Greek life was one of the central topics for Wednesday’s Employee Assembly meeting. Mary Beth Grant ’88, senior associate dean of students, reported that the existing Chapter Review Board process “falls short in a couple of significant ways.”
Grant is the committee chair of a group consisting of staff, faculty, students and alumni that are tasked with conducting a “comprehensive review of the Chapter Review Board process,” according to Cornell Campus and Community Engagement website. This is Phase III of the presidential initiative meant to implement greater oversight on Greek life on campus.
Grant and her colleagues were present as guest speakers to update the assembly on the committee’s progress.
The group’s core values are the safety of community members, fundamental fairness (due process), transparency and the necessity to view everything under the context of higher education.
On this last point, Grant said that “we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to a criminal justice system. We should really be thinking about what a system of accountability looks like in higher ed.”
The four main shortcomings the group discovered were the complexity of the process, lack of fundamental fairness, imperfection of triaging and the lack of confidence from both Greek life members and the greater Cornell community.
“The system is complex … [it] can be a challenge for people to understand,” Grant said.
“There are some ways that, unfortunately, the system has not demonstrated fundamental fairness. It has been described to the board that there have been some inequities about who has information during a hearing process … everybody should know the same information,” she said.
She also reported on the problem of prevalent ad hoc practices in the review board. “We really want to make sure that there’s a standard practice and that we always have trained people,” Grant said.
Grant’s group has found triaging to be imperfect. In the past, some cases were referred to the Greek Judicial Board, a student-run group typically tasked with event management. “Cases that were more serious were referred there in error,” she said.
According to Grant, however, “the biggest thing is that there is just a lack of confidence right now”. She described this as being a community-wide phenomenon.
“People who were within the Greek system didn’t trust the system because they think that non-Greeks are out to get them … and people outside of the Greek system think that the processes are set up as a way to protect themselves and be very insular,” she said.
Her committee will be submitting a list of short-term solutions to combat these issues. This includes the implementation of “Plain English procedures”, the recruitment and training of review board panel members (instead of relying on ad hoc practices), and a greater transparency overall. Long-term solutions are still being discussed.