Going to Bat for the Greeks

Peter Nelson

With Colgate’s acquisition of fraternity and sorority properties all but complete, debate over the future of Greek life at the University has been scarce in the first weeks of the fall.

According to Tim Sanford ’58, however, the issue is far from settled.

Sanford, the founder of Students and Alumni for Colgate, Inc. (SA4C.org) and a former member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, returned to campus over Homecoming Weekend to voice his ongoing concerns with Colgate’s purchase of fraternity and sorority properties.

According to Sanford, Colgate’s property acquisitions bring the University a step closer towards eliminating Greek organizations entirely.

“When the ownership of the properties goes to the college, the fraternities have lost a great deal of power,” Sanford said. “In a battle for survival, when you are removed from the control of your property, it is the kiss of death.”

Sanford said that the University’s administration of this year’s rush was also indicative of Colgate’s plan to do away with Greek life.

“We understand that the administration has taken over the administration of the rush process, making it less attractive and more difficult for the fraternities and the sophomores themselves to get together,” Sanford said, despite recent figures published in the Maroon-News that indicate that this year saw more new Greek members than ever.

Sanford pointed to a series of votes by the faculty in favor of doing away with Greek organizations and a similar recommendation by the Task Force on Campus Culture as additional evidence of the University’s ultimate plan to abolish fraternities and sororities.

“What we see is that the school has set up a situation where, over time, because of the way they control rush and the catered parties and because of the purchase agreements where they require 80 percent occupancy in fraternity and sorority houses, the school can decide to get rid of Greek life due to a lack of interest,” Sanford said.

Sanford attended the open session of the Board of Trustees to lobby for a legally enforceable document that binds Colgate to continue to recognize Greek

organizations in perpetuity.

At that meeting, Board of Trustees chairman John Golden said that the Board had not established anything banning pledging, new member education or the establishment of new fraternities.

Despite this assurance, Sanford was unsatisfied.

“In Dr. Chopp’s fourth year, Kappa Delta Rho is gone,” Sanford said. “Delta Kappa Epsilon is gone, and Sigma Chi is unable to rush, leaving about five fraternities. The critical mass of the fraternity system has been decimated.”

Sanford noted that legal action is one way for fraternities and sororities to protect their

organizations. Delta Kappa Epsilon’s suit against Colgate’s acquisition plan is still pending and Phi Delta Theta has sued to regain the title to its property. Sanford said that Beta Theta Phi would also pursue legal action in the coming weeks.

“It’s our hope that if the sales can be overturned [by the courts]…the other frats will have the opportunity to renegotiate and obtain a more reasonable settlement,” Sanford said.

Sanford argued that expelling Greek organizations from campus would be detrimental to student life.

“[Eliminating fraternities and sororities] is a great disservice to Colgate,” Sanford said. “Colgate is not Williams. It is not Bowdoin. It is Colgate and it has a long history of successful fraternity and sorority operations that contribute to the education and maturing

experiences of the students.”

He cited the strong friendships and intergenerational networking opportunities that Greek organizations foster as reasons for their continued place at Colgate.

“This is a school that prides itself on tolerance and diversity, and yet [the administration] wants to foreclose upon those students that want to have these lifelong friendships [and the other benefits of fraternity and sorority life],” he said. “That is not in the spirit that is Colgate, at least as I knew it.”