November 15, 2010

Onward

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As expected, the Board of Trustees approved the proposed amendment to the University’s Recognition Policy for Greek Chapters earlier this month. To the dismay of many, the Trustees proposed no changes to the amendment and expressed no concern over its effectiveness. Despite student concerns that were never truly answered, the amendment is now official Cornell policy. Looking forward, both students and administrators need to accept that these changes are, in fact, a reality and refocus their efforts on how the measures are implemented.

It is imperative that the secretive and adversarial attitude that defined the conversation regarding approval not carry over into the discussion over implementation. New leadership, especially in the IFC, should take a new, more cooperative approach to working with administration and communicating with the University, individual chapters and the public. Much of the animosity and chaos during the past semester could have been avoided through better leadership from the outgoing student leadership. The lack of initial engagement with the University, and the decision to not keep all Greeks informed of the amendment process from its earliest stages only fostered the attitude among students that the proposed changes were dropped on the Greek system suddenly and without consideration. Rather than making the same mistake twice, the IFC should press to be full and open partners with the University as the amendment is implemented over the next few years. Such a partnership will make sure that, to the best its text will allow, the amendment 1) actually does improve the health and safety of Cornell Students, 2) promotes strong Greek values without subjecting student culture to unnecessary and overbearing regulation by the Administration and 3) does not cause an even more adversarial relationship to develop between students and administrators.

Though the changes to the University Recongition Policy were met with considerable skepticism from Greeks and non-Greeks alike, everyone on this campus shares the goal of advancing student safety. It is important that each party involved in the implementation process keep this goal in mind. Administrators must act with an awareness of the fact that these changes will create a student-safety issue — widespread, unregulated freshman drinking — that the University has never had to deal with. Student leaders, for their part, should resist the temptation to stagnate for their remaining time on East Hill, and actively work on ways to ensure the safety for future students. Ultimately, the mutual engagement and communication that has been absent thus far is a key part of successfully implementing changes that, if mishandled, could easily result in a less safe social environment on campus.

In the past few months, we have used this editorial space to decry the administration’s attempt to dictate student culture. We still think this amendment sets a dangerous precedent about dictating campus social life, especially because the net effect on student safety is questionable and may well be negative. However, the amendment is now policy, and students must not take themselves out of the implementation process because they are disappointed with the amendment’s approval. A combative relationship between students and administrators will only ensure that the changes are implemented in a way that is devoid of student influence. But a collaborative relationship will allow these changes to be implemented in a way that conforms to student needs, and meets the Administration’s requirements.