September 21, 2010

Letter to the Editor: Clarifying the Greek Changes

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To the Editor:

Re: “University Cracks Down on Drinking in Greek System” News, Aug. 25

Over the past several weeks the community has been discussing the proposed amendment to the recognition policy for fraternities and sororities. It is clear that some are still unclear regarding what this all means, how it will impact the Greek system and the student experience. Let me begin by saying all involved in the effort to amend the university recognition policy — students, alumni, staff and administrators — think positively of the fraternity and sorority experience. We agree that it is foremost about brotherhood and sisterhood; building character through leadership and interpersonal skill development; and working to fulfill the founding values, principles and missions of these organizations. Our recent efforts to amend the recognition policy are an effort to preserve the value of this experience, while helping our student and alumni leaders address the challenges that threaten the long-term relevance of the system at Cornell University. The proposed amendment would modify the recognition policy by adding the following language, nothing more, nothing less: 1. Alcohol and other drugs can have no place in recruitment, new member education, initiation or intake of any form.2. There can be no tolerance for hazing, in any form, at any time.3. We must examine and establish an appropriate time period for intake/initiation processes to occur so as to avoid an unreasonable impact on a student’s academic performance.

This is part of an overarching strategy to tie together a number of efforts across campus directed at ameliorating alcohol and drug abuse. We will codify in our recognition policy what already exists in New York State law and the existing policies and guidelines of inter/national fraternities and sororities related to recruitment and new member education, initiation and intake.There remain outstanding issues and details to address. Many have assumed the plan for implementation drafted by student leaders was a part of the amendment, and that the details contained in that document would become a part of the recognition policy. That is not the case. We place a high value on the self-governing model of the Greek community, and remain committed to working closely with student leadership, chapter members and alumni as we decide upon the most suitable methods and timeline for implementation of the amendment. It is important that we continue to hear students concerns and ideas so as to avoid any unintended consequences and address how this shift may impact the community in other areas.  We envision a fraternity and sorority experience that continues to offer its membership a robust social scene, while increasing meaningful interactions and experiences between Greeks and potential new members. The possibilities that exist for creative recruitment activities are vast and we endeavor to assist our chapters in discovering and implementing these new initiatives.

Travis Apgar, associate dean of students for fraternity and sorority affairs