September 21, 2011

Letter to the Editor: Answering the call

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Correction Appended

To the Editor:

Re: “A Call to Lead,” Opinion, Aug. 29

The Greek community has been under intense scrutiny over the last five years. We, the chapter presidents, have witnessed many changes, and worked with the administration to help institute those changes to make Cornell a safe place. Now, when we are again under intense pressure to change our system, by eliminating hazing and coping with changes to the University Recognition Policy, we only have one thing to say: We accept. We accept these new challenges that are being brought forth to us. The key point for us is that we want to work together.

It is no secret that the new policies were dictated by the administration without significant student involvement. However, without student involvement in these decisions, the outcomes are at risk of being negative. The last thing Cornell needs is disunity between the student body and the administration. Therefore, we want to band together, work together, and we hope the University will work with us, too.

The chapter presidents realize that there is a problem in our system when there are results like student hospitalizations and, tragically last semester, a student death. But we want to clarify that most of us are not committing these errors. Twenty-seven percent of Cornell students are Greek, and it is a false assumption to stereotype everyone when only a few act in a certain way. Most chapters are using safe practices and following all of the rules that are in the recognition policy. Unfortunately, what we do every day, every week and every semester is overshadowed by the shortcomings in judgment and leadership of a select few houses.

This may seem unfair to members of the Greek system, but fairness is not what decides the direction of the Greek system. What matters is how everyone in the Greek system responds. What the chapter presidents are calling for is unity. We can say with some amount of certainty that every house at Cornell has unity as a core value. Unity within your brother or sisterhood is important. At this crucial time in our tenured history, we need unity across houses and the Tri-Council. Unless we can have everyone in the Greek system buy into our movement, the Greek system stands the chance to fall apart. This risk is something we simply cannot entertain.

The Greek system is stereotypically viewed as an outlet for undergraduates to let loose and party. Yes, most fraternities are social organizations, but nowhere in our bylaws does it say that we need to drink copious amounts of alcohol and indulge in dangerous activities. The latter statement is what the overarching view of non-Greeks is of the Greek system. The fact is that this view is completely biased and unfortunately it is rare that the good things houses do ever make headlines.

For example, recently, Alpha Gamma Rho, Delta Upsilon, Delta Delta Delta and Sigma Delta Tau hosted a barbecue on the Arts Quad that raised $4,000. In addition, last semester Sigma Phi sold out Statler auditorium for their distinguished speakers fellowship featuring Lawrence and Judith Tanenbaum. All of these things that happen on a regular basis are overshadowed and ignored when one bad incident occurs. We want to set the record straight with the student body and give another perspective on the Greek system.

We do not want to downplay the seriousness of what happened last year. We want to share with Cornell’s populace the benefits of the Greek system as, more often than not, are not talked about outside of an all-Greek forum. We also accept that our system is flawed and we need to make changes. The best way to do so is to band together as a united system and start implementing the changes necessary to ensure the Greek system’s survival and, more importantly, the students’ safety is maintained.

Sean Donegan ’12 and Chapter Presidents Corey Letcher ’12, Ryan Yeh ’13, Max Blumenthal ’13, Rob Merola ’11, Matthew Sloan ’13 and Chaz Childers ’12

Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this letter incorrectly stated that Sean Donegan ’12 is a chapter president. In fact, he is a philanthropy chair.