Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor, Katie Sims / Sun Senior Photographer

Various fraternities, past and present, in the Interfraternity Council.

November 8, 2019

Cornell IFC Fraternities Ban Social Events for Fall Semester

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Cornell’s Interfraternity Council canceled nearly all regulated fraternity events for the rest of the fall semester Friday night, citing safety concerns.

The ban — which will run until Jan. 1, 2020 — said recent events were a catalyst which had made “inherent safety hazards” apparent within the existing Greek life social system.

The ban excludes a maximum of three “date nights” or formal events with a member-to-guest ratio of 1:1 hosted at a “licensed, third party venue or the Chapter house while utilizing licensed 3rd party resources,” which included approved bartenders and security personnel.

“We have an obligation to protect the safety of both our members, our guests, and the larger Cornell community and we believe that taking this action allows us to draw back and reassess our shortcomings and enact substantial change,” reads the ban, cosigned by 29 IFC fraternity presidents except those representing Alpha Delta Phi and Phi Kappa Psi. The Phi Kappa Psi president did not reply to The Sun’s requests for comment.

Cristian Gonzalez '20, president of the Interfraternity Council.

Cristian Gonzalez ’20, president of the Interfraternity Council.

“Everyone was given notice and opportunity to come, voice opinions, vote, and sign,” said IFC President Cristian Gonzalez ’20.

However, Alpha Delta Phi fraternity president Dillon Anadkat ’21, in a written statement to The Sun, described the ban as more “symbolic” than capable of affecting real change.

“Alpha Delta Phi supports taking action in partnership with the rest of the Greek community. But this measure bans registered events, which are some of the safest on campus and only encourages unregistered and off-campus events to take place,” Anadkat wrote. “It is time for fraternities to sit down with the university administration to find more comprehensive, feasible and tenable solutions to prevent such tragedies from occurring again. Banning registered events seems more symbolic than substantive.”

Cornell President Martha E. Pollack said that the death of Antonio Tsialas ’23 after an “unregistered fraternity-sponsored event” was part of a pattern of problems in Greek life in a campus-wide email Friday evening. Police have not yet shared a cause of death.

“These events, still under investigation, regrettably follow a pattern of misconduct in the Greek-letter system, a pattern that is emblematic of enduring problems that we, as a community, must recommit ourselves to solving,” Pollack wrote. “Indeed, despite substantially enhanced Greek Life outreach, training and policy development over the last two years, numerous fraternities have been found to have engaged in misconduct over that time sufficient to merit suspension of their recognition by the university.”

[The full proposal is outlined at the bottom of this article.]

Since the death of Tsialas, who was last seen at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house on Oct. 24 and found dead on Oct. 26, the Panhellenic Council and IFC have offered an array of responses, including event management regulations and event suspensions.

In a phone call with The Sun on Friday morning, Tsialas’s mother Flavia Tomasello said that she hoped students with knowledge about Tsialas’s death would contact the Cornell University Police Department via the Silent Witness Program, and also noted that she had set up a phone line at (607) 280-5102 for students to text or call.

The ban is the latest in a series of responses by the IFC and Panhel.

The week after Tsialas’s death, Cornell’s fraternities “overwhelmingly” decided to suspend all registered social events scheduled for the Halloween weekend. The Oct. 30  decision — which was made by the executive board of the Interfraternity Council and the presidents of active fraternity chapters on Cornell’s campus — was prompted by the weekend tragedy, Gonzalez said.

“We believe that it would be disrespectful and wrong to be celebrating this weekend given the passing of Antonio,” Gonzalez said in a message to The Sun at the time.

Panhel President Maya Cutforth ’20 proposed a suspension of mixers to representatives of the 13 active on-campus sororities on Oct. 31, coming on the heels of the IFC’s decision. Sororities were encouraged to weigh the merits and critiques of the proposal in their own chapter meetings prior to Wednesday’s vote.

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.

The 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.

Although the proposal collected a majority of votes with seven in favor, two against and four abstentions, it failed to muster the unanimous vote that Cutforth had said was necessary. The vote for a 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.

The initial proposal faced pushback, some of which was vocalized by Francisco Gonzalez ’20, a hometown friend of Tsialas. “I agree that some of the proposals may be sensible,” Francisco said. “But they are unrelated to Antonio’s death, and the demands correlate to regulated events — and not the unregulated event that he attended.”

Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi commended the efforts of the Panhel and IFC presidents in a Friday evening email to The Sun, calling Cutforth’s proposal a “catalyst for other students ultimately stepping forward to commit to a better future.”

“I also want to express my gratitude to Cristian Gonzalez and the IFC and chapter leadership for taking ownership of their role in ensuring a healthy and safe campus social climate,” Lombardi continued.

“I’m happy that we are making strides to make Cornell safer for everyone,” Cutforth said Friday night.

This story has been updated.

IFC Ban on Social Events by Maryam Zafar on Scribd