?

I would love to see undergraduate chapters use their online platforms for more than new member/neophyte promo videos or social/party promotion. Many of our organizations engage in philanthropic and service initiatives. We must be just as vigorous in elevating these initiatives as well so that others understand the complete experience of being a member of a fraternity or sorority.

Why do you think Watch The Yard is important?

I think Watch The Yard is an online community that centers Blackness and the Black college experience. As someone who most salient identity is Black, I believe this platform is invaluable to Black college students who are navigating the college environment. Watch The Yard brings a small Black community across the American higher education landscape closer together. Whether you attend a Historically Black College & University (HBCU), Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), Predominantly White Institution (PWI), or any other type of college, you can connect with the broader Black college community and feel a sense of pride in our culture.

What are some initiatives you see the greeks on your campus doing that make you proud?

Here at Northwestern, our NPHC has been getting involved in mentoring students in the local school district. One of our MGC fraternities have an annual day of service where they disperse members and others within the campus community across various sites in the Chicago area to participate in a day of service. Initiatives such as these do not get told enough and I am always proud to learn of the good work that our organizations do each year.

What is your favorite thing about your job?

I enjoy having no two days alike. Working in this line of work brings about dynamic days. I also most enjoy building relationship with students, who I believe are future leaders of the world. If I can contribute an ounce to their journey into their purpose, then I feel as if my work is not in vain.

What is it about the NPHC and MGC greek community at your college/university that makes it unique/special?

NPHC and MGC here at Northwestern are smaller fraternity and sorority communities in comparison to our historically White fraternity and sorority community. However, they are a close-knit community that really develop affinity for their affiliations. Being at a highly selective private institution, many of these students do not socialize as much due to the demands of the academic curriculum and our schedule being quarters instead of semesters. Therefore, i do get the opportunity to see students here engage a little more proportional in educational, service, and philanthropic initiatives, simply due to time in comparison to other institutions I’ve been affiliated.

We at Watch The Yard would like to thank Travis Martin for taking time to speak on these important issues.

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