Date: September 24, 2019
I am pleased to provide a detailed update regarding the ongoing work to support and strengthen Greek Life at Rensselaer, which President Jackson noted in her recent campus communication. The Executive Sponsor Group approved the formation of the Greek Life Initiatives Implementation Steering Committee in the spring and has reviewed and approved the Implementation Work Plan.
The Greek Life Initiatives Implementation Steering Committee membership, launched on July 1 (see Appendix 1), consists of staff, faculty, and students charged with organizing project teams, developing strategies, providing guidance to accomplish the Greek Life Initiatives, and ensuring the timely completion of all initiatives through a phased approach.
The committee met five times over the summer, accomplishing a number of important objectives. The committee has continued its work by identifying several priorities to move forward. The steering committee members will host regular, ongoing meetings throughout the year as they embark on an ambitious agenda of priorities, some of which they have already accomplished over the past few months. See Appendix 2 for a full list of efforts underway, which break down by priority and accomplishments. Student leadership development, chapter financial stability and health and safety, and the creation of a Greek Life Commons Fund to further reinvest in the residential Greek experience at Rensselaer are among the top priorities.
Additionally, to support the success of our fraternity and sorority student experience, we have invested in a three-year contract with Phired Up, a nationally recognized firm with expertise in fraternity and sorority growth. Phired Up has already provided guidance to our chapters and to our community on marketing and technology during two recent campus visits (August 27 and September 8). Through ongoing consultation arrangements that include both in-person coaching and training, along with a suite of online recruitment and marketing tools and techniques, Phired Up strives to help our chapters grow.
Lastly, on August 26, we hosted the 2019 Greek Life Forum, a new Rensselaer tradition where fraternity and sorority leaders gather to review spring semester progress and to confirm plans and strategies for the fall. During this event, President Jackson provided the opening keynote, acknowledging the good work that has been done, thanking those who have contributed to the work of the review, and challenging the community to work as a “Commons” to achieve the goals of the implementation process. She reiterated the value she places on the fraternity and sorority experience and her hopes for a sustainable community, which is focused on citizenship to Rensselaer. She also expressed her hopes for a productive working relationship among all of the stakeholders necessary to achieve our goals.
I look forward to providing you with regular communication updates throughout this process, along with our online webinar-style updates planned for mid-October and early December. Details will be shared once finalized.
I want to thank the students, staff, faculty, and alumni and alumnae who have been critical in accomplishing this work, especially those who gave their time weekly over the summer to ensure we moved forward. Your work is truly appreciated.
Travis Apgar Assistant
Vice President for Student Life
and Dean of Students
Implementation Steering Committee:
Chair: Travis Apgar, Assistant Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students
Vish Gopalakrishnan ’20, Interfraternity Council President
Tori Gilroy ’20, Panhellenic Council President
Jack Conlin ’20, Interfraternity Council Executive Vice President
Bryn Clarkson ’21, Panhellenic Council Executive Vice President
Meagan Lettko ’20, Grand Marshal
Caitlin Kennedy ’20, President of the Union
Jack Reilly, Professor, Engineering
Patricia Groeber, Associate Director, Department of Public Safety
Annette Chism, Director of Environmental Health and Safety & Risk Management
Project Team 1
Incorporate CLASS Goals and Practices into Greek Life
- Greek Life Commons is incorporated within CLASS Curriculum as a location-based cohort
- Create leadership transition and succession plan
- Establish a consistent set of expectations and responsibilities for chapter advisory roles
- Promulgate consistent job description, reporting expectations, eligibility criteria, and training requirements for live-in adviser positions
Intentional Emphasis on Diversity and Inclusion
- Approved establishment of Omega Phi Beta Sorority Inc. chapter
- Ensure all fraternity and sorority operation documents align with the Institute’s commitment to an inclusive community
- Train all Greek-affiliated students for unconscious bias training
Project Team 2
Develop New Transparent Scorecard
- Benchmarking of existing scorecards
- Community input on Rensselaer specific categories
- Complete draft of Rensselaer-relevant scorecard
Strengthen Finances and Improve Health and Safety
- Establish partnership between Student Life and Environment Health and Safety to elevate facilities’ safety compliance
- Standardize residency requirements
- Implement consistent live-out fee
- Create systemwide Commons Fund
Project Team 3
Create One Student Judicial System
- August Rensselaer policy update now prohibits any student from living in an unrecognized chapter.
- August Handbook update established one Student Judicial System
- Established that Greek Judicial Board Jurisdiction is applicable only to self-governing policies
- Provide Greek Councils with support to update their internal documents to accurately reflect Greek Board role
Merge All Greek Life Relationship Agreements
- Rough draft completed with assistance from General Counsel
- Complete final draft of comprehensive document
- Promulgate approved comprehensive document
Project Team 4
Mitigate High-Risk Behaviors, Alcohol, and Substance Abuse
- Updated the Rensselaer Alcohol and Other Drug policy and created consistent application
and enforcement of policies across all student organization types
- Institute and deliver Title IX training to all Greek members
- Establish a committee to review and examine initiation process and eliminate hazing
Build Trust, Leadership, Integrity, and Accountability
- Launched Implementation steering committee
- Updated Greek Life Commons staff job descriptions
- Hired Interim Greek Dean
- Hire Greek Life Commons staff
Establish Stronger Relationships Through the Timing of Recruitment and Intake
- Shifted the recruitment schedule for first-year students from fall to spring
- Establish recruitment support for the community
- Deliver communitywide informational activities
Date: June 25, 2019
From: Peter A. Konwerski, Vice President for Student Life
I am writing to provide an update on the work to enhance Greek Life at Rensselaer. The Executive Sponsor Group reviewed the report of the Greek Life Task Force and submitted their recommendations to President Shirley Ann Jackson.
President Jackson charged me to work with the Executive Sponsor Group to implement the approved recommendations. The implementation process will be multiphased and include specific work plans for each phase. The work plans will contain milestone dates, resource requirements, and staff assignments to ensure timely completion of the approved recommendations of the Greek Life Task Force.
To assist me with the implementation, Mr. Travis Apgar, Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students, will immediately organize an internal implementation team, which will include several project teams, to develop strategies to accomplish the approved recommendations. The implementation team and project teams will be comprised of Rensselaer student leaders (Greek and non-Greek), faculty, and staff. My next update will include additional information about the work being accomplished by the implementation team and project teams. In addition, I will continue to share progress with, and gain input from, the leaders of the IFC, Panhellenic, and AIGC.
As an additional point of reference, Dean Apgar and the Deans of the Greek Life Commons and I met with representatives of the North American Inter-Fraternity Conference, National Panhellenic Conference, and inter/national representatives of more than 16 Greek Letter organizations in Indianapolis, Indiana. We briefed the group on the approved recommendations and invited their collaboration. After a robust conversation, several organizations indicated their interest in supporting our current efforts and upcoming initiatives.
Thank you to all of the members of the Rensselaer community who have been involved and contributed to the work of the Greek Life review over the past year. I look forward to sharing additional updates as we proceed with our implementation efforts throughout the coming year, as we all strive to enhance our Greek community.
Date: March 15, 2019
From: LeNorman J. Strong, Chair, Greek Life Review and Special Assistant to the President
Our work to strengthen Greek Life at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is nearing a milestone. I appreciate the work of many who have taken their time to contribute to the discussions that have taken place. I'm writing to provide an update on the feedback we've received on the January 5, 2019 Greek Life Task Force Report draft. As of today, 320 individuals and seven organizations submitted more than 420 declarative comments through the Greek Life Task Force (GLTF) portal or by email. I want to thank all individuals and organizations for taking the time to offer their perspectives.
All public comment submissions have been analyzed, and are being reviewed by the Greek Life Review Executive Steering Group. The full analysis will also be provided to President Jackson when she receives the report of the GLTF next week following the final meeting of the Greek Life Task Force. Most of the feedback focused on suggestions, observations, and concerns about implementing the GLTF recommendations. The feedback will be made available to the teams that will be appointed to implement the recommendations. These teams will comprise various stakeholders including students, faculty, staff, and alumni and alumnae. We foresee announcing the teams in coming weeks.
In anticipation of the launch of implementation efforts, the Greek Life Commons Deans will begin working with members of our Greek Life leadership councils and our Greek chapters. This work will prepare everyone to begin the important collaboration to effectively implement the recommendations according to a timeline that complies with established deadlines.
The results of the work accomplished by the GLTF will enhance Greek Life at Rensselaer while maintaining an environment that is safe, and that provides support for student success in academic, career leadership, and personal domains.
I applaud the work of the Greek Life Task Force; I appreciate the time, energy, and contributions of everyone involved in this important undertaking.
Date: February 8, 2019
From: The Greek Life Review Committee
Sent on behalf of LeNorman J. Strong, Chair, Greek Life Review Committee and Special Assistant to the President; John E. Kolb, Chair, Greek Life Task Force, and Vice President for Information Services and Technology/CIO; and Peter A. Konwerski, Vice President for Student Life.
We are writing to thank the Rensselaer community for nearly 170 responses to our call for public comments on the draft Greek Life Task Force Report and its recommendations. We noted, with particular appreciation, the responses that represent group collaboration and recommendations from Greek Life chapters.
A number of student leaders, including the Rensselaer Student Senate and several Greek Life officers, have requested an extension of the period of public comment. We have agreed to do so; the public comment period has been extended by one week; the new deadline is 5 p.m. on Friday, February 15.
We appreciate those who opted to send us documents in order to better present their ideas. We want to assure you that documents that we receive outside of the textbox on the website are also given the fullest of consideration.
Thank you for your efforts to enhance Greek Life at Rensselaer.
Date: January 25, 2019
From: John E. Kolb, Vice President for Information Services and Technology and Chief Information Officer, and LeNorman J. Strong, Chair, Greek Life Review, Special Assistant to the President
We are writing to let you know that the full report of the Greek Life Task Force (GLTF) is now available for public comment, and can be found on the Greek Life Task Force website. The period of public comment begins on Saturday, January 26, and ends on Friday, February 8, 2019, at 5 p.m. We are providing a link through which you will be able to submit comments on the report; there is a comment text box included on the response screen in which you can provide your thoughts up to the limitation of 500 characters. All responses will be reviewed, summarized, and attached to the report that will be submitted to President Jackson in mid-February.
We see the release of the report and receipt of comments from the Rensselaer community as a milestone in our ongoing efforts to improve upon and strengthen Greek Life. The important work that awaits us will begin after we receive comments and submit the report to President Jackson.
When reviewing the report, it is important for you to also read the appendices that contain information and data that the Task Force reviewed and considered during its deliberations. You may also find it useful to review other information posted on the GLTF website. Please make your feedback as specific as possible to enable reviewers to reference specific portions of the report that are applicable to your concern.
We want to thank the members of the Greek Life Task Force and the Rensselaer Discussion Panelists for their dedicated work and their commitment to contributing to this effort to enhance Greek Life at Rensselaer. We would also like to thank the Greek Life Councils, Student Senate, Faculty Senate, and others who made time to participate in briefings and to offer feedback to us during the review process. We want to thank the students, alumni/ae, faculty, and staff who participated in the August 2018 Greek Life Forum. The work that began at the Forum has provided a foundation for the Task Force and its subsequent efforts.
Thank you for your continued support of the Rensselaer community and efforts to strengthen Greek Life.
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.