According to Student Body Co-Presidents Kate Bundy and Chris Johns, they have made it their priority to engage in a conversation regarding the expansion of Greek Life on Colgate’s campus. Part of their platform conveniently coincides with the potential reapplication of the Sigma Chi Fraternity, whose five-year suspension will end on June 30, 2020, as stated on the University’s website. However, Bundy, Johns and the Student Government Association (SGA) are not centering on a particular chapter at the moment; rather, they are choosing to focus on furthering an ongoing conversation, hoping to hone the idea of a more inclusive and diverse Greek system.
The Colgate administration ceased the expansion of Greek organizations after the Conduct Board revoked Sigma Chi’s charter, making expansion a challenging task, according to the SGA co-presidents.
President Brian Casey commented on the halt on Greek Life expansion and how it poses a difficulty to SGA’s platform.
“We’re sort of in a stuck place where the faculty wants no more additional fraternities and sororities. We’ve remained frozen in a space where multicultural fraternities and sororities don’t have a way in, but the majority ones are here so I think the current stasis position is untenable in the long term,” Casey said.
Casey explained that he does not oppose the idea of growing Colgate’s Greek system and has seen the benefits non-traditional Greek Life on other campuses.
“I don’t object to it, but I know that many faculty members do. Somehow we have to have a lot of people come to the table and talk about it. Stanford, Harvard and DePaul, all places that I’ve been at, have them and I thought they were positive forces on the campus,” Casey said.
Despite pushback from the faculty and members of the administration, the SGA co-Presidents feel hopeful after sending out a campus-wide survey on “current Greek Life conditions, potential for multicultural and co-educational Greek lettered organizations and how social life can be improved at Colgate,” as stated in an email to the student body from Bundy and Johns. The survey opened September 4 and runs through October 8. According to Bundy and Johns, the survey has yielded mostly positive responses thus far, suggesting demonstrated interest from the student body for non-traditional Greek Life on campus.
After Bundy and Johns receive the complete survey results, they will put together a report which they can bring to President Casey, Dean McLoughlin and the Board of Trustees to illustrate the need for an improved and diversified Greek system, one which they currently see as “overwhelmingly exclusive.”
Johns said that SGA wants to be a part of the Greek Life expansion process to ensure that the plan going forward is not “arbitrary” or “restrictive.”
“Without our input, and without any student’s input… [the administration] could end up creating something that no party really wants,” Johns said. “What we want to do is get these numbers, analyze them for ourselves and determine what are the parameters that we want, how we would want expansion to look like.”
For Bundy, the survey is a means to an end of exclusive Greek life.
“It’s just a way to raise a point... there’s clearly a gap between the Greek Life that we have now, which is not even remotely representative of the student body, and the rest of the student body. There aren’t many options for people who are not in Greek Life, and that’s the truth,” Bundy said. “We’re also trying to evaluate how many students are not even applying to participate in Greek Life, how many students are not signing up for Rush initially because they feel like it’s an unwelcoming space, or how many students drop out of Rush during the process because it is predominantly white and privileged.”
The idea of Greek Life expansion and diversification surfaced in 2008 when a group of Colgate students known as the “Unity Coalition” presented a Diversity Initiative Proposal to the Faculty Affairs Committee. One of the proposal’s items included the establishment of a multicultural sorority, namely, Alpha Kappa Alpha, a historically black sorority that held a charter at Colgate in 1992, according to a Colgate Maroon-News article published December 8, 2018.
Bundy said that bringing an organization such as Alpha Kappa Alpha to Colgate would be monumental in offering privileges of Greek Life, such as scholarships and networking opportunities to its members.
“It would open up a whole new world,” Bundy said, referencing the possibility of a multicultural organization. Johns agreed that the addition of cultural and co-educational Greek organizations would benefit the Colgate community.
“It’s also important to diversify the Greek Life that we have here so that there’s more groups to interact with and understand... This would add a little bit of a different tune to things, and I think it’ll really be good for shifting the social dynamics of campus… [We currently] only have a certain kind of Greek Life on this campus,” Johns said.
Sophie Boyd ’20 is less optimistic about the prospective of Greek Life expansion.
“Being a member of Greek Life myself, I acknowledge there at times can be a toxic culture surrounding Greek Life. I think the establishment of a coed fraternity or sorority would just perpetuate the issues that traditional fraternities and sororities have failed to adequately address,” Boyd said.
Bundy and Johns, however, believe there is a clear demand for more Greek organizations, particularly sororities. A fraternity might have around 60 total members, while a sorority could have well over 100.
“[Fraternities] aren’t meeting numbers. There is clearly an opening for another female or even a co-educational group,” Bundy said.
According to Kappa Kappa Gamma President and Senior Casey Malone, 248 students participated in sorority recruitment; however, there are only 200 total new members. “This is an essential void we’d be filling,” Bundy said.
Sophomore Tai Goldstein concurs with Bundy and John’s initiative.
“I think it’d be nice for there to be something more inclusive on campus, so there would be an organization for more kinds of people,” Golstein said.
Bundy and Johns said they are not following a specific timeline; rather, they are using Sigma Chi’s reapplication date in 2020 as an approximate deadline.
President Casey said that he too wants to discuss Greek Life expansion this academic year. However, he shared that Broad Street Housing, included in his Third Century Plan, as well as other renovation projects, must also be a part of the conversation. Casey said that this process is not simple, but rather “multi constituent.” Bundy and Johns call it bureaucratic.