March 10, 2014

Interfraternity Council President Talks Unity in Greek Life

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Interfraternity Council President Cameron Pritchett ’15 did not come to Cornell planning to go Greek.

However, after joining the Sigma Chi fraternity his freshman year and taking on leadership roles such as alumni relations chairman, risk manager and president of the chapter, Pritchett has become a huge advocate for the Greek system at Cornell — which he said he believes is alive and thriving.

“This is an extremely exciting time for Greek life at Cornell,” Pritchett said. “We’re seeing more students who are rushing, more chapters who are interested in joining Cornell’s system.”

When he became president of Sigma Chi, Pritchett said he began to gain a better perspective on issues affecting the entire Greek system, encouraging him to pursue a “big picture role” in the Greek system as IFC president.

According to Pritchett, many students feel that Greek life is “under attack” by administrators, a notion he said he believes is due to a “significant communication gap” between the IFC, the administration and individual members of fraternities.

“As someone who has been more involved in conversation with administrators and high-level officials, I know that that’s not true,” Pritchett said. “Across all 36 chapters [of the IFC], you see a lot of similarities … but the same time, you see a lot of division and separation.”

Pritchett said he wants to unite Cornell’s Greek community by holding an increased number of forums, as well coming to each chapter house to talk to entire brotherhoods as opposed to only chapter presidents.

“I think the first step is engaging more people on system-wide issues,” said Pritchett.

According to Pritchett, as president, he has formed committees that explore larger issues facing the entire Greek community, such as examining the quarter system — the system that allows potential new members to interact with brothers — for fraternity interaction, lengthening the New Member Education Process and establishing a campus Greek Week.

“There are concerns that by cutting off interactions with fraternities in the first quarter, it encourages high-risk drinking to go behind closed doors — to go either into dorms, or into unregulated environments like Collegetown,” Pritchett said.

Pritchett said he lead the formation of another committee to examine the results of reducing the New Member Education period from 12 weeks to the current four-week period.

“The goal is to produce a comprehensive report with a final recommendation [by the end of the semester] of what we believe the proper new member education process should look like, and what have been the challenges or the successes of the four-week plan,” Pritchett said.

According to Pritchett, a publicity and recruitment committee is forming to develop “innovative ways” to reach out to communities that historically do not join Greek life such as LGBT students, international students, underrepresented minorities, athletes.

“Even if [these students] decide not to go Greek, at least they will come away with a more positive view of the Greek community,” Pritchett said.

Pritchett said he felt there are negative stereotypes associated with Greek life that are “damaging” to the system.

“When you ask a student outside the community, the things they [associate] with Greek life [are] alcohol issues, hazing, sexual assault, exclusivity and socioeconomic bias,” he said. “They don’t usually come up with brotherhood or sisterhood, service, philanthropy, scholarship, intramurals, alumni relations and networking.”

Pritchett also said he and the IFC are working with Cornell Police and the Office of Fraternities, Sororities and Independent Living to address issues regarding alleged crimes.

“One concern students have had is the fact that crime alerts seem to involve only fraternities, while some other incidences that don’t involve Greek Life have not been reported in the same fashion,” Pritchett said.