Student Senate

Greek Life Task Force presents to the Senate

This week the Student Senate received a progress update from the Greek Life Task Force and voted to remove Anthony Dai as Independent Senator.

Vice President for Information Services and Technology and Chief Information Officer John Kolb ’79 and Interim Vice President for Student Life LeNorman Strong shared their vision for a “sustainable, safe Greek life system.” Their vision for sustainability in the Greek community was about promoting “good citizenship” and resilience within the community.

After addressing what they thought Greek life should look like on campus, they talked about “core issues” discovered in their investigation. Some of these issues included poor living conditions and resultant mental health issues, poor finances, recruitment of new members too early in the school year, binge drinking and alcohol abuse, conflicts with the Arch, and a lack of diversity and inclusivity.

Kolb and Strong started to address these issues by first discussing their belief that rush recruitment initiatives oftentimes start well before the allotted time, and that Rensselaer’s system of early rush doesn’t give students enough time to figure out what they want out of their Greek experience. Interfraternity Council Senator Tomas Provencher ’21 later responded to that concern starting, “I think that pushing recruitment back and shortening it the way we had to this semester makes it so hard for us as fraternities to decide what members we want to bring into our house that we are going to make an oath that we are going to support for the rest of our lives.”

Kolb also explained that he believed the issue of poor living conditions can cause mental and other health issues for members of fraternities, and that many of these issues are inherently linked to certain houses “living right near the edge” in terms of financial viability. He elaborated that, after talking to Greek life leaders from other campuses in the recent Greek Life Forums, they realized that they could utilize retired and willing alumni of the different Greek chapters to share their expertise with the students in the houses. Kolb gave the example of a retired accountant or contractor coming to their respective Greek house to help out in issues with finances or infrastructure.

They then addressed the issue of binge-drinking and substance abuse in Greek life. According to Kolb, Greek students are twice as likely to binge drink and abuse illicit substances. He claimed that, if the population is twice as likely to engage in these risky behaviors, it compounds other issues surrounding the mental and physical health of students.

Another “risky behavior” which Kolb and Strong claimed to “intersect” with binge drinking and drug abuse were issues of Title IX allegations against members of Greek organizations.

After talking about issues which the Arch might pose to Greek students in regards to housing, the presenters then emphasized the importance of pushing for diversity and inclusivity within the community. They said that the Greek community tends to be a welcoming environment, but that it is not “an intentional environment.” They went on to say that, when you look at Greek houses “everyone kind of looks the same,” both in terms of intellectual and geographic diversity.

Provencher later asked what they meant by this and went on to disagree with that sentiment, citing his experience throughout the Greek system. Strong responded to that question by saying, “What do we do that is intentional? I think a lot of what happens is what we would call active recruitment where individual relationships lead to some diversity. We don’t mean to diminish that at all, but notion is that if it were really intentional and explicit about inclusion, we might increase the diversity in the Greek community.”

The presenters then shared that they would be pushing for the usage of a new “scorecard” which would be transparent to the entire Rensselaer community. This would outline the philanthropic and academic success of each house, as well as the specifics of any infractions which they might have against them. This new “scorecard” would be in effort to encourage the community to come together in aid of the houses which are not doing what they need to be doing, as well as informing students looking at Greek life as an option as to how each Greek house is doing.

Graduate Senator Andrew DiBiasio later mentioned the Student Peer Alcohol Monitoring system and asked why the administration decided to get rid of a program which aimed to protect students at Greek parties by sending monitors to them and whether they were planning on bringing that back. Strong responded, “It’s the first I’m hearing of that, so I’ll have to educate myself.” Kolb then followed up by saying, “I’ve heard the term before, and it’s not clear that it was something that came out of the administration or the counseling center.”

President of the Union Justin Etzine ’18 ’G19 then informed the group that, “Student Peer Alcohol Monitoring, in the 2016–2017 school year, so prior to Vice President Strong’s arrival to Rensselaer, it was summarily discontinued by staff of the school—I’m not sure who. As I was Student Life Committee Chair at the time, we engaged in discussions with Dean Apgar and the Student Health Center. The discussion at that time was that there was no possibility of that returning as a funded program.” Provencher then followed up by saying that the next Vice President of Risk Management for Greek life on campus has already created a proposal for a program like SPAM to return through the Interfraternity Council.

Following the discussion on the state of Greek life, the Student Senate moved into their removal hearing for Anthony Dai. The reasoning for the removal was that Dai had four unexcused absences during his term as senator and, according to the Senate Bylaws, more than two unexcused absences from general body meetings is cause for impeachment. Dai also had only attended two committee meetings and in the beginning of his term as Senator did not list any committee which he would be interested in. Dai said that these absences were largely due to his inexperience as a new Senator as well as to illness and transportation difficulties. The Senate then had a roll call vote to remove Dai from his seat as Senator which passed 19-1-3.

The Student Senate meets every Monday at 8 pm in the Shelnutt Gallery.