Monday, July 30, 2007

UNH Fraternity Given Second Chance

Good comes from poor choice aboard Isles of Shoals vessel
By Shir Haberman

PORTSMOUTH — Robin Whittaker, owner of the Isles of Shoals Steamship Co., decided this summer to take a negative situation involving a UNH fraternity and turn it into a learning experience for those involved.

“Robin understands that everyone is human, and we all make mistakes and bad choices,” said the company’s marketing director, Hayley Holmes.

The bad choice Whittaker hoped to rectify occurred in September 2006, when the University of New Hampshire fraternity, Sigma Beta, took the Isles of Shoals Steamship Co. for an evening cruise.

Aboard the M/V Thomas Laighton, some fraternity members and their dates were involved in underage drinking and the boat was forced to return to port early. The incident was reported to police, Holmes said, but no charges were pressed and there was no damage to the Laighton.

“The incident negatively impacted Robin, the boat’s crew and the larger Portsmouth community the local cruise line serves,” Holmes said. “It was a black mark on both the fraternity as well as the larger Greek system and UNH community.

”Whittaker took the initiative to create a situation in which those involved in the 2006 incident learned the consequences of making poor decisions. With the help of the university’s interim Greek coordinator Paul Ramsay, arrangements were made between the fraternity and the steamship company to repair relations, with each side learning a valuable lesson.

During the winter months, there was correspondence between Sigma Beta member Sean Delahunt and Whittaker, and a date was set at the beginning of the 2007 season for fraternity members to spend some time fixing up the port area.

The students spent a few hours landscaping, scraping and painting the benches, and fixing parts of the dock.

“It was important for the fraternity to show that responsibility and accountability count for a lot, and that something positive could come from this incident,” states a press release issued by the steamship company.

Whittaker’s initiative opened the door of possibility for members of Sigma Beta to learn from their mistakes and to take something much greater away from the experience.Whittaker said she strongly believes in the importance of personal growth and learning through conflicts such as this one.

“After that night, we understand how our behavior only reflects poorly on fraternities as well as the UNH community,” Delahunt said.

“That night was a lapse in judgment and affected our reputation and shadowed all of the positive things our fraternity does in the community.

“We appreciate this opportunity from Robin and everyone at the Isles of Shoals Steamship Co. for the chance to make things right,” Delahunt said.

After their community service, the Sigma Beta members were given complimentary passes aboard the Thomas Laighton.“It affords them the opportunity to show they can have fun in a safe and legal manner,” Holmes said.

Judging from the response of the fraternity members, they plan to do just that.“We hope this will be the start of a great relationship between Sigma Beta and Isles of Shoals Steamship Co.,” Delahunt said.

“Both parties have walked away with a valuable learning experience and greater knowledge into how conflict can equal growth as well.”To learn more about the Isles of Shoals Steamship Co.’s community involvement, call (800) 441-4620, or visit
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