Presented to the Alfred University Board of Trustees Alfred University, May 17, 2002
At its February 2002 meeting the Alfred University Board of Trustees was informed of a confluence of extremely disturbing events: yet again several Greek houses were charged with violating University policies on hazing and/or alcohol, a fraternity man had allegedly been the victim of assault by his own fraternity brothers, and worst of all he had subsequently died of causes yet unknown.¹ In response to this news about a Greek system suffering from persistent and increasing problems, despite declining membership, the Board established a Trustee Task Force on Greek Life "to evaluate whether the fraternities and sororities have a future role at our University" and to report to the Board at its May 2002 meeting.
Over the last decade the Board has received periodic reports about Greek life suggesting that, however noble and honorable its roots and however much it had contributed to the success of the University in the past, it was becoming less and less consistent with the institution's mission:
Alfred University's commitment is to foster a spirit of inquiry, search for knowledge through fundamental and applied research, and transmit that knowledge to our students in a highly-personalized environment. Valuing diversity, tolerance, interdisciplinary work, and active learning, the University strives to develop our students' ability to think critically, communicate clearly, understand an increasingly complex, technology-dependent, international society and respond creatively to change, preparing them for a life of achievement and leadership.
A more systematic review and report of Greek life seemed in order.
Chaired by a former Board chairperson, the Task Force (Appendix A) is composed of four trustees, all of whom are Greek themselves (two at Alfred); two faculty members; a representative of both the Alumni Association and the Parent's Association (who is also a Greek); and the Associate Provost/Vice President for Enrollment Management. Though the original intention was to include one or two students, reports of potential intimidation and harassment of those students led us reluctantly to elect not to include students on the Task Force. However, all current students, as well as alumni, were emailed invitations to communicate with the Task Force through a confidential web site.
The goals of the Task Force were to conduct a fair, objective and balanced inquiry into the past and present role of Greek life at Alfred University and to determine whether that role is consistent with the mission of the University. To accomplish this, the Task Force studied data in absolute and relative, as well as historical and contemporary, terms about Greek students versus non-Greek students at AU. We reviewed a number of reports comparing academic performance, drinking habits, and community service among Greeks and non-Greeks at Alfred. We also examined general student interest in joining Greek organizations, as well as interest by gender and ethnicity. We compared Alfred to national data and trends, and we reviewed the work of similar task forces at 20 other colleges and universities (summarized in Appendix B).
The Task Force met every two weeks on campus between February 28th and May 2nd, or 6 times, for a total of 30 hours. We met with approximately three dozen people from a cross section of the campus community, including administrators, staff, students, alumni, Counseling and Residence Life staff, local police and a businessperson. A special meeting was also held with Greek presidents; 8 of 12 attended. (For a complete list of information reviewed and interviews conducted, see Appendix C).
In addition to the information gathered at these meetings, the Task Force received 248 emails and letters, mostly from students (135) and alumni (62), as well as parents (23), faculty (20), and various other interested parties (8). It also looked at documents like the Harvard School of Public Health's longitudinal study of drinking at colleges and universities, as well as a number of editorial responses to that study, and reviewed reports from the Vice President for University Relations and the Vice President for Student Affairs/Dean of Students.
Difficult though the decision was, we have agreed unanimously that the Greek system should be eliminated as quickly as possible. Despite the valuable experiences it offers its members, as a whole the Greek system has deteriorated significantly over time even though the administration has made numerous attempts to support and strengthen it. The system requires a disproportionate amount of time and resources for the benefits it affords a small group of students, hurts relations between the University and the community, and sometimes works to the detriment of its voluntary participants.
These considerations are not the sole reasons for our recommendation. Equally compelling is the prospect that eliminating Greek life will create the opportunity for the most dramatic positive change in campus life in decades and is replete with possibilities for advancing the University's mission.
To explain how we reached this conclusion, we have structured our report into sections as follows:
- Historical Background
- Rationale for the Recommendation
- Suggested Changes in Student Life
¹The District Attorney issued a statement in late April, which asserted that while the student was the victim of an assault, "his death cannot be directly attributed to the assault."