The Greek Crossroads: Board of Trustees needs to pick a path

Students attend an open forum on the IAGGL report on April 21.

Photo by Michael A. Kowaleski ‘14

Students attend an open forum on the IAGGL report on April 21.
Students attend an open forum on the IAGGL report on April 21.

Lafayette once again stands at the Greek crossroads.

Right or wrong, the Lafayette community expected a draft of the IAGGL report to provide answers on the future of Greek life. Instead, a report that the committee probably intended to placate everyone ended up leaving all parties just as agitated as they were in 2011.

At a recent open forum for students, Annette Diorio parried questions from Greeks for the better part of two hours. The Greeks’ responses varied from thoughtful and articulate (“We might feel attacked because those of us who are rising seniors have been listening to how Greek life’s been under fire the past four years, you know?” one member reasoned) to entitled and whining (“Why is this our problem, that no one else can find a social life?” jabbed one Greek member). They were a collection of students who felt persecuted, and they responded accordingly in their own way.

But there are community members like Professor James Woolley who feel that IAGGL is “a report defending Greek life.”

“Our job is to foster and monitor students’ academic growth,” Woolley said. “This [report] suggests that Greek life stunts that growth, and they’re saying that’s okay.”

It’s an arguable point. While there is a slight difference, the gap between fraternity members and non-affiliated men’s GPA is .06 of a point, and sorority GPAs and unaffiliated GPAs are identical. Then again, the report itself leaves a lot to be desired. It isn’t very well written, the metrics are shaky at best and lazy at worst (see: “IAGGL metrics don’t fly,” April 18 issue), and it fails to say anything of much value.

The report concludes that there’s nothing inherently wrong with Greek life, yet says more data is needed to justify expanding Greek life via inviting other organizations on campus. Why, after four years, don’t we have that data? What more data do we need? These questions remain unanswered, hidden behind the smoky excuse of an accreditation system.

“I would feel differently if I felt there was a strategy,” Woolley said.

Diorio, nominated committee spokesperson, said the college doesn’t have the data to support that there would be a sufficient level of student interest.

“I think we have all the information we need to justify expansion,” Delta Kappa Epsilon advisor Mike De Lisi said.

No kidding. Newsflash: there’s plenty of interest, there are at least three fairly healthy frats waiting to return. Conversely, it’s just as obvious that there are students who are opposed to the expansion of Greek life. None of this needs three more years of “research” to support.

I consider myself neutral in the Greek life debate. I have friends in Greek life and I’ve seen its advantages (confirmed social scene, connections, etc.), but I understand the problems that can stem from Greek culture (Alabama sororities, fraternity hazing, etc.). Instead of arguing for either side, I’m asking for something simpler: Board of Trustees, just make a decision already.

It’s no secret that Lafayette College is in the middle of an identity crisis, and that it’s been for years now. We’ve made multiple seemingly contradictory changes regarding athletics, demographics, and student life. Greek life is just another confusion.

It isn’t fair to fraternity and sorority members to undergo scrutiny for three years only to come out the other side with a lukewarm response of, “yeah, we didn’t find anything condemning per se, but we’re going to wait until you jump through more hoops before we’ll maybe think about the possibility of letting you expand.” It’s not fair to non-Greek students who feel like their own social lives hang in the balance, directly affected by what happens to fraternities and sororities.

It definitely isn’t fair to people who are sick of the seemingly never-ending conversation. It isn’t fair to Diorio, who was tossed into the committee after Celestino Limas’s abrupt departure. During the forums, she fielded frustratingly inane, repetitive questions from students and alumni. The patience-sucking dialogue was thrust on her due to what is essentially inaction from her superiors.

The Board of Trustees need to decide what course Lafayette is going to set. If the best direction for the college is without Greek life, rip the band-aid off already. If the Board feels that jeopardizing alumni donations and stoking student discontent would discourage such a decision, then double down and expand.

But don’t make Lafayette fester in limbo, stuck with an awkward number of Greek organizations and perpetuating an identity crisis. You can’t make everyone happy, so grow a backbone and make a decision.

6 comments

Before IGGL there was a three year study and before that….. Every metric devised has proven there is no difference between a greek membes and non greek member. There are less greek members involved in the disciplinary process than non greeks, there is no difference in GPA and there is demonstrable demand. Perhaps Dr. Woolley is disappointed the committee couldn’t produce a biased report along the lines of his own prejudices. I suppose there are some that would like to see Lafayette more like a monastery, no social life, no athletics and 24 hour contemplation. That is not the real world. There is nothing left to study. The BOT should vote the evidence and get on with making sure there are strong social organization on campus rather than undermining them with harassing studies and examinations which has done damage to campus life. Such an affirming vote would anger Dr. Woolley I’m sure, but its time, and the evidence is in!!

Down at Haverford, Dan Weiss is smiling and saying, “I avoided that bullet by starting the IAGGL and then leaving. Now it’s Alison’s problem.” If the BOT and people like Weiss think the alumni will accept that report as a positive result, then it is an insult to a Lafayette education. Think about that BOT and do the right thing; Vote the facts!!!!!!!

I think Diorio was put in a very tough position and has done a pretty good job. The simple fact is that this issue is split into 2 sides, one that can be proven with statistics and numbers (grades, discipline, ect) and one that can not be proven directly with numbers (student interest, community opinions and the overall impact on the campus from Greek Life). Greek life has proven that the numbers side of the argument against Greek Life is invalid. Now the BOD needs to decide what to do with the rest of the information they have. There is no simple number or percentage point that will tell you what to do. This isn’t a classroom where a certain grade gives a difinitive answer. It is clear to me that there is an overwhelming call to vote positively for Greek Life. I personally have been hard pressed to find people who can still make solid arguments against Greek Life that the recent numbers do not refute. I think we need to push beyond this issue that way we can get to building back a great Layette Community that has been slipping away in recent years. Mick is 100% correct, there is a major identity crisis and it started when Greek Life was put on the chopping block.

Disclaimer: I graduated from Lafayette in a pervious century. College Hill was not a monastery, but we had no women matriculated and only three women among the faculty/staff. The Library and the new Bio building went nameless because David Bishop Skillman and Beverly Kunkle still walked the campus.
Taking pot-shots at fraternities was already becoming fashionable, but we weren’t called Greeks yet .. no one served spanikopita or baklavah on a regular basis. The newly-arrived-from-Brown President of the College was fairly proud of having closed a couple of fraternities in Providence and he wanted to do the same here. There is no denying that Dr. Bergethon did many Good Things for the college, but he certainly encouraged the Why-Can’t-We-Be-More-Like-Middlebury faction already strongly ensconced in the faculty. (sub-disclaimer: this is not a dig at our new president. I have been impressed with almost everything she has done or said since arriving.) But I think that Dr. Bergethon and others wanted to cut off their collegiate nose despite their face.
I heard often from my dad (Temple U. ’41) that the things one learned in college were not always learned in a classroom or library. I learned about budgets and payroll taxes, employee relations and social interactions as a 17-year-old because that was part-and-parcel of being a fraternity member. We had to make the plans and decisions and live with the results of our decisions. (how many hot dog or hash lunches did we have to plan so we could serve surf-and-turf for IF weekend.) [Oops – IF Weekend was Inter-Fraternity Weekend … black tie dance Friday night, no Saturday classes and house parties all over campus on Saturday night .. one each semester.] WE did the planning. WE did the work. WE did the inevitable clean up. WE disciplined those who pushed the envelope.
I learned different things with Coach Meyer in the fencing room. I learned different things with Dr. Kline in McKelvy House. I learned different things from Dr. Raymond in the Choir and Band. I learned different things writing for The Lafayette or having a program on WJRH. I certainly learned different things with Dr. W. E. Brown in Greek and Comp. Lit. But the things I learned at the Deke House were as important (and perhaps more practical) and were not taught in any other venue in Pardee Hall or Alumni Hall or Olin Hall.
I may not speak for all my classmates, or for all the fraternity and social dorm members of my era, but it seems to me that after fifty years its time for the faculty to get off the pot, cut bait, or whatever imagery suits you.
GCA3 <– not as crochety as he sounds 🙂

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