The local colonies ATP, Gentlemen of Quality, and Women of Influence will have to continue in Greek limbo for at least four more months while a task force evaluates the Greek system at Knox the faculty decided at their first meeting of the school year.
There was much debate between faculty, administration, Greeks and non-Greeks throughout last year over the role of Greek life on campus: whether the system is growing too large, whether it promotes gender equity, whether it reflects the diversity of the campus, and how it might change the way Knox appears from the outside, among other issues. The Faculty Affairs Subcommittee [FASCom] passed a resolution last spring calling for the faculty executive committee to form a task force to address Greek questions and for that task force to produce a report answering them by Oct. 31, 2008.
An amendment to the resolution put forth at the March 2008 faculty meeting stated that “until the Task Force has completed its work, there shall be a hold on bringing forward any proposals for approval of new colonies, but current locals shall be permitted to remain in existence.” These locals include ATP, Gentlemen of Quality, and Women of Influence.
As chair of the faculty executive committee, it fell to Dean of the College Lawrence Breitborde to put that task force together.
“They were supposed to start the task force in spring, gather data over the summer, and finish the report by Oct. 31,” said Duane Oldfield, associate professor of political science and chair of FASCom.
But at the beginning of this school year, the task force still had not been formed. An amendment was passed to extend the deadline from Oct. 31, 2008 to Jan. 31, 2009.
“I was unable to get commitments from the people that [the faculty executive committee] told me to ask. I was unable to get those commitments and to stay behind the process and kind of nag people because it was late in the term and things like commencement took over,” said Breitborde, accepting responsibility for the delay.
At the faculty meeting on Sep. 15, 2008, Breitborde put forth an amendment to approve the three colonies awaiting the task force report, allowing them to become official Greek organizations.
“I didn’t think it was fair that students who had done what they were told the way they were told to do it suddenly got caught up in another kind of issue…when I failed to get the task force up and running early in the summer, this exacerbated that situation,” said Breitborde.
The amendment to allow those groups through failed, 17-46.
At the meeting on the Sep. 15th, some faculty members felt that allowing the groups to go through despite the prior amendment’s stipulation that they could not came down to an issue of faculty governance.
“I am extremely aggravated,” said Associate Professor of Biology and former chair of FASCom Stuart Allison at the faculty meeting. “Stuff didn’t happen because the Dean’s office sat on it. [Breitborde’s] feeling guilty.”
Because of the way the faculty regulations are written, colonies must exist as colonies for a year before asking for faculty approval to go forward. This puts the faculty in the awkward position of refusing approval to students who jumped through the necessary hoops with their nationals and the rest of the school for a year, at one of the last steps of the process. By proposing that the three groups go through early, some members of the faculty felt that the administration, Breitborde specifically, was trying to go around their wishes.
At the meeting, Breitborde took umbrage at the idea that Allison used the phrase ‘sat on it’ “strategically.”
“If there’s a suggestion that [not forming the task force on time] was done tactically rather than an outright failure, then I have a problem with that. I also realize that if you were inclined to believe in conspiracies, me making that amendment would have exacerbated that view, but you’d have to think I was one of the most inept manipulators in the history of the college,” Breitborde said later.
At this point, then, ATP, GQ, and WOI are casualties of a larger issue—“collateral damage,” as Breitborde called them.
Senior Liz Soehngen, president and co-founder of ATP, is frustrated.
“We’ve gone through all the steps before then–we were approved by [PanHellenic Council,] by, I’m pretty sure, [Intrafraternity Council], by [Student Life Council], but then suddenly it just stopped, the chain stopped. Particular members of the faculty acted like they were blindsided by our presence, which is unfortunate considering we’ve been here, active on campus, for more than a year now,” Soehngen said.
“It’s getting to the point where it’s just not fair,” she said.
Soehngen says the delay will make things harder for her colony. The group lost seven girls to graduation last year, a thought she “can’t let herself think” for this year, since all of the members of ATP are juniors or seniors. Additionally, as a Greek organization, the group cannot apply for club funds, but as a local colony, they cannot charge dues.
“Last year, our entire budget was $500 that we won from a cake contest,” Soehngen said.
The long-awaited task force was finally assembled Monday, Sep. 22 at the faculty executive committee meeting, consisting of five faculty members and two students. What it specifically discusses will be up to the task force to decide, but the issue of how the expanding Greek system will affect Knox will surely be high on the list: Breitborde calculated that if ATP, WOI, and GQ all become official, the Greek population at Knox will rise from 26 to 37 percent.
“When I got involved with this, I just wanted to fill a gap that I saw,” Soehngen said.
“I want there to be an organization like this for girls like me, five, ten years down the road. If they want to join Greek life and they aren’t a Pi Phi, a Kappa, or a Delta. If they’re a nerd.”