September 6, 2010

Interfraternity Council Lags in Planning for Cornell’s Changes to Greek Policy

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Since the announcement of the “non-negotiable” changes to the University Recognition Policy that would considerably restrict drinking in the Greek system, the Interfraternity Council has lagged behind the other two Greek-letter councils in beginning to set a plan to implement the new policies. At the heart of the issue is the size and breadth of the IFC, which remains considerably larger than both the Panhellenic Council and the Multicultural Greek Letter Council, and an apparent lack of clear communication with the administration over the course of the past year as to whether the policy changes would ultimately be mandated.“My perspective is that the Panhellenic Council and the MGLC are much further along than the IFC,” said Susan Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services.  Ralph Wilhelm ’67, who heads the Fraternity and Sorority Advisory Council ––  a general advising body for the Greek tri-councils that consists of alumni and administrators –– echoed Murphy’s sentiments.  “In hindsight, I would’ve done a better job of checking to see what chapters were starting to hear,” Wilhelm said.Wilhelm noted that he had discussed the importance of communication among the tri-council’s constituents. However, even members of the IFC executive board were unsure of the plan’s exact nature until the end of last semester.When the final plan was made clear to the IFC executive board members in the spring, there was a concerted effort by board to push back against the changes. Many of the members feared that the provisions, such as barring freshman from open parties, would harm the general culture of fraternity recruitment.The IFC proposed an alternative plan at one point, which was eventually shot down by administrators because it did not call for a completely dry recruitment.This disagreement between the IFC and administration resulted in reduced communication with individual fraternity houses. So, when the final plan was announced at an August 24 meeting, it was an especially shocking revelation for the chapter presidents, many of whom had only heard rumors of the new rules.“Not that no one knew changes weren’t coming after last year’s rush week,” said Steven Wald ’12, president of Tau Epsilon Phi. “At the same time we didn’t know it’d be this big or this fast. It was definitely kept pretty quiet.”For the other two Greek bodies, it was a slightly different story.Nora Allen ’11, president of the Panhellenic Council, said that she began to discuss the possibility of changing recruitment and new member education last year with chapter presidents.Evelyn Ambriz ’11, president of the MGLC, stated that she also notified her council in the spring of impending changes.“We actually started discussing the changes and its possible repercussions and benefits as an executive board in the spring,” Ambriz said. “We told the general body that there would be changes, and that the one most likely to affect them would the reduction of the new member education period.”Wilhelm noted that, after much discussion with Travis Apgar, associate dean of students for fraternity and sorority affairs, and Murphy, he proposed the changes at the annual Fraternity and Sorority Advisory Council meeting in April, where the three tri-council presidents were among those in attendance. The proposal was met with initial trepidation by the board, and the vast majority of the FSAC voted against the plan in an informal poll at the meeting.“It was more of an [indication] of the fact that they wanted to discuss it more,” Wilhelm said of the vote.Wilhelm added that there has recently been “increased pressure from national fraternities and sororities for better behavior.”In a recently-released statement, the IFC executive board officially clarified their stance on the proposed changes.“Amongst the Interfraternity Council executive board, we strongly believe in the long-term vision of these proposed changes — to create a safer and more sustainable Greek system,” the statement says. “What we ask the University to do is to allow us the opportunity to partner with them in coming up with a set of challenging but achievable goals that can improve the system and target all of the areas we need to focus on.”One of the key opportunities for discussion will occur at an open forum Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in Uris Auditorium. Presidents of IFC chapters have been collaborating extensively on “how to approach this forum,” according to Wald.Most notably, chapter presidents have organized a large gathering on the Arts Quad, encouraging all IFC members to show up and march with their fellow Greeks into the forum.“All of the chapter presidents will be involved in that. Hopefully that will bring a big crowd into the forum,” Wald said.Such enthusiasm for the forum has been encouraged by both Apgar and Murphy. Murphy noted that the forum has the potential to serve as a “complete and open dialogue,” although she emphasized that it is imperative that attendees remain open-minded about the new rules.“We’re putting into the University Recognition Policy what already exists in New York State laws,” Murphy said of the rule changes. “If all they’re going to say is, ‘Without large, open parties, we can’t recruit freshmen,’ I’ll be disappointed.”

Original Author: Brendan Doyle