October 4, 2001

Greeks Turn to Cohen '81

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On any given day, it would not be unusual to see Mayor Alan J. Cohen ’81 together with leaders of the Cornell Interfraternity Council or the Panhellenic Association. The City and the Greek system are collaborators on many projects, and not just because Cohen is a Theta Delta Chi alumnus.

“Mayor Cohen and I touch base fairly often on how the Ithaca community can work better with the Cornell community,” said Rebecca Walker ’02, president of the Cornell Panhellenic Association.

During the weeks since Sept. 11, when Josh Glasstetter ’01 resigned from his seat on Common Council, Cohen and some within the Greek system turned their attention to an impending race to represent Collegetown and West Campus in the City government.

Peter Mack ’03, a member of Psi Upsilon, filed a petition at the county Board of Elections on Tuesday to appear on the ballot opposite Jamison Moore ’04.

Originally, Cohen had been discussing Walker’s potential candidacy, but according to Walker a group of leaders in the Greek system ultimately decided on Mack.

“It was clear from the beginning that Peter was an ideal candidate. He was such a natural choice,” Walker said.

Subsequent to the decision to support Mack in a campaign for the Fourth Ward, Cohen supplied some sorority and fraternity members with voter registration forms upon their request.

“I think Peter is going to have widespread support [in the Fourth Ward]. Certainly the Greek system stands behind him 100 percent,” Walker said.

Earlier in the week, Cohen was seen in several sorority houses, according to one of the house presidents. However, Cohen denies having visited Greek houses specifically to address the Mack campaign.

“I visited one house where I participated in a discussion of this race,” Cohen said.

At another house, in which Cohen arrived to drop off voter registration forms while the house was involved in a general meeting. “I did not specifically talk about this race. I talked about politics in general,” he said.

Presently, Cohen is not involved in any voter registration efforts with the Greek system, he added.

Michael Tranter ’02, a friend and campaign advisor for Mack, saw the team supporting Mack as a less formal organization, not an assembly of house leaders.

“I wouldn’t say its a group of [fraternity and sorority] presidents,” Tranter said. “It’s more a grass roots effort.”

“Peter’s frat is definitely involved, but I wouldn’t say it is the major player,” he added.

Tranter noted that several of Mack’s supporters know him from the School of Hotel Administration, not from the Greek system.

“We’re basically registering more people through friends,” he said. ” I can’t say at this point how far reaching that is.”

In the first Common Council election featuring two students, however, more students are expected to vote than two years ago when Glasstetter defeated Jane Pedersen, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. In effect, that may impact the position each Greek house takes toward the race.

“In every opportunity the Greek system has to support each other, we do that. It’s likely that people are going to want to support Peter,” Walker said. “[Generating support for Mack in the Greek system] is not going to need prodding.”

Given the circumstances of the race, with Mack running as an independent versus a Democrat — Moore is not a fraternity member — Democratic voters in the Greek system may emerge as a major swing factor in the election. If it is close, then the seat may go to whichever candidate receives the most support from fraternity brothers and sorority sisters themselves.

“I don’t know what people’s reactions are going to be when asked to do that,” Walker said of the decision that could force some students to choose between two competing allegiances, fraternity membership versus party membership.

Archived article by Matthew Hirsch