Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

Mollie Reilly

Last week, several students received letters from Assistant Dean and Director of Greek Letter Operations Tim Mansfield reminding them of the University’s policy against participation in unrecognized fraternities. These letters were sent to specific individuals and contained different degrees of warnings, depending on the student’s alleged activities and involvements.

“Enough information was brought to my attention that indicated that these students may or may not be involved with underground activity,” Mansfield said. “Their names were included in some accounts.”

Mansfield and Greek Letter Operations intentionally authored this response. No formal action has been taken against these students by Colgate’s administration.

“I hope there is a degree of trust and understanding. I wanted to reach students personally and deliberately,” Mansfield said. “The letters were sent to protect students from the real dangers of affiliating with unrecognized organizations.”

Prior to fraternity and sorority recruitment this fall, all sophomores and their parents were sent letters reminding them of the university’s stance against unrecognized organizations. According to a resolution passed by the Board of Trustees in January 2005, “any Colgate student found rushing, pledging, joining, being recruited for or in any way engaging in activities with an underground organization is subject to suspension or expulsion.”

The University’s concerns about unrecognized organizations have followed a period of change in the way Greek life operates on campus. The University acquired all Greek houses by 2005, causing substantial controversy among students, alumni and the administration. According to Mansfield, these relationships were restored over a year ago, and rumors of a cutback in Greek life’s presence on campus were false.

“Our goal is to strengthen and stabilize the ten Greek organizations we have,” Mansfield said.

In late 2004, a group of Colgate alumni banded together to protest Colgate’s acquisition of the Greek houses. Known as Students and Alumni for Colgate (SA4C), the group operated a website and sought to reestablish Greek organizations that had been removed from campus.

“It seems that when one enters the Colgate campus, they give up constitutional rights such as peaceful assembly,” founder of SA4C Tim Sanford ’58 said.

The SA4C campaign to maintain the private ownership of fraternities was not successful. However, Sanford and his associates are still working for administrative reforms at Colgate. The group has now focused their efforts on a new campaign, known as the Accountability to Colgate Initiative. The main agenda of this campaign is to have 18 of the 35 members of the Board of Trustees elected by alumni.

“Our principal goal is to have the alumni more involved and ensure that the state of the college reflects the wishes of the alumni,” Sanford said.

In the years since the acquisition of the Greek houses, there has been a period of adjustment as a new relationship formed between the administration and Greek life.

“Since the purchasing of the houses a few years ago, there hasn’t been direct communication between members of the administration and leadership within the houses and some of the changes affecting the fraternity system have come as a surprise to Greek members,” president of the Interfraternity Council Brendan Clegg said. “With the help of Tim Mansfield, we are in the process of creating a guidebook to help the fraternities understand Colgate policies and the rationale behind them.”

In spite of SA4C’s concerns and this communication break, Greek Life has seen a recent upsurge, particularly in the Class of 2010’s participation in sorority recruitment. 258 women registered and 187 eventually accepted invitations to join houses — up 52 from last fall.

Partially because of this increase, Panhellenic Association President Talia Goldstein takes a much more optimistic view of Greek-Administration relations.

“With all credit going to our four chapters on campus, I could not be happier with how the recruitment process unfolded,” Goldstein said. “Panhellenic found Greek Letter Operations to be extremely supportive and enthusiastic throughout the process.The administrative office constantlyhas the student’s best interest at heart.”