November 3, 2019

EDITORIAL: Vote Yes for Campus Climate

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How do we create institutional change? At a University that has existed since 1865, we fall victim to systemic problems that persisted since long before the conception of Cornell. When evaluating the campus problems we seek solutions for — issues that affect one, many or all Cornellians — the sheer length of the list makes taking action seem overwhelming and unachievable. But what if we take one of the institutional problems we are facing and put forth a conversation and some action items to begin to tackle it? Many organizations on this campus, like Cornell Minds Matter, are champions of this approach and are creating positive institutional change. The Panhellenic Council could do the same with a unanimous vote on Wednesday, Nov. 6 at 6:30 p.m. when voting on the resolution to stop mixing with Interfraternity Council chapters.

IFC may think that this weekend’s cancellation of Halloweekend events was enough. Their initiative is a step forward in fraternities holding themselves accountable, but this serves as nothing more than a buffer before real, long-term policy changes are introduced. PHC’s vote on Wednesday could be the next step in addressing the campus climate around event safety and drinking. It is problematic that IFC’s shortcomings on event safety and management fall on their female counterparts in PHC, but unfortunately, that is the situation PHC has been put in. PHC’s decision to even have such a vote tells the campus they have had enough of poor safety standards that include not swiping ID’s, not providing safe transportation home and not having actually sober monitors properly monitoring at the door. PHC’s vote tells the campus that these items in the resolution are safety problems and that fraternities on campus are not as safe as they could be. PHC’s vote makes a statement to campus that student safety and well-being is and always should be the primary focus.

It is up to each chapter to make the decision to not mix with IFC chapters, and up to every individual in those chapters to uphold any decisions passed. This vote is a call to action and it could be revolutionary in the role Greek Life plays in major campus climate issues including underage drinking, event safety and party culture.

The most embarrassing shortcoming when it comes to event safety management and addressing the campus’s drinking culture, however, is the University’s lack of responsibility. Cornell has proven that it is comfortable putting the mobilization of major cultural shifts on a bunch of 20-something year-olds. Why have IFC safety standards been allowed to fall? Why is the University not getting involved in helping solidify safety measurements? Has the University followed up on the effectiveness of the 2018 Greek Life Reform President Martha Pollack rolled out? How is the University addressing the “alarming rates” of sexual misconduct that have changed little since 2017? When responding to the survey results, the IFC and PHC president acknowledged how the current event management situation is not ideal including sober monitors that “aren’t always sober.” But there has been no announced initiatives, educational programming or even an email from the University about these issues.

But parties happen everywhere and always, so not all the hazards of our campus’s climate or factors affecting party culture fall into the scope of Greek Life. Supplies to swipe student IDs at parties should be supplied by the University. The TCAT is great, but is not enough to get severely intoxicated students home, another place the University could create positive change. And what about the factors that propagate drinking culture? Academic stress? Collegetown to-dos dying off as the University is not helping to subsidize new businesses or activities? Mental health resources? These are big problems too, and it is unacceptable that the University is silent on most of these matters and is not constantly taking action to improve in these regards.

Panhellenic’s vote on Wednesday will be the first of its kind in Cornell’s Greek Life history. The momentum of this vote could set the ball rolling for incredible changes on campus — changes that could save lives. The resolution may not be perfect, but imperfect resolutions are still resolutions. And that is not something Cornellians could vote for until now. It’s time to act. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

The above editorial reflects the opinions of The Cornell Daily Sun. Editorials are penned collaboratively between the Editor-in-Chief, Associate Editor and Opinion Editor, in consultation with additional Sun editors and staffers. The Sun’s editorials are independent of its news coverage, other columnists and advertisers.