Colgate Speaks Greek



A panelist of administrators met with students to discuss the future of the Greek System at Colgate University in an SGA sponsored forum called “The Future of Greek Life at Colgate University” on Wednesday, April 20.

The forum, held in the Hall of Presidents at 7:30 p.m., gave students a chance to ask questions of a panel consisting of University President Rebecca Chopp, Dean of the College Adam Weinberg, Assistant Dean of the College Jennifer Adams, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs Kelly Opipari and President of Beta Theta Pi senior Sean Meehan. Approximately 80 students attended the forum, while many more watched a live broadcast on CUTV.

The forum began with an introduction by SGA President Ram Parimi, in which he thanked the students for attending and explained the format of the forum. Parimi served as a moderator throughout the forum.

Chopp then provided opening statements in which she thanked students for attending the forum, and encouraged everyone to look at what is to come for Greek life at Colgate. “We must chart our way forward,” she said. “The future, quite simply, is up to us.”

Meehan also gave some introductory words in which he stressed that the only way for things to move forward was to preserve open communication. “This is a reciprocal relationship,” he said, “and there needs to be open and honest conversation.”

The panel was then asked four questions that had been prepared in advance. The questions dealt with the changing relationship between the Greek system and the Administration and employees of the University in light of the acquisitions; added expectations to the Greek houses in regard to upkeep and maintenance; the involvement of Alumni Corporations in the future; and the ways in which the acquisition will prove beneficial to Greek life.

The administration was upbeat and positive in their answers.

“In the past there has been no interaction between Residential Education, Campus Safety and Building and Grounds,” Weinberg said in response to the changing relationships with University staff. “There were no relationships or trust. Next year that will all change. People will start to trust each other and students will receive great service.”

The panel also stressed that the Greek houses will be looked at “as any other living unit” when it comes to issues of administrative expectations.

“We want to maintain a strong organization and create an upper level committee consisting of representative alumni,” Chopp said in response to alumni involvement. “Just recently, there was a historic meeting [in which alumni met with the administrators]. Never before has the administration sat down and met with alumni. [The future is] very promising.”

Chopp also had positive things to say about the future of Greek life at Colgate.

“We’re invested in keeping the Greek system on campus,” she said. “In the next 15 to 20 years, the [Greek houses] will have a community they belong to, and the University will have a strong, flourishing Greek system. Other similar universities say this can’t work. I’d love to prove them wrong. You can be a small college with a strong Greek system.”

Weinberg corroborated Chopp’s claims.

“Yeah, we’ll still have a Greek system in five to six years,” he said.

With the prepared questions answered, the floor was opened to questions from. The very first question regarding the recent FACT rally and Chopp’s accusations in her letter to the campus that FACT is a divisive force on campus, was met with applause from the crowd.

“Maybe that was an overstatement,” Chopp responded after some hesitation, adding she felt it was an “effort to divide instead of debate and discuss” the issues at hand. Chopp did say that she had reviewed the demands presented with the petition at the conclusion of the rally and promised an expeditious response.

Another student presented the concern that self-governance is being “imposed” on Broad Street, questioning whether imposed self-governance is self-governance at all.

“There are no specifics about what that needs to look like,” Adams responded. “This is an opportunity for residents of Broad Street to make it whatever they want to make it.”

Students also voiced concerns about the ability of Colgate staff to insure safety in light of the recent violence at the Palace Theater.

“I’m not going to say no incidents are ever going to happen,” Chopp said. “There’s no way in the world you’re ever going to be completely safe.”

She went on to explain that the board of trustees mainly wanted to put a stop to a series of “serious incidents” they had observed which had brought the University “incredibly negative publicity.”

Throughout the forum, the panel continued to assuage students’ fears about the future of Greek life. In response to a question regarding the balance of campus staff access with the secrecy inherent in Greek society, Weinberg responded, “We have no intention of campus safety walking in during secret rituals. Campus safety will not be patrolling houses.”

Adams assured students that they won’t have to worry about conforming to any pre-determined idea of what a Broad Street house must look like.

“We want each house to keep its unique identity,” she said. “We want [the Greek houses] to be leaders in shaping what other Broad Street houses look like.”

The panel often passed responsibility for the particularly controversial issues, such as the original idea to acquire the houses, the threats of expulsion for non-compliance and the refusal of long-term leases to the Board of Trustees.

Chopp noted that there is an open Board meeting every September for those students who may be interested.

Meehan, the only student on the panel, spoke up only once, after being asked, “Was the decision to sell Beta made due to fear of being shut down?”

“Yes,” he said. “We discussed it and decided we would rather continue as a chapter without a house rather than cease to function.”

When further asked if the threat of expulsion was the deciding factor, he responded, “Yes.”

The main point emphasized by the administration throughout the forum was the desire to build a trusting relationship.

“We have a commitment to Greek life and preserving it,” Adams stressed. “I don’t know what anyone can say besides that.

In her closing remarks, Chopp said, “I’m not asking for trust, I’m asking for us to work together. I want everyone to invest in the success of Greek life as we [the administration] have become invested. After we work together, the trust will come.”

President of Delta Delta Delta junior Lauren Mondrone was encouraged by the University’s actions during acquisition and attitude during the Forum.

“We’ve been assured we’ll have support,” she said. “From what I’ve seen, we’ve gotten nothing but [support]. The University’s investment is promising.”

Parimi was also encouraged by the Forum, though he thinks there is still progress to be made.

“There were some great questions asked,” he said. “More people could have showed up. Some questions could have been answered in more detail, for instance, the concerns about Campus Safety. These are the questions that need to be answered.”

Adams and Opipari were impressed by the Forum.

“It’s good the SGA put it together,” Opipari said. “I like the students to have an opportunity to ask questions.”

Adams added, “We’re really focused on the future of Greek life. We’re offering a lot of positive support over the next few years – we hope the trust will be there.”

She also emphasized the continued support for current members of DKE, despite their refusal to sell their house.

“We will be supportive of the DKE brothers until they graduate,” she said.

Chopp had positive things to say regarding the Forum.

“It’s important to have discussions and it’s important to hear concerns that the students have,” she said. “It’s important to know where people are. I hope we provided some information.”

Chopp also remained optimistic about the future.

“Now we’re invested in each other, and feelings can begin shifting,” she said. “Also, it’s good that we’re now starting to sit down with Alumni … We can sit down and figure out common ideas and solutions. We really want this to work.”