Rushing Is The Wrong Pace For Week Of Remembrance

Notwithstanding their flaws, Greek organizations at Colgate afford affiliated students the opportunity to self-govern in a manner that accords with the guidelines set forth by the administration, and in so doing, to accurately represent the values and interests of their members as part of the broader Colgate community. In theory, the relationship between the University administration and Greek organizations should turn on both parties’ commitment to the type of candid and thoughtful discourse that characterizes life on this campus, including making decisions that reflect the emphasis that the entire Colgate community places on rising to the challenge of understanding ourselves as responsible citizens, both of this nation and of the world. That this year’s sorority recruitment period began on 9/11 and ended after sundown on Rosh Hashanah, points to a decision made by someone within the Greek system that stands in troubling opposition to these ideals. For many members of the Greek community, it was nothing short of embarrassing to participate in a recruitment period that began on the anniversary of what is arguably the greatest national tragedy the United States has ever incurred and culminated on one of the highest holidays in the Jewish tradition. At best, it asks both affiliated and prospective members of Greek organizations to forgo personal remembrance for those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks three years ago and to choose between the excitements that surround Bid Day and observing Rosh Hashanah. At worst, it displays a type of ignorance and insensitivity that only furthers the unfavorable and untrue perception that Greek organizations are not only frivolous, but divisive and insular, lacking awareness of the communities in which they exist. It could be argued that it is appropriate to schedule recruitment on 9/11 because it is not a national holiday, or because in past years classes have been in session on that day. Insofar as the belief underpinning this year’s schedule for sorority recruitment is that life goes on, I absolutely agree, and I certainly am not suggesting that we put our lives in neutral every year on 9/11. I do not, however, equate life going on with life being the same as it was before the attacks, and I feel strongly that people should have the freedom to observe that day however they choose – something that this year’s recruitment schedule rendered unnecessarily difficult, both because attendance at the scheduled recruitment events is mandatory for both members and prospective members, and because it is a process that requires everyone to act upbeat and cheerful, emotions that for many Americans feel inappropriate and out of place on the anniversary of 9/11. Of course, someone probably could be excused from recruitment under certain circumstances, but the more important issue is whether a person should have to be placed in that situation in the first place … whether the decision of when and where to observe 9/11, and in the case of some students, of when and where to mourn the loss of a loved one, should rest in the hands of the people who direct Greek life at Colgate. Concerning the argument that classes have been held on 9/11 in prior years, (aside from the fact that it fell on a Saturday this year), there is a distinct difference between a day that involves the entire Colgate community, and one that only involves the Greek community. In addition, when classes are held on 9/11, the consequences of the tragic events that occurred on that day are acknowledged and discussed, often at length, and students are free to attend campus remembrance services. By contrast, at no point during the first day of recruitment this year did the Greek community acknowledge the importance of 9/11 for our nation, for the state in which we live and go to school and for our generation. Perhaps even more problematic than the decision itself is the fact that Kelly Opipari, the Director of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, has yet to respond to an email I sent her nearly a week ago in which I expressed the same concerns about the implications of beginning recruitment on September 11. Far from holding her responsible for the schedule, I sought to convey my sentiments that this year’s recruitment schedule puts a particularly unflattering face on the Greek system, a face that I think misrepresents so many of the thoughtful individuals who participate in fraternities and sororities at Colgate. That she has failed to acknowledge my concerns in any capacity sends yet another troubling message about what is happening to the Greek system at Colgate. What exactly it is that we stand for? What, if any, value system do we espouse? Are we accurately represented in the decisions that are being made about our organizations? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I think that at a time when the Greek system is undergoing so many changes, these are important questions to ask.