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Examining the Greek Changes from A Community Perspective

09/12/2010

In writing this, I really tried to be wary of my words. In the end, I realized that there is always somebody that is going to be offended. So let me preface this by stating the following explicitly: This is solely my opinion and not that of the entire Student Assembly. I do support Greek life here and I support the IFC in their endeavor to ensure their voices are heard. In addition, I do support the administration in their promotion of a safer campus. The following will explain the aspects of each of the opposing sides’ arguments that I support, as well as the steps I challenge the administration, the IFC, and the Student Assembly to take.

The Assembly has made it clear in its letter to the administration that it is disappointed at the lack of input from student government groups, specifically the SA itself. I do, in fact share the same sentiments of the SA as a whole. The actions that the University took in passing an act of legislation without student input, suggests to the undergraduate community that their opinions are not valued on issues of health and safety, and instead are only suitable for minor issues. While I fully understand the reasoning for passing such an act, the University failed to realize the true breadth of the scope of the act. So that is the fault of the University. That is the major issue that the SA, on behalf of the undergraduate community as a whole, has with administration.

I am a bit confused over the issue between the University and the IFC. From what was said at the forum and in a string of correspondence, I have found there to be two totally different arguments occurring. The first is the argument over an encroachment on the right of self-governance that the IFC has. The second is the battle to keep alcohol. I am unclear what the IFC is actually arguing for; on what are they placing the most value?

Realistically, many students here like to imbibe a little, but the amount of value that some in the IFC have placed on alcohol is almost to the point of idolatry. The way it has been discussed by many within the IFC is as if it is the reason for the existence of their organizations. What happened to the true sense of fraternity? What happened to joining for the sake of brotherhood and being a part of something bigger than you? What happened to bettering the community? What happened to this being a personal decision? What happened? If you all can sit there and tell me and the administration that having an abundance of alcohol for underage individuals is what you all stand for, I weep for you. If you all can sit there and say that there is no way that you can achieve your goals with a limited amount of alcohol, then I am forced to question the validity of your fraternities. You need to figure out why you have gotten to the point where the administration feels that you need to prove yourselves. You need to figure out what happened to the principles that all of your chapters were founded on; and how, how do you get them back?

I fully support the efforts for self-governance. This campus prides itself on the principle of shared governance between student organizations and administration. It has been said on all sides that there should have been more communication with students about the content of the University Recognition Policy and the moves for implementation. However, I do think that many in the IFC and around campus are taking the term “self-governance” to mean total freedom and autonomy. In fact, self-governance only means that as an organization, the IFC has an increased amount of responsibility in ensuring that all of the chapters are aligned with the policies set forth by the University. The burden is on the IFC to have representatives and liaisons in all areas of campus government. The burden is on the IFC to promote safe and healthy environments in their domains. The University has trusted that responsibility to the IFC and thus, does not have a physical presence at all events.

I want to know to what extent the IFC has gone to ensure that they are involved in the decision-making process in light of all the past incidents? For example, there are a number of liaison positions to different committees and bodies that have not been filled. These groups are representative of the groups of people that they are trying to recruit, and they affect the relationship that the undergraduate community as a whole has with the administration. So what are you doing about that? What are you doing to effectively infiltrate all realms of student governance and exhaust all of your resources?

I fully support the IFC in asserting their right for self-governance. I do not think the current proposed policy should go any further until it is reviewed extensively by the SA, the IFC, and all other stakeholders together. This discussion should focus on a phased implementation process and the establishment of a definite time frame, rather than the content of the policy. It is clear that this policy seeks to align the University with national and state laws; and that should not be questioned. As the governing body and effective voice of the undergraduate community, the SA must place its focus on analyzing the consequences, especially the unintended consequences, of this policy. We must strive to understand how this is going to affect the undergraduate community as a whole and change the atmosphere of the University. It is not the job of the SA to get caught up in a back and forth argument with the administration. We need to ensure that we work with the IFC to design a plan for implementation that will benefit the entire Cornell community.

However, I am challenging the IFC to take a step back from the situation; step outside of yourselves; and examine the chapters in your organization. Turn the mirror on yourselves and see where you went wrong. Figure out how it got to this point. The administration has already acknowledged some of its faults. Believe me, they still have a ways to go, but this will go nowhere if both sides do nothing but point fingers at each other.

Ulysses Smith

Architecture, Art, & Planning Representative

Residential & Community Life Committee Chair

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