President of the Panhellenic Council Maya Cutforth ’20 advocates for her Greek Life reform plans.

Michael Wenye Li / Sun Senior Photographer

President of the Panhellenic Council Maya Cutforth ’20 advocates for her Greek Life reform plans.

November 7, 2019

Panhellenic Proposal to Stop Mixing With IFC Fraternities Failed to Receive Unanimous Vote

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Correction appended. 

A Panhellenic Council proposal to freeze social mixers failed to collect unanimous support on Wednesday, despite a majority of Panhel sorority delegates voting in favor of the contentious plan to stop mixing with Interfraternity Council fraternities until the IFC undertook safety reforms.

The proposal collected a majority with seven votes in favor, two against and four abstentions, but failed to muster the unanimous vote that Panhel president Maya Cutforth ’20 had said was necessary. The vote for the second proposal — an event management task committee for event reform, with representation from all Panhel sororities and IFC fraternities — passed with 12 yeses, one vote short of unanimous.

Cutforth said she would not share the identities of sororities’ votes, which were balloted anonymously online by delegates representing the Panhellenic Council’s 13 sororities.

“We are here today greatly in part as a reaction to the death of Antonio Tsialas,” said Francisco Gonzalez ’20, who is a member of campus Greek life, to a Willard Straight Hall room overflowing with students sitting and standing wall-to-wall on the floor as many of their peers stood outside, waiting to hear the announcement.

Francisco Gonzalez ’20 speaks at the Panhellenic vote on boycotting frat mixers.

Michael Wenye Li / Sun Senior Photographer

Francisco Gonzalez ’20 speaks at the Panhellenic vote on boycotting frat mixers.

Gonzalez read an impassioned call against the proposal, which sought to freeze social mixers between Panhellenic sororities and Interfraternity Council fraternities on campus. Gonzalez attended Ransom Everglades High School in Miami with Tsialas, and prefaced his statement with an emotional reading recalling a close friendship with the late first-year, saying Tsialas’ mother had told him after the tragedy: “It must not happen again.”

The campus jolted to action after Tsialas was found dead on Oct. 26, Gonzalez said, before cataloging a number of critiques he had for the proposal, including its relevance, potential effectiveness and the “underlying intentions” of the proposal.

“I agree that some of the proposals may be sensible,” Gonzalez said. “But they are unrelated to Antonio’s death, and the demands correlate to regulated events — and not the unregulated event that he attended.”

Before he was reported missing, Tsialas was last seen at a Phi Kappa Psi fraternity party. The Phi Kappa Psi president did not respond to The Sun’s requests for comment by publication time.

Cutforth’s proposal to suspend mixers was presented to representatives of the 13 active on-campus sororities on Oct. 31, coming on the heels of IFC’s Oct. 30 announcement canceling fraternity events for the weekend out of respect to Tsialas. Sororities were encouraged to weigh the merits and critiques of the proposal in their own chapter meetings prior to Wednesday’s vote.

Before calling for a vote, Cutforth read aloud a statement calling the vote an opportunity for Panhel women to leverage their position for change and compel quicker action.

“This is not about mixers,” the Panhel president said. “This is not a punishment, but a call to action.”

The failed proposal was a missed opportunity for women’s empowerment in Greek life, said Lissie Elorza ’20, Panhel’s Vice President of Social Equity and Inclusion. Institutional rules — like the policies that bar sororities from hosting mixers or having alcohol in their houses — disempower sorority members from autonomy over their social schedules, Elorza said.

Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi, who was present for the tail end of the meeting, said he admired and respected the student leadership demonstrated at the meeting and the initiative taken in the proposal.

Lombardi and Cornell University Police Chief David Honan sent a campus-wide email on Tuesday reminding students that the case was under active investigation by CUPD. The two requested anyone with information contact the department at 607-255-1111, cup-inv@cornell.edu or through the Silent Witness Program.

“I think the reforms are well intentioned and we are having a critical conversation on campus about how event management, dirty rush events, drinking culture and accountability need to be significantly reworked,” said Cristian Gonzalez ’20, president of Cornell’s IFC, after the vote. “IFC has been working since the pause on reforms to be enacted as soon as we convene.”

The Panhel president said the newly-approved committee will still be working to facilitate reform and make the campus safer — “and we’ll go from there.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Lissie Elorza’s name.