Cornell is implementing a second phase of initiatives aimed at fostering a positive Greek experience on campus, in response to President David Skorton's challenge to “end pledging as we know it.”
Phase I included new Greek orientation activities as alternatives to pledging, improved communication of hazing incidents and infractions of the Campus Code of Conduct, and a push to empower community members to intervene when they see activities happening they know shouldn’t be. Phase II will include:
• Expansion of anti-hazing efforts campuswide. Anti-hazing programming within the Department of Athletics and Physical Education has been expanded; three programs will be offered to teams during the academic year, in addition to the annual program for new student-athletes.
Associate Dean of Students Travis Apgar and Tim Marchell, director of mental health initiatives at Gannett Health Services, both nationally recognized authorities on hazing and hazing prevention, are creating a campus committee to address hazing consistently across the university. The Group Misconduct website has been created as part of this effort, and Cornell will participate in the National Hazing Collaborative’s Consortium Project focused on research and prevention.
• Increased alumni involvement. In February, more than 50 alumni attended the first A.D. White Greek Leadership Summit, an evolution of the longstanding annual A.D. White Greek Leadership Conference, which had focused on students.
Student leaders and alumni attended sessions on such topics as leadership development, facilities and finance, risk management, scholarship and service to community. Vice President of Student and Academic Services Susan Murphy, Dean of Students Kent Hubbell and Apgar provided an update on the state of Greek life.
Efforts are continuing this year to keep alumni informed about what is happening on campus and ways they can become involved with the current student experience.
• Live-in advisers. The Fraternity and Sorority Advisory Council (FSAC) has asked an ad hoc committee of alumni, students and staff to provide a report when FSAC meets at the Cornell Alumni Leadership Conference in January. The report will include specific recommendations for the Greek community on support to augment the advice and guidance students receive from alumni, staff in the Office of Fraternities, Sororities and Independent Living, and their national and international organizations’ representatives, while maintaining appropriate self-governance. A clear set of expectations, an exploration of different live-in adviser models, alternatives to support chapters without a residential structure, and a plan for implementation are expected following the meeting.
• A ‘One Cornell Greek Community’ experience. Proposed by students on the Recruitment, Acceptance, Retention and Education (RARE) Committee that worked to generate a response to Skorton’s challenge, “this is a broad concept with goals of attracting members to the Greek community who buy into the system’s shared values and principles of scholarship – service to community, brotherhood/sisterhood and personal development, which they learn about while participating in a variety of educational programs, social activities and service opportunities,” Apgar said. Programming will begin this fall and grow in the years to come, he added.
• A meaningful chapter assessment program. “We will work closely with students and alumni to develop an assessment that provides student leaders with feedback on their previous year’s performance and chapter strengths,” Apgar said. Assessment will also serve to aid in officer transition from year to year.
• A systemwide incentive program. Students have begun to identify specific ways to recognize chapters that live up to expectations and community standards. For example, members of Interfraternity Council (IFC) chapters that abided by the rules and standards and contributed to the community in meaningful ways – by attending or hosting educational programs, providing service to the community, or raising money for charity or a worthy cause, as determined by the IFC – were able to receive free food at Slope Day last spring.
“These efforts, undertaken by a dedicated group of students, staff and alumni, have created the foundation for very positive changes in the Greek community,” said Hubbell. “In the coming years, I expect their implementation will promote a safer and healthier environment for all and enrich the Cornell Greek experience.”