As the assistant vice president of Student and Campus Life, Jenny Loeffelman oversees campus activities and student organizations, Greek life, the Office of Parent and Family Programs, the Tatkon Center for New Students and the Cornell Commitment office. To touch on some of these areas, The Sun sat down with Loeffelman to hear about the latest happenings in Student and Campus Life.
As a partner of Residential Life, Loeffelman spoke on the policy change, starting the Fall 2022 semester, of requiring all sophomore students to live in on-campus or University-affiliated housing. According to Loeffelman, many U.S. college campuses have a two-year residency requirement. She said the main motivations for increasing the residency requirement was to increase campus engagement and offer an affordable option for students as off-campus housing costs rise.
“If you have that two-year residence requirement, it encourages people to stay and get connected in those first two years. There’s a lot of research out there that shows that when students move off campus, they already have their friend group,” Loeffelman said. “It’s not super common that they would get involved in something else.”
Loeffelman also noted that with the addition of new, modern dormitories through the North Campus Residential Expansion and an enhanced room selection process beginning next school year, upperclassmen can now live on campus all four years should they choose to.
A concern for many students is the quality and condition of the older dormitories on campus. Loeffelman said there is a long-term plan to renovate these dormitories, much like how Balch Hall — the historic women’s Gothic residence hall — is undergoing a major renovation to modernize the building and expected to reopen in Fall 2024.
When asked about the common student complaint that the new residence halls have a suite-style design that is said to limit student social interactions, Loeffelman responded that the new dorms have large common spaces and community kitchens to promote student engagement.
“I know that security is a concern for students,” Loeffelman said. “So my guess is, you know, we intentionally try to keep the individual space secure for student safety, but then have tried our best to widen the community space.”
When asked what she views as the value that Greek organizations provide on campus, Loeffelman said there are multiple benefits of having sororities and fraternities at Cornell.
“The main value is truly a sense of belonging, making a really big campus a little bit smaller, finding people who have that shared common interest to connection — brotherhood, sisterhood,” Loeffelman said. “For some, it’s a place to live off campus. For others, it’s an organization of like-minded students with similar interests.”
In November, two fraternities, Theta Delta Chi and Alpha Epsilon Pi, faced allegations of drugging and sexual assault, prompting President Martha Pollack and Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi put out a joint statement condemning the incidents and the Interfraternity Council suspended all fraternity parties and social events for the remainder of the fall semester. At the beginning of the spring semester, the IFC lifted the ban and instituted new changes to event management, which include new training protocols and new event co-hosting requirements.
In a recent interview with The Sun, Pollack said the University is “kind of out of recommendations” for Greek organizations and that if allegations rise, she does not know what more action the University could take to reform the system.
When asked if she shares Pollack’s view, Loeffelman said Greek life doesn’t work on campuses where the University and students are misaligned and she hopes to work with student leaders to make Greek life a promoter of belonging and acceptance.
“I think the biggest thing we can do, which we’ve been working really hard over the last year to do, is to mobilize the student leaders that are involved in sorority and fraternity life to really buy in and commit to their experience, to make it a positive one,” Loeffelman said. “We, as an institution, can’t do that for them. I’m a member of a sorority, I understand the value.”
Loeffelman added that the University and Greek organizations themselves aim to make Greek life accessible to all students, saying that financial aid packages provide for students to live wherever they wish and participate in any campus activity.
“Our organizations, both our Interfraternity Council and our Panhellenic Council, provide a number of scholarships and financial awards. That would go on top of the financial aid packages that students have,” Loeffelman said. “And those are growing. I’ve only been here for four years, and so I’ve seen more and more pop up in the last couple of years, whether they be awards of recognition for involvement, or whether they be need-based, and individual chapters fundraise, either through their own membership dues or through alumni fundraisers.”
Loeffelman said the University has seen a continuous rise in the number of student organizations operating on campus, with more than a thousand undergraduate student organizations. She said the SCL office started a new program to assist student leaders who want to develop new clubs to learn about the existing organizations and see if there is a gap where they can fill a campus need or if there is already a club that exists in a given area.
Loeffelman admitted that navigating the numerous campus opportunities can be “complicated,” especially for first-year students. She said the SCL is constantly getting feedback on how to improve the process and said the office is targeting first-year orientation to present the various ways that students can get involved on campus.
According to Loeffelman, the SCL office has been discussing the possibility of hosting “involvement days” in Willard Straight Hall to highlight a hundred student organizations a week throughout a semester to complement ClubFest where all the student organizations table over the course of two days.
“There’s definitely ways we can break it up so it’s not as in your face. You know, ‘here’s all of our thousand student organizations,’” Loeffelman said.
Aimée Eicher ’24 contributed reporting.