Campus / Greek Task Force / News / February 18, 2009

New suggestions follow GTF report

Last Monday, a special meeting of the faculty was called to discuss the Greek Task Force report and begin the process of acting on it. The meeting was closed to TKS and the student body, minus members of the Greek Task Force and the Student Senate who were present by regulation.

At that meeting, history professor Penny Gold suggested the creation of a subcommittee of the Student Life Committee, charged with keeping abreast of issues about and within the Greek system in an ongoing way. She and three other members of the faculty then drafted a proposal regarding this issue for the faculty executive committee to consider.

Reactions to the report

Most people involved felt the report accomplished its goals, though some were unsure what those goals had been.

“We’re not sure what it was out to do so, given that, yes, I think it’s complete,” said GTF member and psychology professor Frank McAndrew. “We were never given marching orders about what we were supposed to look at. We were just supposed to find something out.”

“I think there’s no one who felt that the task force didn’t do a first-class job,” said classics professor Steve Fineberg.

“I feel that it did an amazing job of presenting both sides,” said senior Randy Geary, Inter-Fraternity Council president and GTF member.

However, some felt that the process was crippled from the beginning, because the option to eliminate the Greek system entirely was never on the table.

“To me, that was a very limited and, in a certain way, unsatisfactory response, because in my view, if we asked questions of a developmental psychologist and determined that this was an organizational structure which is not in the best interests of people maturing from 18 to 22, we might have a different view of keeping it or not,” Fineberg said.

McAndrew said the possibility of getting rid of the Greek system was never discussed because it would have been “a non-starter.”

“I guess other than a strong feeling on the part of some faculty that we shouldn’t have [a Greek system] at Knox, there weren’t any specific things happening with the system here to make that an issue…it was more a philosophical objection to the idea of a Greek system than a specific reaction.” The GTF report noted this, saying that “the emphasis on philosophical concerns was striking in the negative category, whilst largely absent in the positive.”

However, the report seemed to emphasize a concern that eliminating the Greek system would upset Knox alumni and the mostly-Greek board of trustees, a major source of financial donations. The report said that the beginning of the Oct. 30, 2008 meeting with the board of trustees took a tone “verging on hostile in the beginning,” and that “any perceived attempts to stifle or eliminate the Greek system would provoke serious problems with a significant number of Knox alumni.”

History professor Penny Gold also felt that this was an underlying reason for guaranteeing that the Greek system be allowed to continue.

“There was a strong message from the administration that they considered …it would be counter to the college’s welfare to discuss that, because of alumni reaction and possible donations,” she said.

Greek system subcommittee

Gold and three other faculty members have drafted a proposal for creation of a subcommittee of the Student Life Committee, charged with keeping abreast of issues about and within the Greek system in an ongoing way.

“Social fraternities are organizations with the potential for conflict with academic emphasis…and it’s important for the faculty to pay attention,” she said.

Gold explained that fraternities and sororities at Knox now operate with less oversight than other student groups, since they aren’t beholden to Student Senate for a budget. She provided precedence for this sort of structure of oversight in the form of faculty representatives setting game schedules for the Midwest Athletic Conference, to prevent sports from taking priority over academics.

Gold also disagreed with the idea that a series of intermittent task forces is the best way to keep the Greek system in line with the mission of the college. She told a story that happened in the 1950s in which two fraternities engaged in a competitive drinking contest at Lake Storey. Three brothers died in a car accident on the way back, prompting the formation of a task force.

“From time to time something egregious will happen where the faculty will say, ‘Oh, we’ve got to have a task force.’ Something like [the crash at Lake Storey] happens, you get a task force… they deal with that one issue and wait a couple years till the next one, and you get another task force. I think the task…is to not only collect the information [the GTF] collected on a one-time basis, but to collect it more regularly and insist that the information be available.”

Some opposition to Gold’s suggestion stems from an ideological difference of opinion about what exactly the role of the faculty should be. Some members believe the faculty’s job is simply to teach, advise, and research, while others believe the faculty should help students grow to “live as citizens in community,” as Fineberg put it.

McAndrew is opposed to Gold’s suggestion.

“I have no reason to think the faculty would do this better than anyone else,” McAndrew said, adding that oversight of the Greek system currently falls under the purview of the Dean of Students’ office. Dean of Students Xavier Romano could not be reached for comment by press time.

“The way it’s in the books now, faculty are responsible for student life, but I think that’s a holdover from 100 years or more ago. Our family lives and professional lives weren’t as complicated and we didn’t have professional administrators, so that’s how it had to be. But it’s a different place now, and if I think about how I want to spend my time, I’d rather teach, advise, and do scholarship, not follow people around to see what they’re doing with fraternities,” he said.

Geary was in favor of improving communications between the Greek system, faculty and administrators, and the rest of the school, but not necessarily in the way Gold suggested.

“We have the ability to have [oversight] in that we have faculty advisors. It’s as simple as having them meet once a month,” Geary said.

Geary also suggested implementing a system in which each group would produce a report a couple of times a year to present to the faculty, to see if the groups are “achieving their goals.”

“I think now that we’ve had this report come out, the idea of looking at what the report says, addressing issues, and doing the report as the first way to go, may be more beneficial than oversight,” he said.

The matter will be discussed by the faculty executive committee in the coming weeks.

Deana Rutherford

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