February 27, 2002

A Look Inside C.U.'s Greek Organizations

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The three umbrella Greek organizations at Cornell, the Interfraternal Council (IFC), the Panhellenic Association, and the Multicultural Greek Letter Council (MGLC) together represent one-third of the student body. While the organizations collaborate on projects, they maintain unique identities.

On campus for over 100 years, the Panhellenic Association oversees Cornell’s 13 national Panhellenic Sororities.

Lindsay Williams ’03, President of the Panhellenic Association, said, “[The Panhellenic Association] oversees the social events of the sororities to make sure they keep in line with Cornell Regulations as well as National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) policy.”

The Panhellenic Association fills many roles in the Greek community in addition to their main role of supervising the individual chapters.

“Essentially, we coordinate philanthropic events in the sororities as well as in the overall Greek system,” Williams said. “We provide educational possibilities for our Greek women.”

These educational opportunities include the Delta Series, a series of lectures on women’s health issues, and alcohol awareness classes.

The fraternities’ counterpart to the Panhellenic Association, the IFC also fills many roles.

According to President Jason Conn ’03, the IFC’s main purpose is “to oversee all aspects of fraternity life at Cornell.”

Conn said that currently the organization is focusing on the issue of hazing, a controversial topic.

“Because the IFC fraternities are very visible, because they are the center of the social scene on campus, a lot of our issues are more visible,” he said.

In addition, the fraternities in the IFC organize philanthropic functions, with houses co-sponsoring events.

Similar in function to the IFC and Panhellenic Association, the MGLC oversees the multicultural fraternities and sororities on campus that are not in the IFC or Panhellenic.

Although much younger than its sibling organizations, the MGLC’s influence and membership is continually increasing.

As declared in its mission statement, the MGLC serves a variety of functions, including promoting unity among its members and providing a support system for the various chapters on campus. The MGLC also focuses on community service, minority issues and promotion of multicultural Greek life.

The MGLC has expanded from four groups in 1998 to its current 14 groups.

“The MGLC is probably [Cornell’s] fastest growing council,” said Nelson. “That’s a trend nationally because there are more students on predominately white campuses like Cornell coming from diverse backgrounds …. There’s more of a desire for that kind of community.”

Several of the MGLC’s participating chapters are the Alpha chapters, or first chapters, of their fraternities or sororities.

“This is a founding place for many of the multicultural fraternities and sororities all over the United States,” said Matthew Rivera ’04, MGLC President.

Despite their similarities, the three Greek organizations have some basic differences, especially in structure.

“Government and structure for Panhellenic is very different from the IFC and the MGLC,” explained Nelson.

Unlike the IFC and the MGLC, the Panhellenic Association must obey laws passed by the NPC, their national association.

“[The sororities are] more consistent from campus to campus because the rules are the same,” said Nelson, comparing the NPC to the IFC.

In contrast to the Panhellenic, the IFC can follow suggestions made by the National Interfraternal Conference, but is under no obligation to do so. The MGLC does not have a national organization.

In addition to structural differences, each organization differs in size. While both the IFC and Panhellenic represent about the same number of Cornell students, the IFC oversees more chapters. With about 100 members, the MGLC includes far fewer chapters and members than both the IFC and Panhellenic Association.

Currently, the leaders of the individual organizations are striving to build a spirit of cooperation.

“I think the other thing that’s really good [is that] we’ve formed a tri-council coalition,” said Nelson. “The three councils work jointly for special events that benefit the whole system.”

These events include the A.D. White Leadership Conference, the End of Year Celebration, faculty appreciation events, and various philanthropic functions.

With the leaders of each organization meeting monthly, the three councils make an effort to maintain close contact with each other.

“We’ve got really good, open lines of communication,” said Rivera.

Cooperation between councils yields results, according to the leaders.

“I think working together more and more as [the Tri-Council has] these past few years is a huge accomplishment in and of itself,” said Williams.

According to Conn, the organizations’ strength lies in numbers.

“The strongest aspect is when we pool our resources and the number of students we represent,” he said. “It’s a very powerful group.”

But perhaps the groups’ common goal provides the heart of their alliance.

“I think that one of the reasons why we work so easily together … [is that] within the three councils we work for the same goal of making the Greek system a strong and positive force on campus,” said Conn.

Archived article by Shannon Brescher