Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cornell Greeks Clash with Administrators on Drinking Rules

Greeks, Administrators Clash at Forum Over New Drinking Rules
Administrators field questions over stricter rules for Greek drinking
By Dan Robbins

Wearing their houses’ letters, Greek students gathered Tuesday night on the Arts Quad and silently marched in protest into the auditorium of Uris Hall.

Hundreds of fraternity men joined other students, alumni and faculty who overflowed the auditorium during Tuesday night’s open forum on upcoming reforms to the Greek system.

Travis Apgar, associate dean of students for fraternity and sorority affairs, began by reiterating the new policy’s aims - excluding alcohol from recruitment, forbidding hazing and improving new member education. All changes, he said, align with the rules of chapters’ national organizations, as well as state laws. He emphasized that, while the changes are not negotiable, the process for implementing the changes within the University’s three-year deadline can be altered.

“We don’t intend to tell you how to operate recruitment or new member initiation,” Apgar said. “It’s on you make this successful and by no means do we intend to revoke your self-governance.”

According to Dean of Students Kent Hubbell ’67, legal, social and University pressures prompted the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs to revise the University Recognition Policy for Greek chapters on campus. The University decided to concentrate on the first-year experience and stress the need for alternative social events to those related to alcohol, both in and out of the Greek system, he said.

“We’re not here to advocate for a dry campus or Greek system,” Hubbell said. “And it’s going to take more than one year to ameliorate Cornell’s chronic, difficult drinking problem.”

Attendees questioned the administration’s commitment to Greek self-governance, the sustainability of fraternity life and previous analysis of the policy’s effectiveness and consequences.

Several chapter presidents asked why the University had not sought the cooperation and advice of the IFC before mandating the change, as certain chapters require more transformation than others under the new rules.

Apgar said the administration introduced the revisions first to the tri-council leaders to avoid miscommunication, but underscored the need for the Greek system to assist in implementing the amendments.

“We need your help,” Apgar said.

Students responded that many freshmen want to drink regardless of the status of the Greek system and, with no fraternity parties open to them, they will move to a more risky, unregulated Collegetown environment for alcohol. The students questioned whether the cash-strapped University had the means to support alternative events, and claimed that freshmen rushing fraternity houses will have to choose a house without being able to gauge the brotherhood’s attitude toward alcohol.

“We’re here because we’re fighting for the kids who will come after us once we’re gone,” Rohan Siddhanti ‘12, president of Sigma Pi fraternity, said. “We like that you’re trying to make cultural changes, but you’re just cutting at the top of the stem because frats will take kids off-campus.”

Susan Murphy ‘73, vice president for student and academic services, said that alcohol should not define the Greek system and that off-campus events are not inherently more dangerous that on-campus parties, at which point the crowd burst into laughter.

“Don’t you have a responsibility
to find out whether off-campus drinking will be safer than drinking in fraternities before you implement a policy that may very well lead to more off-campus drinking?” asked Justin Potter ’11. “Can you provide us with one statistic?”

According to Murphy, the administration will enlist the help of the Cornell University Police Department and Ithaca Police Department to monitor off-campus areas. Apgar, Murphy and Hubbell did not elaborate on specific plans to partner with these police forces.

“It’s not for me to decide your social life on Friday and Saturday night,” Murphy said. “Your insurance, though, won’t cover buying alcohol for underage students.”

Hubbell also said that campus police would be far less busy without the Greek system.

He stressed that the Residential Advisors and Residence Hall Directors provide supervision in dorms, while responsible alcohol distribution and safety at Slope Day has improved markedly. Students at the forum largely disagreed.

“My R.A.s offered me coloring books, free breakfasts during study week and monopoly,” Conor Callahan ‘11, social chair of Sigma Alpha Mu, said. “The University should really be worried about pre-games with hard alcohol, before fraternity events, that happen in the dorms.”
Other students supported Callahan’s claims, citing research done by a Cornell professor that supports fraternities as the safest place to consume alcohol.

“You’re not going to stop underage drinking unless you put cameras in rooms and search bags,” Drew Weirman ‘12 said. “There’ll be more arrests, more hospitalizations and more dangerous drinking.”

Chrissy Weiss, an advisor for the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, also asked whether the administration plans to use Greek advisers to mandate change.

“We get most of our information from our presidents after Panhel meetings,” she said. “Are we going to be involved?”

Apgar responded by stressing that live-in advisers are invaluable tools, which the tri-council leaders will help continue to include in the future.

The proposed plan will be presented to the Board of Trustees for approval in October. Before then, Apgar reiterated the importance of open forums and collaboration with the Greek and non-Greek community.

“The numbers at the forum show how important both the Greek and Cornell experience is to you,” he said. “And they’re important to us.”

----------------------------The Cornell Daily SunSeptember 2, 2010
Greek Leaders Plot Strategy in Response to Univ. Crackdown on Drinking
By Juan Forrer

Behind closed doors, Interfraternity Council urges mobilization against administration's policy
At one point during an executive session of the Interfraternity Council meeting Wednesday, a member stood up and asked, “Is there anyone here who doubts that the University is trying to shrink the Greek system?” All members in the room stayed silent with their hands at their sides.

This closed executive session of the IFC - where no administrators were present - was part of a concerted effort by Greek leaders to respond to the University’s new crackdown on drinking in the Greek system. Allen Miller ’11, president of the IFC, stressed the need for caution in their efforts, stating in an e-mail to chapter representatives before the open meeting that they should stay quiet about the changes until the closed session at the end.

During the public IFC meeting, rather than discussing the University’s proposed changes - which include imposing a dry rush week and excluding freshmen from many open parties and mixers - members talked about Greek Week and philanthropy events.

Travis Apgar, associate dean of students for fraternity and sorority affairs, was present during the open meeting and made a statement to the body at the end.

“I know that when when you don’t have intimate knowledge of a proposition, things really get skewed,” he said. “We’re not as cold and calculating as we get portrayed. I want you guys to show up next week [to the forum regarding proposed Greek changes] and represent yourselves well.”

As Apgar walked out of the Memorial Room, Justin Potter ’11 stood up to question Apgar’s commitment to the fraternity system’s current state of self-governance.

“I was going to question whether non-negotiable demands [on the part of the University] promote self-governance,” he said after the meeting.

After Apgar left, the closed meeting began. The session included a discussion regarding how to deal with the proposed changes and looking into the University’s supposed intentions.
Throughout the meeting, there was concern that the University was unfairly targeting the Greek system and that the changes would lead to chapters closing on campus.

“When we get in trouble now, we don’t go through an IFC board. We go to a University-type board. All of our chapters are going to be dropping like flies,” Potter said.

In addition to discussing the Universiy’s intentions, members of the IFC proposed strategies of how to deal with these intentions.

One option brought up was the feasibility of consulting with members of the Board of Trustees. Some IFC members hoped to be able to appeal to the Board, as several trustees were members of Cornell’s fraternity system.

Others, however, disagreed.
“The Board of Trustees is a group of old men whose fraternity days are so far behind them that they think the Greek system of today has somehow gone out of control and they need to bring it back,” one member said.

Additionally, during the session, IFC members circulated a petition for fraternity presidents to sign, which they said might be used at the administration’s public forum, which is scheduled for Tuesday.

The members encouraged all chapter presidents to bring their chapters en masse to the forum.
Apgar, in an interview after the meeting, also encouraged students to come to the forum in large numbers. He said that the forum on the might “show a need for us to continue to have forums.”
Apgar said he was committed to including students in the change process by holding public discussions.

“We certainly want [students] to be a part of the decision process to make the environment around them as safe as possible,” he said.

Apgar said that community involvement has so far led to concrete changes in the policy.
When asked what was accomplished through the student input, Apgar said, “We have opened up to the idea that they need time to remove alcohol and hazing from their new member education process.”

Miller, the IFC president, said he hopes to get the University thinking about the far-reaching effects of the proposed changes.

“The proposal will lead to heavy consequences for Greeks and non-Greeks,” Miller said. “We are talking about a big culture change.”
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