August 24, 2010

A Lack of Faith in Self-Governance

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The administrators who are dealing with the sweeping changes to the Greek system have professed the most admirable of intentions — the safety of students. But their decision to impose changes on the Tri-Council leadership shows a shocking and disappointing lack of faith in those students’ ability to take care of themselves. Dean of Students Kent Hubbell ’67 and head of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs Travis Apgar refuted the notion that these changes were mandated by the administration, but it is difficult to arrive at any other conclusion. When the University is not willing to adjust its own position and leverages its power of recognition to enact change, that is a mandate, and pretending otherwise is counterproductive. Cornell’s Greek leadership — students, administrators and alumni — frequently tout the benefits of self-governance in creating a sustainable Greek system. The approach to these changes does not resemble self-governance.For a Greek system widely regarded as one of the best and most progressive in the nation, these changes are disappointingly reactionary and one-dimensional. While curbing binge and underage drinking is a worthy goal, the administration’s approach is naive, and lacks both the pragmatism and innovative thinking necessary to simultaneously keep the Greek system strong, and keep underage students safe.The administration’s approach is faulty in its stated goal (keeping students safe from alcohol), and fails to recognize or acknowledge the latent effects of these changes. Had the administration engaged in a more collaborative process with the Tri-Council from the beginning, these issues could have been brought to the table, and the proposal could have been more well-rounded and prescient of possible challenges that might arise as a result of these changes.The notion that eliminating fraternity parties with alcohol as a social option for freshmen will ameliorate excessive drinking is based on faulty logic and a misunderstanding of college social life. Drinking, occasionally in copious amounts, is one of the core aspects of the college experience. Simply removing fraternity houses as a venue for this drinking will shift the scene elsewhere — probably North Campus and Collegetown. The administration must have concrete ideas in place to deal with this, and other possible unintended consequences of these changes.For example, although Apgar and Hubbell both stated they did not expect recruitment to suffer, an IFC document predicts a drop of 200 rushees from Spring 2010 to Spring 2011 as a result of the proposed changes. We hope that the administration has at least considered the possibility of having to house 200 additional non-Greeks, as well as other possible effects that are not directly related to the primary goals of the proposal.Apgar stated that neither the two-year timeline nor the proposed changes to the University Recognition Policy were up for debate. All the same, there is a public forum planned for Sept. 8. We hope that by that date, the administration is willing to admit that elected student leaders might have some ideas worth listening to, given that everyone is working toward the same worthwhile goal.