MIT AILG Accreditation Report for the Academic Year 2008-9


Excerpt: Best Practices and Lessons Learned

The AILG Board requested on 4 Feb 2010 that the Best Practices and Lessons Learned which were identified by Visiting Committees be made available to the MIT Undergraduate FSILG Leadership. I have created this extract of the full report for this purpose.


John R. Covert
AILG Accreditation Coordinator
MIT Phone 617 32 4-8259 (day, evening, cell)

Phi Kappa Theta


  1. 4.Best Practices in the MIT FSILG Community 

A sampling of the “best practices” identified by the review teams is presented below, edited slightly to not mention specific organizations.  (Please recognize that each of these items was extracted from the Visiting Committee reports which were written by dozens of authors with different writing styles.) Many of these practices were reported to be in operation at more than one organization.  All of the best practices are contained in the full reports in the Appendix, available to any member of  the MIT AILG Community.  It is important to note that a best practice found in one living group may  not necessarily be appropriate for another.  This is not a “one size fits all” situation.  Rather, the idea is  to offer practices for the consideration of each individual living group.  Should a group desire more  information about any particular item, please contact the Accreditation Coordinator or any member of the Accreditation Committee.

    1. 4.1.Governance 

  1. a)Wikis are used to capture, share, and transfer knowledge and news among the undergraduates and the alumni.  These can be used to improve communication among members, to coordinate plans and events, and to document standard practices and history. 

  2. b)A large group of recent alumni has been recruited to form an advisory board. 

  3. c)MIT’s Chapter Alumni Risk Management Advisors (CARMA) program promotes increased awareness of risk management issues and communication between undergraduates and alumni. 

  4. d)At least one organization has engaged Stewart Howe to maintain its public Web pages. 

  5. e)One alumni corporation has required its undergraduate president to send a short standard template email to the the alumni president each Tuesday with specific topics including (but not limited to) these: "Hits and Misses" (good happenings and difficulties); educational problems; new indications of losing a member; incidents of any kind that were or could have been reported; communications received of a "negative sort"; "Weekly Treasurer's Report" and other topics. 

  6. f)Some of our organizations employ resources from their National to implement a smoothly running administration (accounting, alumni/ae database, etc).  Additionally, welcoming alumni/ae from other schools helps organizations learn from different experiences across the country. 

  7. g)Summer boarder policies were reviewed by several organizations this past year together with a joint Institute / FSILG / AILG committee formed to ensure best practices in this area.  Several organizations limit boarders to chapter members, relatives of chapter members, and members of the national organization from other schools. 

  8. h)More than one chapter reports using a competitive and selective application process for boarders, elected summer officers (president, house manager, treasurer, steward), and an awareness-training program in which rules are presented and stressed to all summer residents. 

    1. 4.2.Financial 

      1. a)In order to complete the transition required by "freshmen on campus" from a 4-year to a 3-year system, one organization temporarily rented rooms on their fourth and fifth floors to MIT graduate students.  The income from this program allowed them to keep a full-time cook and prevented the hemorrhaging of funds.  They now have the resources to reinvigorate rush and recruitment to rebuild the chapter.  As the chapter grows, it will reclaim rooms on the fourth floor and eventually the fifth floor. 

      2. b)One organization has created an 'alumni mortgage' as a way to loan money to the corporation with provisions for repayment in case of disbandment. 

      3. c)There are organizations using their National alumni services to build up contact lists and eventually run capital campaigns. 

      4. d)One of our Review Teams was impressed with the level of organizational improvement as a direct result of the Accreditation Program and the assistance recommended from prior reviews.  Finances are much better organized, including filing for the appropriate IRS paperwork and using QuickBooks to keep track of all accounts.  The review team felt the alumni board is today more organized and engaged with the members than before. 

    2. 4.3.Recruitment and Member Development 

      1. a)One group has formed a chapter advisory board, distinct from the alumni/ae corporation, with 11 members (not all MIT alumni/ae) providing nearly one-on-one interaction and support to the 13 executive board officers. 

      2. b)Several groups prepare their own “Guide to MIT” for new members with information about majors, sports and clubs on campus. 

      3. c)We are always happy to see an organization which reports alumni/ae "counseling" the undergraduates. 

      4. d)One alumni corporation elects to fill explicit age group requirements, enforcing a diverse age range of members. 

      5. e)At one FSILG, necessary efforts have been made by the chapter president and other officers to create a member development program based around respect, unity, pride and trust in order to move toward a house culture that is focused on core values and building better people, rather than drinking.  This values program is also part of the new member education program, in order to set standards and teach new members about safe behavior and risk management. 

      6. f)Executive council meetings are rotated between chapter house and campus to improve connections with on-campus members. 

      7. g)At least one organization issues monthly newsletters electronically to all alumni/ae, with another newsletter going to parents of all current chapter members, both with articles about chapter events and officer/member updates. 

      8. h)An organization re-thought and re-organized its approach to rush and recruitment to good success. 

      9. i)In at least one group, an alumnus makes a presentation to all undergraduate members each semester.  Alumni assist in recruitment preparations, especially in training actives in both recruitment skills and in giving out bids.  Organizations report that alumni involvement has improved dramatically over the past few years.  Examples are alumni events that are attracting significant numbers and a career mentoring program. 

      10. j)One organization encourages development of dorm communities for members living on-campus.  Its members eat dinner together before chapter meetings, participate in room swaps between dorms and the chapter house so that members can experience other living group cultures. 

      11. k)Chapter members have opportunities to attend leadership conferences put on by the national organization, and officer training materials are provided to the chapter for major offices.  Local chapters which take advantage of participating in these national activities and establishing connections with national officers find that this strengthens the local chapter. 

      12. l)One organization reports that it has extended the national organization's blueprint with several local innovations, and has created a unique training program for new members which does not end with initiation, but has requirements which must be completed each year.  The review committee urged this group to find a way to let other FSILGs learn about this innovative program. 

      13. m)In order to encourage positive behaviour, one group has a comprehensive system to determine housing priority.  It incorporates seniority, merit, and diversity of class. 

      14. n)MIT encourages the use of the ENTICE program for alcohol and substance abuse education (see 

    3. 4.4.Community Relations 

      1. a)At one organization the first hour of annual open house event is specifically geared towards faculty members and their families. 

    4. 4.5.Scholarship 

      1. a)One organization reports that it encourages good scholarship through room assignments and 'house culture.' 

    5. 4.6.Physical Plant 

      1. a)Alumni house manager oversees repairs. 

      2. b)One group keeps its house clean by having all residents participate in weekly group cleaning sessions.  The house manager keeps track of residents who need to make up a missed session.  During Saturday morning sessions small groups of residents take turns working on larger projects for upgrades and repairs.  The house manager keeps a list for distributing the assignments. 

  1. 5.Areas of the MIT FSILG Community Needing Improvement and Lessons Learned 

Below are some of the areas where individual organizations needed improvement and some lessons learned.  As with the previous section, these items were often reported at more than one FSILG and have been somewhat generalized.  The reports in the Appendix contain all of the specific results reported by the committees.

    1. 5.1.Governance 

      1. a)Officer transitions are an area which some chapters handle well, but which many chapters need to improve.  A well functioning organization can turn into a disaster in as little as 2 years if the knowledge of how to run the chapter is not transmitted forward.  Our review committees have encouraged the alumni and undergraduates at those chapters which do not already have formalized transition procedures to develop a 'Wiki' (with a section for each major office) so that current officers can write suggestions to future officers about standard operating procedures and the results of different policies and experiments. 

      2. b)Some organizations need to be more diligent about keeping the alumni/ae corporate filings with the Secretary of the Commonwealth up to date each year. 

    2. 5.2.Financial 

      1. a)There are organizations which have not yet made use of IRDF grant money. 

      2. b)One organization learned the hard way to collect rents from summer boarders prior to occupancy in order to avoid losing the income if the boarders disappear to far-flung and unknown reaches during or at the end of the summer. 

    3. 5.3.Recruitment and Member Development 

      1. a)We encourage more undergraduates and alumni to register for -- and take full advantage of -- the several Short Courses sponsored by the AILG during IAP. Although only 2 organizations completely ignored the IAP courses, many organizations could benefit from sending more.  These courses offer opportunities to learn tools to address the challenges facing all of the independent living groups. 

      2. b)Rush retention for at least one group was down this year compared to other years.  The Chapter hopes that emphasis on quality over quantity and setting expectations to ensure that freshmen move in to the house as sophomores will help improve in this area in the future.  More attention is needed to ensure these goals are met. 

      3. c)One of our committees reported that there was only one undergraduate at the review meeting who could only stay for 30 minutes of the meeting.  It would have been helpful to have more undergraduates involved in the meeting, as their viewpoint is invaluable to the process.  Other living groups have found these Accreditation visits to be a very valuable learning opportunity, not only about their own living group, but others at MIT as well. 

    4. 5.4.Community Relations 

      1. a)We encourage every organization which does not have one (and at the present time most do not) to recruit a Faculty Advisor soon.  Having more faculty directly involved with our organizations is an important way of getting the good news about our organizations out and improving our relationship with all of MIT's faculty. 

      2. b)Several organizations have a critical need for specific action, and all organizations need to do more outreach to MIT, the Cities of Cambridge and Boston and Town of Brookline, and the rest of the AILG Community to improve the image of their own organizations and of the system as a whole. 

    5. 5.5.Behaviour 

      1. a)Risk management is an area where many of our organizations need to be more pro-active about making sure that members and guests are aware of risk management standards and that these standards are clear and enforceable. 

      2. b)Each member of the Community needs to work with its neighbors in the Community to reinforce positive behavior.  This is necessary because the behavior of one fraternity is often painted with the same brush as its neighboring fraternity in the eyes of non-MIT neighbors.  Every organization bears some of the responsibility for the system as a whole. 

    6. 5.6.Physical Plant 

      1. a)We encourage all our members to work with the Building Safety Facilitator to make sure that all permits and inspections have been properly secured, especially for roof access (and any 'deck' thereon), as defined in municipal ordinance and regulation. 

      2. b)There were maintenance issues identified in a few of the reports.  While cleanliness is a known issue, Visiting Committees were reluctant to provide written criticism in this area.