“Are you getting a fair return on the $40,000 you spend each year on a Colgate education?” Tim Sanford (’58) asked in a letter recently sent to the Colgate community. Sanford expressed great concern regarding the University’s commitment to a “New Vision for Residential Education” and the impact of this decision on Colgate’s future. Sanford is one of Colgate’s most distinguished, charitable and involved alumni. While attending Colgate, he was a member of Phi Delta Theta. Years after he graduated, Sanford served on the Board of Trustees for almost a decade and is currently a Trustee Emeritus and benefactor. He has donated generously to the University, and the Field House bears his name. Recently, Sanford founded Students & Alumni for Colgate (sa4c) to provide a forum that allows individuals to voice their opinions about the University. The letter to Colgate parents and students conveyed a sense of disappointment and concern about the future of Colgate. “I, and many others, am very concerned about the direction of our beloved alma mater,” Sanford said. “[The New Vision for Campus Culture] seeks to transform Colgate in a way that a growing number of students and alumni believe to be detrimental to its future, to the credential of a Colgate degree and to the very spirit that is ‘Colgate’.” In working with sa4c, Sanford has concluded that he is not alone in his disappointment with the University’s behavior. The website, www.sa4c.com, has allowed Sanford to connect directly with other alumni with similar points of views. He has received many emails expressing discontent and he hopes to organize this perspective. The website has generated a great deal of controversy across Colgate’s campus. Students, faculty, alumni and administrators have all reacted differently to the claims made by Sanford. “There’s a lot of support out their for my point of view,” Sanford said. “It hasn’t been well organized, and an awful lot of people are apathetic and take the attitude that it’s a done deal and a waste of my time.” Nonetheless, Sanford still believes that there is a great deal of support for his efforts. “The emails we’ve been getting from the website have been very encouraging,” he said. “If we can get the people who feel a little more like I do organized, we’ll be able to get our message heard by the administration.” However, other signs indicate that Sanford’s claims are in the minority. Alumni participation has, by many accounts, reached new highs and is showing strong forward momentum. “We are right now enjoying the second of two of the best fundraising years in Colgate history,” Vice President and Senior Philanthropic Advisor Robert Tyburski said. “The percentage of alumni participation is on track with record years, the attendance we’ve had at alumni club with Rebecca Chopp have been all time highs and very, very few alumni ask questions about this particular issue.” Tyburski notes that, on occasion early on in the program, Alumni Club meetings focused on Sanford’s efforts. “So, by the number of alums who are attributed to his website,” Tyburksi said, “the number of gifts we’re getting in these record years, the percentage of participation and the activity in the field, it appears as [though Sanford is] more a little voice in the corner than a central voice.”Sanford’s unease is the result of several recent changes that he has observed on Colgate’s campus, which he believes are harmful to both the University and its commitment to providing students with a solid liberal arts education. There are several key aspects of the New Vision that Sanford addresses in his letter, the most prominent being Greek life, Colgate’s approach to generating campus diversity and the CORE curriculum.The changes confronting Greek organizations are a major point of contention between students and the administration. Sanford’s letter harshly criticizes the actions taken by the administration to acquire ownership of fraternity and sorority houses, as well as the disciplinary repercussion for noncompliance. Property negotiations between Greek organizations and the administration, which Sanford characterized as “autocratic,” have been ongoing for a considerable amount of time. The talks have been difficult and have generated a certain degree of ill will between Greek organizations and the University. “When you put a gun to the head of the property owner and say either sell me your property or you exit, that’s about as extremely coercive as you can get,” Sanford stated. “Fraternities and sororities don’t understand how much power they have. They need to be unified and say, ‘Look, we’ve had enough of this, Mickey Mouse, and we’re not going to stand for it anymore. If you want our fraternities and sororities to be open this fall, you’ll just retract this effort.’ But, unfortunately, to date anyways, they haven’t realized that they have this power.” The University’s administration also acknowledged that the property negotiations were complex and difficult. However, they viewed land ownership as an essential measure that could not be compromised. In addition, Hale and others viewed the negations as fair, acknowledging that concessions were made on both sides.”There’s no question that negotiations were very difficult,” Financial Vice President and Treasurer David Hale said. “We asked the Greek letter alumni leaders to do something they probably would have preferred not to do. That said, we’ve made tremendous progress. We sit here today with agreements with eight of the 11 houses, and we have a spirit of cooperation with those leaders that is probably as good as its been in a long, long time. Negotiations were difficult, and we did not compromise on the University’s need to take ownership of the houses.” In the University’s view, property ownership was a necessary measure. Without it, the administration believes that it would be unable to achieve many of the positive and beneficial goals it has for Greek organizations at Colgate. “In the end, Colgate is willing to invest in the properties and try to make them work and succeed,” Tyburski said, “and owning them is a far better way of operating with Colgate’s investment. The whole purpose of this program is to provide linkages between those residences and Colgate. Those can best be achieved by ownership.” However, although property ownership could not be compromised, the University made several concessions during negotiations. Price, occupancy regulations and other issues were discussed at great length in order to arrive at an agreement that would be acceptable to both parties. This process was extremely complex and required tremendous cooperation. “We compromised a great deal along the way,” Hale said. “I think each Greek letter alumni leader that you’d speak to would say that although we did not compromise on the right of ownership, we significantly compromised in terms of price, in terms of providing flexible occupancy provisions. It certainly didn’t feel coercive to me; it was very much a two way street.”Sanford and the administration possess different views on the fairness of prices paid for the Greek houses. In his letter, Sanford states that, “In every case, Colgate has offered to pay a price equal to far less than the replacement value of the House.”Hale and the University, however, firmly believe that the compensation offered to the Greek organizations has been more than fair.”All of the prices we paid were above appraised value,” Hale said, “and in at least one case, we agreed to pay more than the value estimated in an appraisal commissioned by a Greek letter organization, but we’re glad to do it. Trying to determine what the appropriate value for a Greek letter house is more of an art than a science. There are different real estate value methodologies. … I don’t think anyone would pay a price for replacement value of a house. I don’t think we’d be doing our fiduciary duty managing the assets of the University if we paid replacement value.” Sanford possesses an utmost respect and appreciation for Colgate and its Greek system. Irregardless, he questions the actions used by the Board of Trustees and the administration to regulate these organizations. Sanford also categorized the consequences of noncompliance set forth by the administration as both severe and arbitrary. “What I am fearful of is that instead of fine tuning, the actions of the Board of Trustees with regard to the New Residential Educational program, the ownership of fraternity and sororities is a little more than fine tuning,” Sanford said. “I think they’ve overstepped their bounds a bit.” Understandably, various members of the administration have a much different opinion about the process of fraternity and sorority acquisition. Many of them view this process as a necessary step that will allow Greek organizations to operate more effectively and improve relations with the University. “This whole program is designed to … create a partnership between those residences which are an important part of the overall system and Colgate,” Tyburski said. “What Colgate is trying to do with this program is really embrace the system, integrate it into everything it’s trying to do [and] provide forms of support… It’s not a ‘land grab,’ as Mr. Sanford called it, it’s part of forming a new relationship and partnership with organizations that are very important to Colgate.”A major problem has been the fragile relationship that exists between Greek organizations and the University. Distrust and misinformation has made the already delicate process even more difficult and has generated further animosity between the groups. There is a tremendous amount of confusion and uncertainty on campus about the future of fraternities and sororities as well as the actions taken by the administration to regulate these groups. “There is an attitude of mistrust about Colgate’s intentions in acquiring the houses,” Tyburski said. “They just don’t understand that our motives could actually be designed to help the system. In my mind, this build-up of mistrust symbolizes the negative aspect of these years … The only way the system is going to survive and thrive is by Colgate forming a partnership to take away this air of mistrust.” Some administrators feel that Sanford himself has greatly contributed to the dispersion of misinformation throughout the campus and that his view are in the vast minority. “I would also say that no one has contributed more to the misinformation than sa4c and Mr. Sanford,” Hale said. “Period.” Both Hale and Tyburski are Colgate graduates and members of Greek organizations.The CORE curriculum is another area where Sanford believes the University is heading in the wrong direction. He believes the current CORE does not compel students to take courses that are vital to a liberal arts education. Provost and Dean of the Faculty Lyle Roelofs disagrees with this comment, noting that CORE 151 and 152 require the reading of important works of literature. Furthermore, while a considerable diversity of mathematical and scientific course topics does exist in the Scientific Perspectives part of the CORE, including the course in cryptology every Colgate student is also required to take at least two other courses in the division of the Natural Sciences. Thus a Colgate student is bound to do further work in math and science.
“A Colgate student with a liberal arts degree can easily graduate without any study of American history,” Sanford said, “without reading any of the classics of literature, without an actual math class and with a science course as general as cryptology, the psychology of prejudice, or, the causes of war.”A study conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) gave Colgate’s CORE curriculum an F based on the number of core courses required to fulfill the core requirement. ACTA is a Washington based conservative advocacy group associated with Lynne Cheney, the wife of the Vice President.Mandating only a language requirement, Colgate was given an F, however the University was not in bad company; Northwestern, Brown and Cornell were among the other schools also earning failing grades.”I would say that the Colgate CORE requirement is probably more well thought out than the distribution requirements that one finds at almost all colleges and universities Roelofs said. “It has extensive history. It actually goes back to 1928, and we’ve had a continuous CORE requirement. Since then its been updated, improved and refined and made more appropriate for the current circumstances many times, most recently in 1996. The ACTA study provides a misleading evaluation of Colgate’s CORE curriculum, because its criteria are not flexible enough to take account of the dual nature of our core requirements, the CORE itself AND distribution requirements.”Many administrators believe that the ACTA study provided an unfair and inaccurate evaluation of Colgate’s CORE curriculum, arguing that the criteria used to conduct the study was deceitful and inconclusive. The study was not factually inaccurate. However, the criteria used to evaluate Colgate’s CORE was simply incompatible. “The terms of the investigation done by ACTA were quite narrow in comparison to the objectives that Colgate has established for its CORE curriculum,” Roelofs said. “With the procedures that were used in that evaluation and the definitions, when I looked at the hollow core report I didn’t see any factual errors, what I saw instead was a failure to accurately measure the broader goals that are encompassed by the Colgate CORE. So, the F on the ground is probably correct, but I would not try to advocate the grounds used in that study as appropriate for the Colgate environment in any case. So ACTA’s F is not based on grounds appropriate for Colgate’s curriculum. More telling is the finding of the American Association of Colleges and Universities – a widely recognized national education association – which in 2001 cited Colgate as a leadership institution with a core that is a national model for excellence in innovative education.” The notion of diversity was another important topic discussed by Sanford in his letter to the Colgate community. Encouraging all types of diversity is a major goal for Colgate’s administration, and a large amount of resources have been allocated to obtaining this objective. Still, Sanford asserts that “diversity of thought” has been largely overlooked. “But [the administration] is ignoring diversity of thought,” Sanford said. “Parents and students who are paying their bills to Colgate are being cheated because of the bias on the part of the faculty. Fear of recrimination has stifled healthy political and philosophical debate at Colgate.” However, this viewpoint is not accepted by all. Many, including Dean of the College Adam Weinberg believe that Colgate has been a model institution with regards to diversity. “One need only look at the schedule of speakers and events, or engage students and faculty in conversation around almost any topic, to know that the university thrives on lively discourse and in fact is a community that promotes broadly disparate points of view,” Roelofs said. Although Sanford has a differing opinion than many administrators, their commitment and intentions are clear: improving life at Colgate. While their opinions on what is best for the University differ, all parties want to emphasize their commitment to improving life at Colgate. “Colgate is a wonderful place and a great college,” Sanford said. “When you put a well-qualified faculty and 2,800 young enthusiastic people together, you get a wonderful result, called Colgate.”