Campus / Greek Task Force / News / April 16, 2009

Greek moratorium fails in faculty vote

At their meeting on Monday, April 13, the Knox faculty voted down an amendment to the regulations of a moratorium that would have capped the number of Greek organizations at the current number. Women of Influence and Gentlemen of Quality, however, would still have been allowed to petition to become a national Greek organization. The moratorium failed 42 to 17.

During the previous week’s meeting, the faculty approved changing the rhetoric and the process of Faculty Regulation D8, which sets out the regulations on becoming a Greek organization, rushing, and hazing, among other things.

The language of the text now focuses on approval from the faculty regarding the existence of a Greek organization.

The text begins with the line “Students in the College may become members of fraternities and sororities which have been approved by the Faculty,” and ends with two clauses: D.8.1.g, which states, “A fraternity or sorority that has been suspended by the College and/or its national association must obtain Faculty approval in order to re-activate,” and D.8.1.h, “The Faculty has the right to revoke the fraternity or sorority status of any group by majority vote.”

Translating these clauses might be difficult as some faculty, though they may have voted on the clause, weren’t exactly sure to the entirety of the rights it gave to faculty. According to Faculty Chair Andrew Leahy, clause 8.1.g means that if a fraternity or sorority has been suspended by Knox and/or its national association it has to have the faculty’s approval in order to reappear on campus as a Greek organization. The group enters back into the process as a colony and must go through the same process any colony trying to become part of the Greek population, irrespective of their former national affiliation.

Clause D.8.1.h outlines the faculty’s authority on the existence of Greek organizations. Leahy said the new clause “explicitly gives the faculty the right they had implicitly.”

Students that are organizing to become Greek-affiliated now must alert the faculty from the beginning of their petitioning process and work with them if they are approved as a colony towards nationals. After six months as a colony, they must send in a statistical report about their group to the Student Life Committee. After at least a year as a colony, a group may petition to become nationally affiliated. Majority vote from the faculty is necessary in order to become nationally affiliated.

The efforts to make this faculty right explicit comes out of unrest between the faculty and the administration over who has the right to grant Greek status. In the past, some faculty members have felt that when a group becomes a colony they work solely with the administration (not the faculty), which prepares them for how to best approach the faculty when applying for national status. Some faculty feel that at this point they can’t deny a colony that is petitioning because they have invested time and energy into going from colony status to getting to nationals.

With the new wording, groups are required to go to the faculty to get colony approval, submit a six-month report, and come before the faculty again in at least a year to seek national affiliation. At any point during this process the faculty has the right to deny the group permission to continue towards Greek affiliation by a majority vote.

The proposed amendment of a moratorium on new Greek organizations brought out many faculty opinions regarding the function of social organizations on campus. Some members of the faculty believe that the students should be the ones to define how they organize themselves on campus, not the faculty.

“I think [the moratorium] says clearly we don’t like the Greek system and we want to limit student choice,” said political science professor Sue Hulett.

“The role of the faculty is one of accountability and oversight…[it is] not the role of the faculty to decide which organization[s] are available,” said Hulett. She believes the faculty should stay away from the desire to socially engineer the college to their personal beliefs of which organizations are valuable on campus.

Senate president, Tri-Delta member and previous Pan-Hellenic Council member Elaine Wilson and Senate vice president and Beta president Bryan Lund opposed the moratorium. As they wrote in the Senate Perspective column in last week’s issue of TKS, “A moratorium on new Greek organizations would not only be unnecessary, but more importantly, it would be unfair to students and effect autonomy…we see the possibility of a blanket moratorium as an easy way for anti-Greek faculty to push their own agenda through, saying ‘no new Greek organizations’ for an indefinite period of time. To us, forming a new club, sports team, group, or Greek organization at Knox College falls squarely under a students’ right to freely associate with any group or groups they so choose.”

Educational studies professor Diana Beck shares a similar ideal. She pledged a sorority when she was an undergrad. “I’m a firm believer in students’ rights to affiliate in the ways they want to affiliate. It’s their right to choose…students have a right to affiliate in ways that meet their needs,” said Beck. She doesn’t support an all-Greek campus, but doesn’t feel a cap on the number of organizations is necessary.

Rather than more Greek organizations per se, Beck would like to see an opening up of local Greek organizations on campus. Local organizations would function in much the same way as our national Greek organizations do, however they would not receive the same kinds of scholarship funding that groups get from nationals. What also sets these local groups apart from national groups is their ability to make their own rules rather than following those laid out by a national organization. A local organization would have the flexibility to reflect the Knox community more in their character, while setting their own rules about member selection. For example, at one point TKE attempted to change their status to co-ed and accept women into the fraternity, but their national organization would not allow it. TKE remained male-only.

“A sense of belonging is a basic human need, but I’m also worried about there being only one way and that way being the Greek way…Nationals require certain rules regarding pledging, for example, where a local [Greek organization] could say anyone could join [it could be] totally open admission,” said Beck.

Some faculty members, on the other hand, worry about the increasing Greek presence on campus and favored the moratorium.

“To vote against the moratorium is not to vote against the current Greek system,” said Professor Karen Kampwirth. “The moratorium would have been a way to take a breather and look at what we have.” Kampwirth believes we need to examine the Knox community in an effort to protect the quality of it for all students. She and others have found that we need to look more at the community as a whole, both the 25 percent that make up the Greek population and the other 75 percent of “independent” students.

Though they make up only 25 percent of the population, Kampwirth finds the concerns of Greek students take “a much more dominant role” in general student discussion. Kampwirth favored the moratorium because it would allow faculty to easily be able to deny a student group colony or national status based on the number of Greek organizations already on campus, rather than on characteristics specific to the group. Kampwirth and others explained the moratorium would address the need for a faculty member to easily be able to say no, and not be denigrated for their decision. “If you personalize [the decision of whether a group can become Greek,] you’re not talking about it philosophically,” said Kampwirth. “A moratorium would be depersonalizing.”

Faculty members in favor of the moratorium have also brought up the issues of discrimination and exclusivity in the Greek system. As it stands, Greek organizations are allowed to be selective in who they accept. Organizations have been known to judge on the basis of “fit,” explained Kampwirth, but what this “fit” means is not entirely disclosed. “‘Not a good fit’ is code for ‘we don’t like you,’” said classics professor Brenda Fineberg

Fineberg would like to see a Greek-free campus, but believed the moratorium to be “the next best thing.” “I am not opposed to these organizations because I want to thwart students. I’m opposed because I deeply believe the institution would be better without them…and the social challenges to the students would be healthier ones.”

Fineberg highlights the element of exclusivity as the “biggest deal” as to why Greek organizations are problematic to Knox. “If we’re teaching the values of a free and open society, I don’t think we should encourage organization that are exclusive in that way,” Fineberg said. She recognizes that these groups also serve an important philanthropic role, but that those acts should not defend the existence of Greek life on campus. “I don’t deny these are good things but I think people can do these things without being affiliated with national exclusive organizations,” she said.

Overall, with the fail of the moratorium amendment, not much will change in the overall process of becoming a Greek organization or maintaining that status. What has changed is the language of the faculty regulation, which puts in writing, what is believed, was already the right of faculty. With this language change it will mean students wishing to become Greek-affiliated will need to spend more time communicating with the faculty.

Below is the full text of section D8 as amended:

D 8 Fraternities and Sororities. Students in the College may become members of social fraternities and sororities which have been approved by the Faculty. Fraternities and sororities are those organizations referred to in VI.3.b. of the College Bylaws. These organizations are under the general supervision of the Student Life Committee.

D.8.1 A student group which intends to become a fraternity or sorority must obtain the approval of the Faculty.

D.8.1.a The student group must first notify in writing the Dean of Students and the President of the College of its intention to organize.

D.8.1.b The student group must then obtain the endorsements of the Student Senate and the Student Life Committee. Once these endorsements are given, the Student Life Committee must bring a proposal to the Faculty for approval of “colony status” for the student group; the proposal must be brought to the Faculty at its next regularly scheduled meeting and no later than the regular May meeting. A student group that has not received these endorsements has the right to bring its proposal directly to the Faculty. A majority vote of the Faculty is required to grant colony status.

D.8.1.c Approval of colony status by the Faculty shall be based in part on documentation submitted by the student group, including a mission statement, a copy of the letter to the President and Dean of Students, the number of members, a rationale and an explanation of how the group will contribute to student life and to the campus generally.

D.8.1.d A supplementary report on the progress of the colony must be submitted to the Student Life Committee after six months of colony status.

D.8.1.e After at least one year as a colony, the group may request Faculty approval for national affiliation or local fraternity/sorority status. The colony must obtain the endorsements of Student Senate and the Student Life Committee. The Student Life Committee must bring a proposal to the Faculty to allow the colony to petition a national fraternity/sorority or to continue as a local fraternity/sorority. The petition should include updated documentation, by-laws, a record of membership and officers of the organization, and a record of activities during the colonization period. A colony that has not received these endorsements has the right to bring its proposal directly to the Faculty. A majority vote of the Faculty is required for approval. If the Faculty approves a colony’s request for national affiliation, the subsequent proposal to affiliate with a particular national group must be approved by the Student Life Committee.

D.8.1.f If after two years as a colony the group is not prepared to request Faculty approval for national affiliation or for local status, it may request a one-time one-year extension from the Student Life Committee.

D.8.1.g A fraternity or sorority that has been suspended by the College and/or its national association must obtain Faculty approval in order to re-activate. The procedure followed is identical to that described in D.8.1.e.

D.8.1.h The Faculty has the right to revoke the fraternity or sorority status of any group by majority vote.

D.8.2 The Inter-Fraternity Council coordinates and supervises relations among campus fraternities. The Panhellenic Conference coordinates and supervises relations among campus sororities.

D 8.3 Students on disciplinary probation may not be “rushed”, or pledged, or initiated. First-term first-year students may not be recruited formally or informally.

D 8.4 Initiation programs conducted by fraternities and sororities are subject to the following restrictions:

There shall be no protracted informal initiation of the type known as “hell week”.

Informal initiations shall be conducted within the confines of the chapter house or lodge and shall not be a public nuisance or disturbance.

Nothing shall be done which involves the possibility of physical injury. Individuals shall not be required to violate their personal or moral convictions as a condition of initiation.

The initiation program shall not in any way interfere with the student’s ability to discharge properly all his or her academic obligations.

Klayr Valentine-Fossum

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