Date: December 21, 2018
From: LeNorman J. Strong, Interim Vice President for Student Life
Throughout the fall semester, I have been paying specific attention to our Greek community's response to the efforts of the Greek Life Review, and compliance with the conditions put into place related to fraternity and sorority recruitment, rush, intake, and the presence of alcohol as detailed in the June 26, 2018 letter to the community. As the Greek Life Review Committee continues to finalize its work, I have carefully considered how these conditions should apply in 2019.
I have discussed the impact these conditions and restrictions may have had on the system during the fall 2018 semester with students, faculty, alumni, and staff. In particular, we paid careful attention to recruitment numbers and reports of displaced alcohol abuse.
The Panhellenic Council saw an increase in cumulative recruitment numbers this semester as compared to previous years. On the other hand, while some fraternities achieved success in their recruitment goals, the cumulative recruitment numbers dropped for Interfraternity Council (IFC) groups.
Three IFC fraternities were placed on emergency suspension status for alcohol-related violations: Pi Kappa Phi, Phi Gamma Delta a.k.a. FIJI, and Pi Kappa Alpha. Following the judicial inquiry phase of the Rensselaer Judicial Process, these fraternities were found to be responsible for the alleged violations.
The safety of our students will always be a top priority. Our interventions, by way of the restrictions placed on alcohol and other drugs, have resulted in a safer campus community. There was a 45 percent reduction in alcohol-related incidents this fall, compared to the fall 2017 semester. There was also a noticeable reduction in Title IX/Sexual Misconduct cases.
After thorough consideration of all factors, the following actions are being taken:
- The system-wide pause on all social events with alcohol will continue;
- The system-wide ban on alcohol and other drugs from chapter houses and activities will continue;
- New member recruitment of all students may proceed in spring 2019, as planned by the IFC and Panhellenic Council.
Groups who take the risk of violating these restrictions are placing the future of their organizations in jeopardy of being shut down. For those who have adapted and moved in a direction consistent with their organization's values, and the values of Rensselaer, I thank you. I also appreciate the guidance that has been offered by alumni, parents, and other chapter advisers, and advocates who have provided support to Greek Life organizations at Rensselaer. I'm looking forward to a safe and successful spring Greek Life recruitment.
Date: December 21, 2018
From: John E. Kolb, Vice President for Information Services and Technology and Chief Information Officer, and LeNorman J. Strong, Interim Vice President for Student Life
As the fall semester ends, and the calendar year comes to a close, we write to provide you with an update on the good work of the many dedicated members of the Rensselaer community who are committed to strengthening the fraternity and sorority experience. We also want to thank all who have provided constructive input to this endeavor.
The Greek Life Discussion Groups and the Greek Life Task Force met regularly throughout the fall, focusing on 10 key areas (see Greek Life Review Update - November 6, 2018). Additionally, a number of focused discussions were held with key stakeholders, including fraternity and sorority student and alumni leadership, and the Student Senate (GLTF presents to the Senate - November 28, 2018). On the weekend of November 9-11, 2018, Rensselaer hosted two guest panels of campus-based and Inter/national fraternity and sorority professionals. The panelists shared insights from their own experiences, and also discussed national trends and best practices that would assist our community in accomplishing the goals we have set, namely, to bolster the student experience as it intersects with Greek life.
A working draft of the Greek Life Task Force report is being finalized as input and feedback continue to be submitted for consideration. We are also in the final phase of reviewing the report to ensure that all aspects align with Institute policies. We want to thank the Greek Life Task Force, discussion panels, and the Executive Sponsor Group members for their hard work (Greek Life Review Committee Appointments).
In assessing the outstanding work required to prepare the document for public review, we determined that a deadline extension was necessary. We asked President Jackson for an extension, which she has granted. We are aiming to have an updated draft ready by the start of the spring semester in order to allow for a period of public comment from the entire Rensselaer community.
We again thank all who have contributed to this meaningful work in support of a world-class student experience. We look forward to continuing our work together in the new year.
Date: November 6, 2018
From: John E. Kolb, Vice President for Information Services and Technology and Chief Information Officer, and Le Norman J. Strong, Interim Vice President, Student Life
We are pleased to provide you with an update concerning the Greek Life review.
Both the Greek Life Task Force and the Greek Life Discussion Groups have been tackling a number of issues. We have adopted three principal themes to guide our work:
- Sustainability - How do we improve the long-term sustainability of the Greek system?
- Community - How do we move from a Greek system to a community?
- Citizenship - How do we promote good citizenship within the Greek community?
The review will focus on the following 10 areas:
- Establishing strong relationships
- Hard alcohol and substance abuse
- Relationship of finances, behaviors, occupancy, health/safety
- Rensselaer student judicial system
- Relationship Statement and Greek Commons Agreement
- Develop scorecard that is transparent and public
- Intentional emphasis on diversity and inclusion
- The Arch
This weekend, November 9 - 11, we are pleased to host two panels of experts from other universities, and from national Greek organizations. A select group of students, staff, faculty, and alumni leaders will be meeting with these individuals.
Friday, November 9, the representatives joining us from other universities are:
- Dr. Suzy Nelson, Vice President and Dean of Students, MIT
- Kara Miller McCarthy, Robert G. Engel Director of Sorority and Fraternity Life, Cornell University
- Steve Klass, Vice President, Campus Life, Williams College
Sunday, November 11, the national Greek representatives joining us are:
- Dr. Jamie Riley, Alpha Phi Alpha
- Rob Riggs, Phi Kappa Theta
- Bill Farkas, Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity
- William Foran, North American Interfraternity Conference
- Ashley Canty, North American Interfraternity Conference
- Mandi Wise Evans, Delta Zeta Sorority
- Frances Mitchelson, National Panhellenic Conference
- Troy Bartels, Alpha Phi
- Michael Carey, Delta Tau Delta
Our chapter presidents, members of the Alumni Inter-Greek Council, and a number of other student leaders were invited to join us for the panel presentations.
Date: September 29, 2018
Our Greek Life system at Rensselaer is 165 years old, and has quite a legacy—a legacy we intend to continue.
When our Greek system supports academic achievement, community service, and leadership development—it fosters young men and women with great strength of character, who go out to change the world.
When Greek organizations fulfill their intended purposes, they create deep friendships, provide members a support network, and aid in the personal development of students. We know that for many of our students, Greek life is an essential part of their experience at Rensselaer.
Nationally, dozens of universities and colleges have suspended Greek life because of incidents related to alcohol abuse, illegal drug use, hazing, sexual misconduct, sexual assault, and acts of racial discrimination and bigotry.
Rensselaer has not been immune to these problems. Just recently, within our Greek system, we have experienced drug-related incidents, alcohol abuse, sexual misconduct, and instances of hazing. These are not just isolated incidents—and we have documented that they are increasing in number. In addition, a number of our Greek Houses are not in the best physical and safety condition. (We currently have five fraternities suspended).
That is why it is important to have an open conversation about how to keep Greek life strong and vital at RPI. Our goal, and intent, is to preserve the Greek system—with a focus on three tenets: Sustainability, Community, and Citizenship.
So, to preserve and strengthen our Greek system, we have appointed a Greek Life Review Committee to formally assess the current state of Greek Life at Rensselaer and to consider the best path forward.
The Committee comprises student leaders—both Greek and non-Greek; alumni and alumnae—Greek and non-Greek; parents; faculty; administrators; and representatives from the national offices of Greek organizations of which Rensselaer chapters are members.
The Review Committee includes the Greek Life Task Force, led by Vice President and Chief Information Officer John Kolb ’79, which is charged with assessing the Greek system, and identifying what is necessary to enact a long-term, sustainable, and comprehensive culture change—so that the Greek system can continue to help our students to thrive on campus, and to find their place in the world.
We expect the Task Force to deliver recommendations for the best path forward by Thanksgiving, and we will keep all of you informed of its progress.
September 21, 2018
From: John E. Kolb, Vice President for Information Services and Technology and Chief Information Officer and LeNorman J. Strong, Interim Vice President for Student Life
We are pleased to provide you with an update of some of the work of the Greek Life Task Force.
We got off to a great start with the Greek Life Forum (August 27-28). There were many student and alumni leaders who participated during this two-day event. We will have a summary of the Forum activities that we will share in our next regular message.
The IFC and Panhellenic Council held a meeting with AVP and Dean of Students Travis Apgar and Dean Meredith Bielaska. A number of topics were discussed including scorecards, rush timing, etc.
The Greek Life Task Force has met several times, including a meeting with President Jackson. It is clear there is much to do, within a tight timeframe. We are committed to working our way through the important issues that affect our community and submitting a draft report to President Jackson by the end of October. The three pillars we have adopted in guiding our recommendations include ensuring long-term sustainability, moving from a "system" to a "community," and supporting good citizenship. The Task Force is now finalizing a plan to guide the work going forward. We are also in the planning stage for the discussion group topics and times, as well as announcements about external speakers.
We encourage the community to visit the Greek Life Task Force website for periodic updates on our progress.
If you have any comments for the Task Force, please email them to GLTF@rpi.edu.
Date: August 17, 2018
Rensselaer has celebrated the importance and contributions of our Greek Life system and its accomplishments for many years. We have also worked hard to support Greek Life and ensure that it is a system that promulgates safety, academic success, and student leadership. At the same time, we have been forthright in addressing issues that have arisen.
Nationally, nearly a dozen campuses have suspended Greek Life during the last 18 months because of incidents related to alcohol abuse, illegal drug use, hazing, sexual misconduct, sexual assault, and acts of racial discrimination and bigotry. Recent reports about incidents related to Rensselaer Greek Life organizations reflected similar areas of concern. We must take action to break troubling patterns of behavior in order to ensure student safety and security, and to build a healthy Greek Life experience at Rensselaer.
After careful consideration of input received from alumni, alumnae, students, and parents regarding what we must do to address these issues, I am formally appointing a Greek Life Task Force charged with assessing the current state of Greek Life at Rensselaer. Over the next few months, the Task Force will work with the community to identify what is necessary to enact a long-term, sustainable, and comprehensive culture change to preserve the positive aspects of the Greek system.
Specifically, the Task Force will:
- Review the current conditions, programs, services, facilities, and vulnerabilities of Greek organizations at Rensselaer.
- Propose recommendations to enhance Greek Life, and address the issues and vulnerabilities identified.
- Propose strategies that align Greek organization programs, activities, operations, and facilities with Clustered Learning Advocacy and Support for Students (CLASS), our comprehensive approach to the student experience at Rensselaer.
The Task Force will provide a final report and recommendations to me by November 15, 2018.
To ensure a robust and inclusive process, I have also assembled: 1) a Cabinet-level sponsor group to provide support and guidance to the Task Force, and, 2) a group of stakeholders that have volunteered to participate in Task Force work who I am asking to serve on the various discussion panels that are being planned.
GREEK LIFE REVIEW ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE
Executive Sponsor Group
- Le Norman J. Strong, Interim Vice President for Student Life (Chair)
- Craig A. Cook, General Counsel and Secretary of the Institute
- Graig R. Eastin, Vice President for Institute Advancement
- John E. Kolb '79, Vice President of Information Services and Technology and Chief Information Officer
- Curtis N. Powell, Vice President for Human Resources
- Claude D. Rounds, Vice President for Administration
Greek Life Task Force
- John E. Kolb '79, Vice President of Information Services and Technology and Chief Information Officer (Chair)
- Justina Thompson '20
- Vishrudh Gopalakrishnan '20
- Emily Lockwood '20
- Laurel White '07
- Sara Stein '04
- Roger Mike '70
- Karishma Chandani P '18
- Susan P. Gilbert, Professor and Head, Department of Biological Sciences
- Johnson Samuel, Associate Professor, Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering
- Travis T. Apgar, Assistant Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students
- Michell Tollinchi-Michel, Assistant Vice President for Student Transitions
- Le Norman J. Strong, Executive Sponsor Group Chair
Greek Life Discussion Panelists
- Travis T. Apgar, Assistant Vice President for Student Life & Dean of Students (Facilitator)
- LeNorman J. Strong, Interim Vice President for Student Life (Facilitator)
- Michell Tollinchi-Michel, Assistant Vice President for Student Transitions (Facilitator)
- Jack Conlin '20
- Briggite Obermeyer '20
- Bryan Johns '19
- Erin Lazar '19
- Paige Mastalerz '19
- Aditya Mitra '19
- Zachariah Spurrier '19
- Katie Todd '17
- Bryan Jones '09
- Gregory Waters '97
- Suzanne Cano Meeker '88
- John Spohn '82
- Robert Riggs '02, Executive Vice President of Phi Kappa Theta International Fraternity - 2007-present
- Jacqueline Farmer, Telecommunications Analyst, ITI-DotCIO
- Norris Pearson, Operations Manager, Houston Field House
I am asking the campus community to support and contribute to the Task Force's work. In the coming weeks, Vice President Kolb will communicate additional details related to the Task Force charge. LeNorman Strong will be providing information to Discussion Panel participants along with an outline of the topics to be covered.
NOTE: Additional panelists will be added to the Greek Life Discussions upon receiving acceptance of their membership invitations.
Date: June 26, 2018
From: LeNorman J. Strong, Interim Vice President for Student Life
As you know, nationally, the Greek system is under public and legislative scrutiny and many institutions of higher education are facing challenges in their Greek communities. In light of documented trends that show problems in our Greek system, including an increasing number of incidents of alcohol abuse, illegal drug use, hazing, sexual misconduct, sexual assault, and acts of racial discrimination and bigotry, President Shirley Ann Jackson appointed me to lead a Greek Life Task Force. The task force will be comprised of student leaders (Greeks and non-Greeks), alumni/ae, parents, faculty, administrators, and representatives from the national offices of Greek organizations of which our chapters are members. The task force is charged with assessing the Rensselaer Greek Life system and working with the community to identify what is necessary to enact a long-term, sustainable, and comprehensive culture change to preserve the positive aspects of the Greek system.
On June 20, I related to the Rensselaer community initial conversations I had about the task force with the presidents of the Panhellenic Council and the Interfraternity Council, presidents from a number of our Greek Life chapters, Alumni Inter-Greek Council, and Greek chapter advisers. Our discussions were centered on three primary restrictions on Rensselaer Greek Life activities during the upcoming fall semester (pause on rush, pause on Greek Life social events with alcohol, and removal of alcohol and other drugs from Greek Life chapter houses and activities) and the data leading us to those restrictions.
Since my June 20 communication, I've heard from numerous students, parents, alumni/ae, and friends of Rensselaer regarding the current state of Greek Life. Many members of our community applauded our commitment to strengthen Greek Life at Rensselaer through the formation of the task force. Many members of our community also expressed concern about the pause on rush for the fall semester and the impact it would have on the viability of some of our Greek Life chapters. I appreciate those who provided recommendations to help us achieve our goals of strengthening the Greek system while eradicating problem behaviors and facility concerns.
I've met with student and alumni/ae Greek leaders, my colleagues, and others to discuss the input being offered, and the nature of volunteer engagement being proposed by numerous students, alumni/ae, and parents. I thank the presidents of the Panhellenic Council and the Inter-Fraternity Council for their very thoughtful and comprehensive suggestions for improving the Rensselaer Greek Life system.
Based on my conversations and the recommendations I received, combined with our analysis and consideration of additional information, I have modified my original restriction on rush activities. All rush, recruitment, and intake efforts will be paused from Saturday, August 18 to Thursday, October 18, as opposed to the full fall semester.
There are conditions upon which this modification is based, which shall stand while the Greek Life Task Force undertakes its work (please see below). The system-wide pause on all Greek Life social events with alcohol and the removal of alcohol and other drugs from Greek Life chapter houses and activities remain in effect. All chapters are able to continue member and campus activities that are not related to the prohibited activities.
Once again, I appreciate the outpouring of feedback, productive recommendations, and offers of support from our students, alumni/ae, parents, staff, and faculty members. It is important that we continue this dialogue. Now is the time for us to unite in our support for enhancing Greek Life at Rensselaer so that it lives up to its commitments, and remains sustainable, building upon its 165-year tradition at Rensselaer.
- All rush, recruitment, and intake efforts will be paused from Saturday, August 18 to Thursday, October 18.
- A system-wide pause on all Greek Life social events with alcohol (unchanged).
- The removal of alcohol and other drugs from Greek Life chapter houses and activities (unchanged).
From August 18 to October 18, no member recruitment, rush, and related intake efforts may take place. All chapters are able to continue member and campus activities that are not related to the prohibited activities.
In order to resume rush, recruitment, and intake efforts on October 18, there are several conditions to which Greek Life chapters and members must adhere.
CONDITIONS FOR RUSH
- Only chapters in "good standing" may participate in rush; judicial cases and the Greek Life Five Star assessment will be utilized to determine if a chapter is in good standing.
- Chapters must adhere to a checklist of requirements that will be developed by the Greek Life Task Force in collaboration with the Deans of the Greek Life Commons and approved by the Dean of Students.
- All Greek Life members, alumni/ae advisers, house corporation board members, and alumni/ae who will have any form of contact with students participating in rush must undergo an approved training program and be certified as having successfully completed the program.
- Chapters who do not submit the required certification documents may not participate in rush.
- Individual chapter members who complete the training program must sign an agreement indicating their participation in the training, and their agreement to adhere to the principles and guidelines governing their involvement in rush, recruitment, and intake activities.
- Individual chapter members who do not complete the training, and/or who do not sign certification documents may not participate in any aspect of rush.
- Any chapter found in violation of rush guidelines will be suspended for two (2) calendar years or six (6) semesters.
Date: June 20, 2018
From: LeNorman J. Strong, Interim Vice President for Student Life
On June 8, President Shirley Ann Jackson wrote to you about the creation of a Greek Life Task Force. This task force is charged with assessing the Rensselaer Greek Life system and to ". . . work with the community to identify what is necessary to enact a long-term, sustainable, and comprehensive culture change to preserve the positive aspects of the Greek system."
On June 9, Assistant Vice President/Dean of Students Travis Apgar and I met with members of the Alumni Inter-Greek Council and Greek chapter advisers to share data about documented trends that show problems in our Greek system. These trends include an increasing number of incidents of alcohol abuse, illegal drug use, hazing, sexual misconduct, sexual assault, and acts of racial discrimination and bigotry. I reported to those present that immediate action is required to address these increasing trends, and the Greek Life Task Force will undertake this important work.
This afternoon, I met with the student leadership from our Greek Life system. Among those participating were the presidents of the Panhellenic Council and the Interfraternity Council, and presidents from a number of our Greek Life chapters. During the meeting we discussed information related to judicial cases involving Greek organizations. While the cases have been fully addressed by the Dean of Students Office, they also reveal disturbing trends of behaviors occurring in our Greek Life system. The presidents of the Panhellenic Council and the Interfraternity Council also shared information from their organizations about work they are committed to doing that will contribute to improving our Greek Life system. They also voiced their interest in playing a key role in the Greek Life Task Force.
The main focus of the Greek Life Task Force is to strengthen Greek Life at Rensselaer. The task force will be an inclusive body comprised of student leaders (Greeks and non-Greeks), alumni and alumnae, parents, faculty, administrators, and representatives from the national offices of Greek organizations of which our chapters are members.
The fall semester will be dedicated to efforts that promote the strengths, goodness, and visibility of the Greek system and its member chapters and individual student members. Campus and chapter efforts will be focused on:
- Chapter member development
- Development of a comprehensive programming model consistent with the CLASS Student Experience
- Chapter initiatives that enhance member academic excellence
- Chapter house and related operational improvements
- University service, including spirit development events
- Public service
- Social events that are permissible, and that do not include alcohol
As the Greek Life Task Force prepares to start its work in July, the following actions are being taken:
- A system-wide pause on all social events with alcohol
- The removal of alcohol and other drugs from chapter houses and activities
- A pause during the fall semester on new member recruitment, rush, and or intake (to resume in the spring 2019 semester, providing appropriate progress is made by the Task Force)
All chapters may continue member and campus activities that are not restricted during this time period.
I appreciate the students, alumni and alumnae, and parents who have already reached out to me to express their interest in participating in the work of the task force. I will be confirming members to serve on the panel between now and July 20; I expect that our work will start immediately after that date.
We have established a Greek Life Task Force webpage, info.rpi.edu/greek-life-task-force, which will be updated regularly, to keep everyone informed about this important work. You can also access the webpage from the Rensselaer News and Student Life websites.
Date: June 8, 2018
From: Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., President, Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy, Professor of Engineering Sciences
Founded in 1853, ours is one of the oldest Greek systems on a university campus in the United States. When Greek organizations fulfill their intended purposes they create deep friendships, provide members a support network, promote philanthropy and community service, and aid in the personal development of students.
Nationally, the Greek system is under public and legislative scrutiny. Dozens of universities and colleges have suspended Greek life because of incidents related to alcohol abuse, illegal drug use, hazing, sexual misconduct, sexual assault, and acts of racial discrimination and bigotry. Some of our Greek houses have been suspended as well, due to similar behavior. Just recently, within our Greek system, we have experienced drug-related tragedies, alcohol abuse, sexual misconduct, and instances of hazing. This is antithetical to our commitment to the health, safety and wellbeing of our community members.
In light of recent incidents, we must determine the next steps Rensselaer should take to address issues within the Greek system at Rensselaer and to ensure the Greek organizations fulfill their intended purpose within our community.
I am appointing a Greek Life Task Force, led by Le Norman Strong, Interim Vice President for Student Life, to assess the system, and work with the community to identify what is necessary to enact a long-term, sustainable, and comprehensive culture change to preserve the positive aspects of the Greek system.
In the coming days, Vice President Strong will communicate additional details related to the review and recommendation process in which we will engage.