On Wednesday, November 25 at 4 p.m., Vice President and Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson sent an e-mail to the Colgate community detailing the University’s policy on underground organizations and offering students in such organizations amnesty from suspension or expulsion, provided they come forward to Assistant Dean of Students and University Disciplinary Officer Corey Landstrom on or before Wednesday, December 9.
According to Vice President and Dean of Students Scott Brown, any student who comes forward will sign a “cease-and-desist agreement,” both acknowledging and renouncing their participation in the organization and its activities. Furthermore, these students will acknowledge that should they continue with these activities, they will be subject to appearing before the University Conduct Board and could receive penalties including suspension to expulsion. Students that do not come forward on or before December 9 will be subject to disciplinary proceedings, with punishments that can also be as severe as suspension or expulsion.
Colgate’s official stance on underground organizations, which can be found in the e-mail and the Student Handbook, is as follows: “No Colgate student may rush, pledge, join, recruit for, perpetuate or otherwise engage in activities as an actual or prospective member of an undergraduate fraternal or similar selective membership organization not recognized by the university. Anyone engaging in such activities, either as an actual or prospective member, will be subject to penalties that may include suspension or expulsion.”
Brown commented on the University’s goal in addressing underground organizations thus.
“The most important part is to step back and look at our role as a community and how we can create the best education possible for students, and to look at what are the things that promote and detract from it, and from there [figure out] how we can balance those abilities to achieve our primary objective, which is to dismantle [underground] organizations and their activities,” Brown said.
The administration has gathered evidence against students in underground organizations, and has gone on the record with that general notion, as early as October 18, 2007. According to a Maroon-News article, then-Assistant Dean and Director of Greek Letter Operations Tim Mansfield sent letters to students believed to be in underground organizations. Mansfield was also quoted as saying, “Enough information was brought to my attention that indicated that these students may or may not be involved with underground activity,” Mansfield said. “Their names were included in some accounts.”
As for why the administration has decided to handle the issue now as opposed to at an earlier date, Brown noted that more evidence was gathered since that time and much deliberation occurred in order to come to the agreement to proceed with an amnesty option.
“[We have to ask ourselves] if there is a way to do that so students who are participating acknowledge responsibility and are accountable, but at the same time make sure we achieve this so we don’t make it more difficult to achieve our objective,” Brown said. “So for example, we felt after much deliberation that students would be much more likely step forward [after being provided with the amnesty option]. We could have gone forward and moved on with information that we’ve obtained from multiple sources over a period of time, but we want students to have an option that is in their best interest. Once the one-time amnesty is over, then students should be prepared to accept the full consequences of their decision.”
Brown remarked that neither he, nor the University, will go on record as to which underground organizations are targeted, the number of underground organizations that are targeted or the evidence that was compiled against the organizations. However, Brown did mention that the disciplinary reprimand that students who come forward will receive is, “less than a warning.”
“[A disciplinary reprimand] is almost the most minor thing we could do,” Brown said. “It is not a disciplinary sanction and doesn’t go on records, and it is expunged at the end of graduation. Any student who comes forward will get the exact same thing. [If there are any] subsequent future violations, [the reprimand] will be taken into account, but if you stay clean it doesn’t matter at all…Students coming forward will not have to specify specific activities within the organization or talk about anyone else that is in the organization because we want individuals to come forward and not be lulled into inaction because of their concerns about other members of these organizations.”