September 27, 2012

All Cornell Frats May Be Required to House Live-In Advisors

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All fraternities could be required to have permanent “live-in advisors” if a proposed portion of the University’s overhaul of the Greek system — aimed to eliminate dangerous pledging processes — is implemented.

The potential new rule — which administrators and students emphasized is still in its early preliminary stages and in no way has been decided upon — would amend a previous proposal to install live-in advisors at only “at-risk” fraternity chapters, or those considered to have demonstrated poor decision-making in areas such as recruitment, alcohol use or financial stability.

Over the next few weeks, administrators will determine whether or not to include that policy in the final recommendations that will be submitted to President David Skorton for approval, according to Susan Murphy ’73 Ph.D. ’94, vice president of student and academic services.

The proposal to mandate live-in advisors for at-risk chapters was put forth in May by the Recruitment, Acceptance, Retention and Education committee as one aspect of a comprehensive plan to restructure the Greek system.

RARE — a committee composed of national experts, administrators and Greek leaders, including several students — was tasked with “eliminating hazing through the overhaul of what we currently call the pledge process,” according to Travis Apgar, associate dean of students for fraternity and sorority affairs.

The group presented its preliminary recommendations in a webinar to alumni in May. Since then, the committee has solicited input from administrators, alumni and students to finalize their proposed changes before they are submitted to Skorton for final approval, according to IFC President Chris Sanders ’13.

Now, the possibility of the live-in advisor provision being mandatory for all chapters across the Greek system is “definitely on the table,” Sanders said.

On Sunday, the Fraternity and Sorority Advisory Council, which reports to Murphy, Apgar and other administrators on Greek system policy planning, suggested that RARE expand the provision to apply to all chapters, according to Sanders.

Live-in advisors are “definitely something that Susan Murphy is considering, but I don’t know the extent of what the likelihood is of it happening. It’s very much a consideration,” he said.

Sanders said Thursday that he does not personally endorse a system-wide requirement.

“I think that there needs to be a change … and I think that there are a lot of recommendations that have been put forward to work toward that change,” he said. “But I do not think that the mandatory live-in advisor provision should be on the list of priorities. I think that there are other provisions that can bring about that change.

Still, he acknowledged that student leaders need to be “realistic” in working with the University to address Skorton’s charge for substantial changes to the Greek system.

“We can’t be reactionary and have changes pushed down upon us. The more students work to lead the charge themselves, the more flexibility we will have in the future,” Sanders said.

Apgar emphasized that the advisor recommendation is only “part of the active discussion” currently surrounding the proposed changes. He said he could not say at this point whether that component will be included in the final plan.

The provision is one of the few under consideration that, in order to be implemented, may require a change to the University’s recognition policy for fraternities and sororities, according to Apgar, who said those changes require approval by Cornell’s Board of Trustees.

During a series of focus groups held last week — led by Apgar and the executive boards of IFC, the Panhellenic Council and the Multicultural Greek Letter Community — several members of the Greek community expressed concern over the idea of system-wide, mandatory live-in advisors.

“It feels like this is being imposed on us. Having a live-in advisor will noticeably change the house and hurt recruitment,” one fraternity member said at an IFC forum attended by The Sun on Sept. 19.

Sanders said mandatory live-in advisors for all chapters was “not endorsed by RARE,” and that Greek leaders “will continue to give our input and to say that we don’t necessarily think it’s the best way.”

Still, some Greek council representatives and chapter officers said they were open to considering live-in advisors.

Alan Workman ’13, executive vice president for IFC, said that if the system-wide provision for advisors is included in the final proposal, IFC will continue to work with RARE and the administration to help fraternities maintain self-governance.

“A lot of the initial reaction surrounding the advisors has been negative. But I don’t think it’s warranted,” Workman said. “This is a multi-year implementation program, and it will be phased in slowly. Having an older presence in the house is not necessarily meant for punishment, but to steer the chapter in the right direction.”

Workman also noted that several fraternities have had live-in advisors for years.

Adam Davis ’14, academic chair of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, said his chapter has benefited from housing an advisor.

“As the academic chair, I work with our advisor quite a bit to think of and implement ways to incentivize the brothers to push themselves academically, as well as provide academic assistance like studying and time management tips,” Davis said. “He’s just a really cheerful and knowledgeable guy and often spurs meaningful conversation among brothers.”

Psi Upsilon President Jesse Bendit ’13 added that although his chapter does not currently have a live-in advisor, he thinks his house could adjust to one.

“If houses can give their alumni — maybe a graduate student studying here — additional responsibilities, they would be on the same page working with the brotherhood. If it’s done the right way, if we know we could get along with the advisors, this could be very beneficial to prevent houses from getting out of control,” Bendit said.

As RARE and the Greek councils continue to work with administrators to come to an agreement, Sanders said the next few weeks will prove crucial for students who still want to make their voices heard.

“[We’re] going to continue to make sure we’re having conversations with students, keeping fraternities involved and informed,” he said. “The last thing we want to see happen is that our fraternity system is blindsided.”

Original Author: Rebecca Harris