New assistant director for fraternity and sorority life to focus on community, visibility
Austin Sweeney, currently a sexual and relationship violence prevention specialist at Washington University, will step into his new role at the University as assistant director of fraternity and sorority life Sept. 5.
Sweeney, who was selected for the role after former Assistant Director David Stetter left the University in June, hopes to spend the year building a greater sense of community within Greek life and to also address a variety of internal issues with student-led initiatives.
In order to accomplish these goals, Sweeney and his soon-to-be colleagues will first communicate with Greek students about their own hopes for the system.
“I’m excited to really, once in the role, take some time to learn and hear what the goals and priorities are of the leaders in all three of our Greek councils,” Sweeney said. “I think being able to learn about and support those efforts in the best and most effective way that I can, through building relationships, through being present and visible, is really important. I really want to be somebody who is accessible for all students in the Greek community.”
Associate Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life Stephanie Weiskopf, who helped hire Sweeney, noted that his ability to turn student input into action, especially in his advising role with the student group Leaders in Interpersonal Violence Education (LIVE), made him a valuable addition to Campus Life.
“What makes Austin the most ideal candidate and the reason we hired him is that he has done such powerful work in the [Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention] center in creating cultural change,” Weiskopf said. “I think he really values student input and integrates in a way that is powerful in a way that encourages students to create change themselves. The way he’s been able to build up LIVE…has been amazing. That was largely a result of him being a really empowering advisor to that student group.”
Sweeney also noted that his work with LIVE would carry over to his new role.
“[I’m] definitely really interested in continuing to grow the presence of our LIVE Greek educators within Greek Life. I know over the past couple of years they have made a lot of efforts to do education both with active chapter members, as well as new members, and I think peer driven dialogue is one of the most effective ways to shift and better the culture,” he said. “I’m excited to work with LIVE Greek in my new position to help grow their presence and the impact that they have within Greek life even more.”
In addition to expanding already existing programs, Weiskopf hopes to revisit aspects of Greek life that have sometimes proved problematic in the past.
“We are planning on implementing a round table series of discussions with all philanthropy chairs to talk big picture because essentially [philanthropy events are] really just transferring money back and forth [where] one group goes to another group’s event and then vice versa,” she said. “So how do we make meaningful experiences around that? I think the only way to address that is for people to get around a table and agree that something needs to change. I don’t think us saying ‘You need to change this thing’ ever works.”
Sweeney, therefore, hopes to be a resource for students and to help them effective positive change within the Greek community.
“I think it’s so important that it’s one that sets students up to drive and create and implement their own culture in a really positive healthy and productive way,” he said. “I think that the way for this position to be effective in doing that is by being somebody who is out there and is visible and is accessible and somebody who students really feel like they can go to.”