Former Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Fraternity and Sorority Advising Tristain Hilpert resigned suddenly in mid-October after holding the position since the fall of 2018. Hilpert declined to comment on his resignation. Kristin Cothran, who serves as the Assistant Dean for First and Second-Year Experience and Community Development, stated that the plan in the Dean of the College Office is to recruit a new staff member to replace him during the spring semester.
According to member of Phi Delta Theta and President of the Interfraternity Council (IFC) senior Ben Chetlin, since Hilpert’s departure, the Colgate Zeta Chapter of Phi Delta Theta faced a hearing with the University Student Conduct Board on Thursday, November 14 for an incident that occurred on Saturday, October 26.
Chetlin said that the sudden nature of Hilpert’s resignation slowed the subsequent disciplinary process.
“Mainly the issue that we’ve run into is how long it has taken for [the Conduct Board] to actually tell us about the case and have the actual trial. It has been almost three entire weeks …and we are just having the trial today,” Chetlin said. “Combined with that, we haven’t had any information as to what the full issue was until this past week.”
The president of Phi Delta Theta at the time of the incident, senior Ryan Zoellner, expressed a different sentiment regarding Hilpert’s effect on the chapter.
“There’s really no connection with Dean Hilpert leaving,” Zoellner said. “Our conduct case is still open so we don’t have any comments on anything.”
According to Chetlin, Phi Delta Theta does not yet know the outcome of the trial.
Phi Delta Vice President junior Billy Liptrot said that Hilpert was the mediator between the fraternity and the University.
“His guidance was needed when a particular issue arose with the chapter, whether that may be some sort of maintenance problem in the house or properly registering an event,” Liptrot said.
Chetlin said that Hilpert’s resignation was unexpected, impacting the IFC in addition to Phi Delta Theta.
“His leaving was totally unexpected and the school had nothing in place prepared for him to go. The administration — mainly Dean Kristin Cothran — has been great at trying to fill Tristan’s role but it has definitely been hard as she and those supporting her have had to catch up on a year’s worth of work that he did,” Chetlin said.
According to Panhellenic Council President senior Casey Waite, although Hilpert’s resignation now poses an inconvenience to the council’s members, she feels fortunate that he did not step down prior to recruitment.
“He’s an expert on [recruitment] because he’s done it so many times, and so we would have lost a lot of guidance through that very confusing process, but once he left, it’s easier for other people to fill in for him — there are still knowledgeable people that can fill in his shoes,” Waite said.
As stated in a previous Maroon-News article, Dean Paul McLoughlin sent an email to several student leaders, referring them to relevant contacts while Colgate determines who will officially replace Hilpert. McLoughlin suggested Program Coordinators for the Center for Student Leadership and Involvement (CLSI) Amber Decker and Leigh-Ann Wenzel, as well as Assistant Dean for First and Second-Year Experience and Community Development Kristin Cothran. CLSI coordinators declined to comment on Hilpert’s resignation.
In Hilpert’s absence, Cothran said that she, Decker and Wenzel will meet with each chapter’s president and respective officers on a bi-weekly basis throughout the spring semester.
Waite said that the members of the Panhellenic Council have utilized McLoughlin’s contacts, however, she said the CLSI staff have also been left in the dark in regards to the reason for Hilpert’s resignation.
“No one knows still. Yesterday I was in a CLSI meeting with Amber Decker and I asked if she had any updates, new info, and she said, ‘No, no one knows. Everyone is just as surprised as the students were,’” Waite said.
Decker is also the advisor for Greek organizations, particularly for sororities, and Waite said that her help has been invaluable to the Panhellenic Council.
“Amber comes to our executive meetings now. She’s always around. Amber’s the best. She’s so helpful,” Waite said.
Even though Decker and other interim points of contact have been made accessible to the Panhellenic Council, according to Waite, the lack of a designated Director of Fraternity and Sorority Advising has been “the biggest inconvenience since [Hilpert] left.”
“Now people who have other jobs doing other stuff are also in charge of us, the fraternity and sorority’s leaders, and we’re such a large and involved organization. I’m sure it’s inconvenient for them to have this new responsibility,” Waite said.
Liptrot said that despite the absence of a point person focused solely on the needs of Greek organizations, the variety of new contacts has actually been beneficial to his chapter.
“There are many people in different deans offices that are juggling a lot of roles and trying to pick up where [Hilpert] left off, which I honestly think is great to get a fresh perspective on different topics and problems that arise,” Liptrot said.
Liptrot said that he and Zoellner have met with Cothran, Wenzel and Decker since Hilpert’s resignation.
“They have been open to feedback and seem like they genuinely want to make an impact on improving the relationship between Greek Life and the administration,” Liptrot said.
Cothran views her new responsibilities as a learning opportunity.
“I don’t see any challenges but rather opportunities for all of us to learn about each chapter, the leadership experiences for students, the philanthropy connections the chapters have with national organizations and to use this knowledge to develop a sophomore year experience within the upcoming years,” Cothran said.