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September 20, 2017

Greek Tri-Council Demands Perpetrators of ‘Psi Upsilon Incident’ Be Expelled

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The Greek Tri-Council demanded on Tuesday that Cornell expel any perpetrators involved in the Collegetown assault of a black student on Friday, an assault the Tri-Council referred to as “the Psi Upsilon incident.”

The council made the demand that the University “expel the perpetrators involved” in its new Diversity and Inclusion Plan.

“We are not ignorant of the larger issues of systemic oppression plaguing fraternity and sorority life,” the plan said, which was signed by presidents of the Interfraternity, Panhellenic and Multicultural Greek Letter councils.

The plan came days after a black student said he was called the N-word and assaulted by a group of white men. Cornell’s Psi Upsilon alumni denied on Sunday that any members of the unaffiliated fraternity were involved in the assault, but the fraternity shut down its chapter at Cornell on Tuesday. The Psi Upsilon alumni group did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

“These students endangered the welfare of their peers,” the statement said, which was signed by MGLC President Brianna Barrett ’18, PHC President Caitlin Gleason ’18 and IFC President Drew Lord ’18. “These students have no place on Cornell’s campus.”

If other Greek chapters are found to have been hosting social events with Psi Upsilon, they will be penalized by the Greek Judicial Board, the council said.

Written by the presidents of each Greek Tri-Council in collaboration with its members and other student and faculty leaders, the plan called the perpetrators’ actions in the incidents “disgusting and deplorable” and said the Greek system is “historically and systemically rooted in exclusion and oppression.”

“We have to tear down much of the tradition and toxic culture that exists within fraternity and sorority life,” the group said.

The group released the plan less than two weeks after a member of the Latino Living Center reported hearing a Zeta Psi member chant “build a wall” near the living center.

The plan encouraged Zeta Psi to review its membership and required Zeta Psi members to take part in programming from the Center for Intercultural Dialogue.

The group said there was another incident in which a racial slur was used by a former Kappa Delta member against a student of color online. The plan called for an evaluation of Kappa Delta’s response, which had involved the member’s resignation, chapter-wide diversity training and workshops on inclusivity in recruitment.

The Greek Tri-Council also said it would immediately institute online diversity training for all Greek members before spring recruitment, which Pollack demanded of the groups in a statement to the Cornell community.

The group also recommended that the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life give itself the authority to revoke a member’s bid if the person fails to meet certain expectations.

The Tri-Council plans to collaborate with campus organizations to create a provision in the Campus Code of Conduct to hold individuals accountable for “hate speech.” Alternatively, the plan said the council would endorse an “alternative dispute resolution system” proposed by Vijay Pendakur, the dean of students, which would mediate behaviors regarding Greek students outside of the Code of Conduct.

This was also demanded by Pollack in her note to the community, and Black Students United Executive Board members said they had initiated the idea in a meeting with Pendakur following the reported assault.

The group also plans to add a vice president of citizenship, diversity and inclusion initiatives on all three councils, effective in the next election cycle. This post will oversee any concerns related to diversity and inclusion from chapters and individual members.

“There is a need for a position in all councils to oversee the continued progress and maintenance of initiatives for equity and justice in our community and at large,” the announcement said. “Other campuses’ Greek councils have adopted similar positions in recent years.”

“I cannot understate how important it is that we remained fully committed to following this course of action in order to maintain a healthy Greek community,” Lord, the IFC president, said. “Now more than ever, we must work to rid ourselves of any remaining traditions or mindsets that run antithetical to our basic principles of diversity and inclusion.”

  • Jay Wind

    First of all, it is not clear how the “Tri-Council” can bind the membership of each of the three constituent groups. If some action requires the approval of the IFC house presidents, then Drew Lord is merely saying “This is what I will go back and ask my IFC House Presidents to consider.”

    Cornell has had fraternities since its first year. The principle of self-governance and freedom of association have always been an important and central part of the fraternity process. That has carried over into Cornell’s approach to student organizations as a whole. The document would undercut that it several ways.

    First, the idea that the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Living should have any role in “revoking the bid” of a student invited to join an organization is highly inappropriate. Conduct is subject to the judicial system with its procedural protections, and properly not in the hands of OSFL staff, who are not well-trained to adjudicate conduct disputes. Second, most fraternities and sororities are membership corporations with separate legal standards and procedures for governing the removal of members. Those standards and procedures are established by the consent of the group, not OSFL or any other part of Cornell. By way of analogy, the Cornell Sun is a separate corporation, and OSFL does not and should not have the right to cancel a decision to allow a compet to become a full Sun staffer.

    Second, the whole idea of mediation and “restorative justice” requires the consent of the participants. The Tri-Council is proposing to make that mandatory which makes no sense. Nor does the plan explain how this relates to the existing judicial system. At the most, it would be an optional diversion from the normal case processing path, and anything said during the mediation would not be used to further judicial system cases.

    Third, this plan is a big “unfunded mandate” The online classes, the proposed Zeta Psi chapter member review, and other activities are expensive. Will Cornell pick up these added costs? More generally, of Tri-Council costs, the MGLC groups have for years repeatedly refused to pick up their share and have made the fraternities and sororities subsidize them. Given their determined efforts to undermine self-governance, I believe they should be required to pay their own way in any joint Tir-Council activities.

    If I had read the document without knowing any background, I would have thought that it was a prank or parody. It does not reflect Cornell’s values nor the values of the Greek System.

  • Kirk Brown

    Expel them. Expel each and every Cornell student that uses hate speech against anyone…Cornell students or members of the general public. Expel each and EVERY one of them, not each and EVERY member of a Greek organization who does it, but each and EVERY student who does it. Who is policing, responding to and reprimanding a group of 10-15 students at a party in Collegetown when a racial slur or hateful remark is overheard on the street? What University group is analyzing the “response” from the other tenants in that Collegetown house where that party took place and someone was overheard using racially hateful language? If the fraternities go away, you will still have the same small handful of racist students running around campus, just as we do in society.

    • Jay Wind

      The problem is that we would have to expel at least half of the LAL and the BSU and a fire a good portion of the faculty and staff.