After a weekend of meetings between national sorority representatives, University administrators and local chapters, Cornell’s sororities remain in a state of social limbo, after the variance sought by local sorority chapters was not approved.
The 1998 National Panhellenic Council resolution was adopted to support fraternities in their stated goals of eliminating alcohol from their facilities, especially during fraternity-sorority social gatherings. The University’s 13 sororities have been forced to abide by one of three regulations: facility-based, function-based and campus-based.
The stringent facility-based regulations, adopted by the Kappa Kappa Gamma and Pi Beta Phi sororities, prohibit social events at any fraternity that is not alcohol-free.
Out of Cornell’s 41 fraternities, only one — the Phi Delta Theta fraternity — is currently “dry.”
The function-based level prohibits co-sponsoring alcoholic events at fraternities. This policy, however, has been interpreted in different ways by the nine affected Cornell sororities.
“We can still have our crush parties at fraternities because we pay them for the use of their facility,” explained Nicole D’Amato ’01, president of the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority. “Our national lets us interpret the policy that way,” by defining the non-sponsoring fraternity host facility as a rented location, D’Amato said, but added, “other houses at this level still consider it an alcoholic event at a fraternity house, not a rented facility, and won’t allow it.”
“We’re lucky,” she admitted. “The only real change for us is that our mixers have to be at bars, not at fraternities.” Mixers are defined campus-wide as being co-sponsored, and therefore could not be exempted from the function-based regulations.
The most lenient level, implemented by the Sigma Delta Tau and Delta Phi Epsilon sororities, simply encourages chapters to abide by the alcohol regulations on their campus, which calls for a third party caterer at any function involving alcohol. The two houses’ lenient policy has caused some resentment from the other sororities.
“The different policies are just making it hard for all the sororities to present a united front,” D’Amato said. “Now there’s going to be a huge push for SDT and DPhiE to move to the middle.”
“Obviously, we’d be upset about a stricter policy,” said Danielle Rothman ’02, president of the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority. “But I think Cornell Panhellenic should be united, and we’d be able to work with it.”
In response to these regulations, the Panhellenic Council submitted a request for a variance to the national sororities this summer, citing the University’s effective third-party catering system and Ithaca’s lack of facilities among the reasons to consider an exception to the regulations.
“Nationals are trying to implement a policy that is not safe for specific campuses,” said Laura McCammon ’02, social chair of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, who helped draft the variance request. “We are now going to have to host events in unsafe and unfamiliar locations that are far away, increasing the risk of driving drunk and accidents due to inclement weather.”
The national sororities, however, have not budged on their regulations. At the open meeting held Saturday in Statler Auditorium, the representatives held fast to their policies despite hours of objections from the local chapters.
“It was an opportunity for students here to voice their opinions about the alcohol system we have in place here and the policies the national groups have,” Audra Lifson ’01, the Panhellenic Council’s vice president of programming. “It was a chance for the representatives of these 13 groups, who aren’t familiar with our campus, to hear what students had to say.”
Mayor Alan Cohen ’81, an alumnus of the Theta Delta Chi fraternity, was on hand to voice his objections to the national regulations.
As stated in his letter to the National Panhellenic Conference last April, included in the variance, Cohen believes that the national alcohol policies “will lead to more drinking in unsupervised environments, push more Greek social events into surrounding neighborhoods, and could lead to an increased incidence of DWI.”
The national sorority representatives, who were familiar with the variance request, held fast to the regulations and emphasized the need for cooperation.
“We’re all very well aware of the concerns,” said Stacia Waltz, collegiate services administrator at the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority’s international headquarters. “The meeting was the time to ask key questions, not to rehash the same points made in the variance.”
“It was a great time for international representatives to get together,” D’Amato said. “But it seems pretty apparent that they weren’t going to allow any exceptions. They stood fast to what they as an organization believed in.”
“I do see the need for some change in Cornell’s third-party catering system —