Few at Cornell consider the business-oriented, leadership side of fraternities and sororities, but on Saturday approximately 350-500 members of the Greek community attended workshop sessions on various aspects of Greek life at the ninth annual A.D. White Leadership Conference.
“The conference is a great opportunity to get the leaders of Greek students together,” said Lisa Blockus Brown, assistant dean of students for leadership development in the office of fraternity and sorority affairs.
Patrick Pierre-Louis, former executive vice president for the Multicultural Greek Letter Council, shared Blockus Brown’s belief and said that “there’s a lot of business within the social side of Greek life.”
Many Greek chapters select leaders in November or December and have a transition period between semesters, according to Blockus Brown. The conference organizers tailored some of the programming to the needs of the new executive board members and other leaders so that they could benefit from sessions specific to the challenges they may face in their positions.
“This is all about leadership development,” said Samara Fetto ’06, former executive vice president of the Panhellenic Association and former president of Kappa Kappa Gamma. “We want leaders to realize they have an opportunity to leave a legacy with their chapters – the conference is motivation and inspiration to go out and make a change from the year before,” she added.
The format of the conference has not greatly changed since its inception in 1998, aside from increased attendance from the chapters. This year, however, the conference organizers introduced a resource fair with pamphlets, brochures and giveaways from student organizations and Ithaca companies. According to Fetto, the materials were arranged in respect to the seven elements of the new Greek code.
“In the past more programs were geared more towards the Panhellenic Council and the Interfraternity Council, but now things include the Multicultural Greek Letter
Council,” Pierre-Louis said.
The attendance of chapters’ faculty fellows reflected the recent emphasis within the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs on bridging the gap between Greek and academic life.
“It’s a negative stereotype we’re trying to dispel – some chapters have tea receptions with faculty at the end of the semester,” Fetto said.
The conference organizers divided the schedule into three blocks – Alpha, Beta, and
Gamma. Within each block attendees could choose to participate in one of eight sessions. They included “Traditions Gone Wild! Hazing Exposed,” “Building
Inclusive Organizations,” and “Queer Eye for the Straight Ally.”
Ideally, each Greek chapter would have one representative at each of the eight sessions within each block. That way the chapter would take in all that the workshop offered, according to Fetto.
One session, “The Alcohol Culture at Cornell,” broached topics including the sociological significance of Slope Day, the Cornellian motto “work hard, party hard,” and Greek traditions like the rugby team’s “drink up.” The session facilitator, Galia Porat ’05 grad masters in organizational behavior, shared papers from ILROB 329: Organizational Cultures, which she co-taught, on Tulane students’ inability to adapt to the Cornell drinking culture, the cultural significance of sake bombing, fraternity pledging, and the rite of passage of the 21st birthday celebration and others.
“It was nice. She was realistic and not just like ‘don’t drink’ because everyone drinks,” said Erica Paley ’08.
“Everyone realizes the major issues with sororities and frats is alcohol consumption,” said Rob Shuck, chapter advisor of Chi Phi and 12-year Cornell student. “There’s only been a couple of sessions at the conference over the years that have been this good,” he added, likening the session to “a pearl in a sea of grits.”
The conference ended with keynote speaker TJ Sullivan and his speech entitled “Greek Chapter Apathy is a Myth.”
“Sullivan’s still in touch with issues undergrad Greeks face, and he presents the information in a way that we’ll be able to listen. He catches and engages the audience,” Pierre-Louis said.
The presentation of the John S. Hyson Citizenship Award, which recognizes a student’s exceptional leadership within the Greek community, concluded the conference.
Archived article by By Jessica DiNapoli
Sun Staff Writer