Cornell was recognized for its outstanding Greek community this past weekend at the Northeast Greek Leadership Association annual conference in Hershey, P.A., winning 24 awards. The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs sent a delegation from the Panhellenic Association, the Interfraternity Council and the Multicultural Greek Letter Council to meet with Greek leaders from other universities to discuss problems within the community, promote unity and share ideas.
Diversity contributed to the conference’s strength and effectiveness, as students hailed from across the East Coast. Rachel Goldfarb ’07, the Panhellenic vice president of university and community relations, said the conference was an eye-opening experience because Greek systems vary greatly from school to school.
“It was great to meet other people from other schools: big schools, small schools, technical colleges, and the Ivy League,” she said. “There are different struggles. For example, at other schools, Greek Week is crazy and people skip class to go. Here, people don’t go.”
As the third largest Greek community in the country, Cornell stood out as a successful example of fraternity and sorority life. The MGLC delegation was one of the only represented in a conference of over 150 schools. Jillian Dorans ’07, Panhellenic vice president of recruitment, publicity and extension, said she was unaware of Cornell’s prominence in the national Greek community. “People came up to us and said they heard we had a great system,” she said. “I know I didn’t realize how strong our Greek community was before I talked to other schools. We were the only school to win every award and we are so lucky to be in a system with such a great infrastructure.”
Cornell’s recruitment numbers rose this year, signifying the strength of the Greek community. “You look around at other schools where they are closing the Greek system down, and ours continues to grow,” IFC President David Bean ’07 said. “Nationally, Greek organizations are having a lot of pressure and a lot of negative opinions. Coming away from the conference I saw some new ways to improve the image of the Greek.”
Ari Saunders ’07, Panhellenic vice president of communication, said that Cornell’s flourishing Greek system led other attendees of the conference to single them out. “We were approached by people running the session and thanked for coming,” she said. “They asked if we wanted to throw out any advice or hints. It showed how well we were received.”
In addition to providing advice, Cornell delegates also brought ideas home with them. “There was a publicity initiative at MIT that took individuals and quoted them about themselves and why they like the Greek system,” Dorans said. “It showed diversity in the Greek system and that the people are involved as student leaders. It could break down the stereotype of what it means to be a Panehellenic woman.”
The numerous awards the Cornell delegation brought home are symbols of the importance of the Greek community on campus, Bean said.”We swept the awards,” he said. “It really is a statement of how great the fraternities and sororities are on campus, and not just the councils, but the individual chapters as well.”
Goldfarb said that Cornell’s excellence as an academic institution contributes to its national prominence. “I think our Greek system is so strong because there is such an emphasis on education here,” Goldfarb said. “People want to find a social outlet and philanthropy outlet that is consistent.”
The Greek community’s commitment to philanthropy was highlighted at the conference to illustrate that Greek organizations can have positive images. “I want to fight that stereotype that all we do is get wasted and backstab,” Goldfarb said.
The conference strengthened Greek communities and chapters by offering a variety of workshops and discussions on current issues. Delegates sometimes represented their universities and other times represented their personal chapters. These breakout sessions ranged in topics from scholarship to risk management to the role of Facebook. “One of the sessions was on how to get people to care about school and not partying,” Dorans said. “That question is so not applicable to Cornell. For us, it is how do we get people out of the library and to events?”
Dorans and Goldfarb both cited T.J. Sullivan’s session, “Confronting the Idiot in the Chapter” as one of the best events. Sullivan also spoke at the A.D. White Greek Leadership Conference. “He was the most engaging of the speakers by far,” Dorans said. “‘The idiot’ can be anyone from someone who is apathetic to an alcoholic to someone with eating issues. He talked about how to make the distinction between brotherhood or sisterhood, and when someone is detrimental to the chapter.”
Goldfarb said Sullivan’s dynamism as a speaker comes from his ability to identify with his audience. “He is around 37, but still a frat boy at heart,” she said.
Two speakers who left an impact on the Cornell delegation were a mother and her 7-year-old daughter who recently battled brain cancer. They spoke on the behalf of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital with the hope that Greek organizations would institute their fundraiser, Up ‘Till Dawn, on campuses.
The conference also provided an opportunity for the members of the Tri-Council to get to know each other better. “I am sure we had more fun than every group there,” Saunders said. “We were by far the largest and we are all very close. It felt like a junior high school trip all over again. We took a Coach bus and at night would pile into each other’s beds in pajamas and watch movies.”
Archived article by Bekah Grant
Sun Staff Writer