Still Going… Despite Outcry From Vocal Minority, Greek Life is Alive and Well

AsColgate continues to develop the new Broad Street Community, it is natural to examine therole of fraternities and sororities at Colgate. Some people ask,Are fraternities and sororities still a vital part of college life,or has time passed them by?

One way to assess the situation is to look at a microcosm of the fraternity/sorority system as a whole: Delta Upsilon’s biannual scholarship awards dinner on November 20, which, as treasurer of the DU Alumni Corporation for nearly 35 years and a resident of Hamilton, I had the pleasure of attending. Judging from the events of that night, I have no doubt about the health of Colgate’s Greek system, and its relevancy for the future.

The atmosphere at the dinner was electric. Nearlyhalf of DU’s members play football, and earlier that day, the teamhad beenselected to play New Hampshire in the opening round of the division 1-AA playoffs. But the evening was exciting for many other reasons as well.

I was struck by theease with whichBrent Smith ’06, the current president, conducted the event. Smith, a stellar defensive end, in many waysepitomizes Colgate’s scholar athletes. He is bright, articulate, community-minded and sincere.And he is proud of our collective history.

Smith began by announcing thatDU was about to embark on its 141st year at Colgate. Since being chartered on November 21, 1865, within months of Lee’s surrenderto Grant at Appomattox, DU has workedwith the University to create a positive climate of education and public service. Today, under university ownership of the living unit, that tradition continues.

AddressingPresident Chopp, Gary Ross, and the many professors, coaches, administrators and guests,Smithcommented on the smoothtransition from alumni to university ownership. He said that one of the most important improvements has been the positive effect ofColgate’s building and grounds personnel on the upkeep of the house. At the fall Homecoming and Family Weekends, I heard the same note of appreciation from many alumni, parents and students.

DU and other Greek organizations are clearly an important part of Colgate and the Hamilton community. The Colgate-sponsored “Up Till Dawn,” inspires healthy competition among the Greek houses, whose members stay up all night writing letters to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. (In each of the past two years DU raised more money then any other group). Additionally, DU brothers have participated in the Hamilton Fire Department’s annual golf scramble, hosted a successful Halloween trick-or-treat event for local youngsters and sponsored the Hamilton youth basketball league, providing coaches, referees and team shirts.The house is also raising money to help pay for the Hamilton High girls softball team’s trip to Florida.

Multiply DU’s good works by 10 Greek houses and the result is a powerful contribution to our society. Then add the countless service projects done by members of the COVE and ALANA, and other clubs and organizations, and you see that Colgate thrives because of the many residential and educational options it offers.

And we mustn’t forget academics. DUrecognizesthe need to provide an environment in which school work can be completed without interruption. This is accomplished by mandatory quiet hours on the main floor after 8 pm on weekdays. TheDU libraryis a fully operational computer lab completewith wirelessinternet access, an industrial-size printer and enough desks and chairs to accommodatelarge study groups.DU’sfully stocked kitchen nearby provides the opportunity to take a study break with a minimal loss of time.The evidence of success is clear.For the third semester in a row, DU bothers have posted an average GPAover 3.0.

As you can see, I am proud of DU. But I am also proud of Colgate. Whether you are in a Greek organization or not, you will soon be alumni.I hope that you will always remember the friendships you made here, the faculty who influenced your intellectual development, and the life skills you learned.When you leave Colgate, you must always take the “high road.”

Unfortunately, there are a small number of Colgate fraternity alumni who are now engaged in lawsuits – and a bit of public mud-slinging – over who owns the fraternity and sorority houses.They are small in number, but they are growing increasingly vocal.

In fact, most alumni, students and parents recognize that the university’s purchase of fraternity and sorority chapter houses is good for the university as a whole.The new residential education program isan important step toward making Colgate a more vital, vibrant place. And as proof of how fully these new measures have been accepted, alumni donations today are at anall-time high.

In fact, the current administration is by far the most supportive of the fraternity/sorority system of anyI have worked with in thenearly 45 years I have been associated with Colgate. Continued success of the Greek system will depend upon three things: receptive undergraduates, a supportive administration,and strong alumni leadership.

I am proud to say that we have all three at Colgate.