By SARAH DEAKINS
Administration and faculty at St. Lawrence University remain skeptical of the growth of Greek life and wonder if the system itself is appropriate in a liberal arts setting. In recent years, St. Lawrence University has been challenged by Greek expansion on campus as a result of the re-colonization of Beta Theta Pi and Alpha Tau Omega fraternities.
Peer institutions similar to St. Lawrence have deemed Greek life as unparalleled to the school’s virtues. “Middlebury College policy purports that a system which places exclusion, in this case in terms of gender, as the primary element in selection of its members runs counter to the mission of the liberal arts tradition,” says Middlebury’s Associate Dean of Students Douglas Adams. Adams points out a 1989 study that concluded that the fraternity system of single gender social organizations was incompatible with student life at the liberal arts college.
St. Lawrence graduate and founding father of re-colonized Beta Theta Pi, Alex Reinman ’11 expresses confidence in the Greek system of his alma mater. “While it is possible Greek Life could be a detrimental issue on campus, this could be said for any club or organization. Yet, one never hears of the potential harms of the latter, at least not to the extent of criticism against the Greek system,” says Reinman.
Reinman feels the time is now for Greek expansion. However, he explains that ATO and Beta are mere infants in the process of their re-colonization. “Four sororities seem to be enough for the girls. Why grow? Especially after all of the difficulties found in the past several years with behavioral problems and issues with alcohol and housing,” says Reinman.
Despite Reinman’s skepticism on the idea of Greek expansion at present-day St. Lawrence, he does feel that the conversation about repealing Recommendation 26 is one that needs to be started. He explains that the only plausible solution to the current situation of Greek life is come up with a blueprint for revitalization so that Recommendation 26 could be repealed in the future.
Assistant Director of Student Activities and Leadership Amy Calapa is also the Greek advisor at St. Lawrence and oversees all Greek organizations on campus. “Recommendation 26 was created by faculty, staff and students when our Greek system was in a very different place. It was made in good faith to help the Greeks. It does limit the system in some ways and in others it provides support,” says Calapa.
Calapa agrees with Reinman that it is important to have conversations about Greek expansion and Recommendation 26 to see where campus is now and what the future holds. She adds that while expansion would accommodate diverse groups such as allowing a multicultural Greek organization to colonize, in other ways the university is not ready.
Associate professor of Performance and Communication Arts as well as a faculty advisor to Beta Theta Pi and Alpha Tau Omega Randall Hill feels that Greek life at St. Lawrence is much different now than it was when the Recommendation 26 Committee proposed its suggestions. Given the accomplishments of these organizations through community service and a positive image in local communities, Hill believes in a revival of the Greek system. “The full faculty needs to reconsider Recommendation 26 and the impacts of what it really did especially in light of the recent successes of Beta Theta Pi and Alpha Tau Omega,” says Hill. He adds that in working with Greek students, he has seen the sororities and fraternities heading in a new direction.
Generally, the attitude of Greek life expansion is skepticism. However, faculty and administration commend the Greek system for its achievements within its organizations and demonstration of leadership. Reinman points out that working hard and learning the various subjects offered at St. Lawrence is the cornerstone of Greek Life, contrary to popular belief.
Reinman questions the St. Lawrence debate over Greek life expansion with the words former St. Lawrence chairman of the board and trustee Owen D. Young: “Have you enlarged your knowledge of obligations and increased your capacity to perform them?” He adds that in the most traditional sense, Greek life fosters the idea that the university exists to promote the idea of excellence in the classroom.