The Sigma Zeta Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) has been shut down this past year after some challenges with particular students. Having served briefly as the advisor for PTK, I remember that depending on the students involved, there can certainly be challenges. In fact, last fall at the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference, I asked other honors directors who were also their campus’s PTK advisor about the drama that often seemed to be part of the chapter’s history. One advisor said, “There is always drama with PTK.” The others just nodded.
One reason for the drama, I believe, is that PTK gathers together very bright, very creative students who may or may not have experience with leadership, organizing events, managing funds, and running a chapter. That’s part of the purpose of PTK – building those skills. Some students definitely do show up with one or more of those skills and can help a chapter succeed, or they may be up against a larger group that doesn’t want to follow their lead.
I respect the decision of Kristina Holton, the chapter advisor, to close down the chapter to let things settle out. I especially respect her decision not to push recruitment when there weren’t any activities or opportunities for new members to participate in.
Regardless of the challenges that can beset a chapter, the benefits in terms of scholarship, leadership, and service make PTK an excellent learning opportunity for students. PTK also provides a competitive edge for scholarships (and offers some scholarships available only to its members), college applications, and job applications.
The Lane Honors Program offers these opportunities, too, so what is the ideal relationship between an honors program and PTK?
Kristina and I have been working on the answer to this question specifically as it relates to Lane Community College. For now, we see the two honors groups supporting each other and are encouraging students to join both. In fact, we are now rebuilding the chapter with students from the Honors Program as the active members and leaders.
This week, we held an information session to learn what students wanted from the chapter. Ten students attended the meeting, asking questions and offering suggestions.
We will meet again during Final Exam Week to plan the next steps for spring. Having met with nine of these ten students when they first joined the Honors Program, I can attest to the intelligence, character, and enthusiasm of this group and I’m optimistic that Lane may soon have a vibrant Sigma Zeta Chapter that works hand-in-hand with our honors program.