Eleanor Kahn’s job is an active one: six months ago she was hired as Assistant Director of Campus Life. She juggles multiple roles and responsibilities, from advising members of Greek life to selecting and training Resident Advisors. As an alumna of a small, liberal arts college much like Knox, she was, in her words, often “stretched thin” with commitments. Kahn was compelled to return to a familiar environment when her graduate program in Student Affairs at the University of Mississippi showed her the uniqueness of the Greek life experience she’d had as an undergrad.
“I saw the differences between my Greek life experience and the Greek life experience that people were getting at this larger institution,” she said. “I realized I really want to be a part of helping students have not what I had, but a similar experience in the way that it was so positive and so values-based and it was an experience that shaped me into a better person.”
Kahn advises the social sororities and fraternities on campus, directly for the Panhellenic Council and the Interfraternity Council (IFC) and indirectly for each of the ten individual chapters. She answers questions, checks information like grade reports and approves social events for Greek organizations as well as other campus organizations. Kahn also helps executive members of individual chapters talk through internal problems.
She hopes to have a positive impact on the evolution of Greek life at Knox. “Whether or not they choose to partake in it, I hope that those who are not involved in Greek life will view it as a positive experience rather than something that’s not valuable,” she said. Kahn also acknowledged a change in the rules and perceptions of many national organizations, specifically as Greek life relates to the ongoing public conversation about gender.
“I think one of the biggest criticisms that our organizations get is that, especially on a campus as liberal as Knox’s campus, they’re old fashioned. So, nationally Greek organizations recognize that in order to remain relevant they’ve got to make some changes. However, they also recognize how cool it is to be in a single-gender organization,” she said. “That’s such a weird balance to strike.”
A balance is being attempted at Knox, however, and most of the decision falls on individual chapters.
“If our chapters are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, if they’re recruiting based on their values, and if the student reflects the values of the organization, then the national’s not going to question that person’s membership,” Kahn said. “All of Knox’s female organizations nationally have shared that they will accept all female-identifying students, they’re not looking at what gender the student was assigned. The men I’m not as certain about what their national organizations state. But it’s not my decision, it’s mainly the chapter’s.”
Kahn said events like Formal Recruitment have contributed to the job being a positive experience.
“Formal Recruitment week was a more hectic week in terms of hours I was working,” she said. “But I was really lucky this year in terms of really strong leaders on campus, Panhellenic Council and IFC, so I feel like those processes were pretty organized.”
Organization is key for Kahn: Now that Formal Recruitment is over, she’s already started working toward hiring Resident Advisors for next year. “The application is available currently online if you go to knox.edu and you search RA selection, the link is like the first thing that comes up,” she said. “We’re hoping to have them hired before spring break.”
Overall, Kahn is looking forward to her future at Knox, joking with her RAs about her habitually early bedtime. She’s working to maintain a rapport with the Greek organizations on campus. “I like to think that I’ve established a pretty good relationship with each chapter to the point where they’re coming to me, they’re trusting me, that kind of thing,” she said. “I hope that this will begin my positive influence on the way that the Greek community evolves.”