For the second straight year, two members of UR’s Greek community have won the Student Greek Leaders of Distinction Award. Despite this positive development, the campus climate has recently been caught up in controversy over the administration’s view of Greek life.
Senior Lucas Piazza of Delta Upsilon fraternity and senior Anna Richlin of Gamma Phi Beta sorority were selected last month by the Northeast Greek Leadership Association as individuals who exemplify the ideals of their fraternity or sorority in their daily lives. They were judged on several criteria, including leadership, academic achievement, character and service to the University, their organization and the Greek community as a whole.
According to Richlin, the Greek Leaders of Distinction Awards are telling of the UR Greek community.
“This is the second consecutive year that multiple UR Greek Leaders have won this award, which demonstrates that UR Greek Leaders are regarded highly amongst their peers in the National Greek community,” Richlin said.
The UR Greek community was also presented with the Amy Vojta Impact Award, which recognizes groups that have created a unique program with an impact on the community at large. The UR Greek community received this award for its multicultural initiatives, as well as the Greek-or-Treat, which brought children from a local elementary school to the Fraternity Quadrangle to trick-or-treat and participate in other Halloween-themed activities.
As these awards suggest, Piazza and Richlin believe that Greek life’s impact on campus is overwhelmingly positive.
According to Piazza, about a quarter of the student body belongs to a fraternity or a sorority. Collectively, this makes Greek life the largest student organization on campus. He maintains that students involved in Greek life tend to also be involved in other campus groups and activities.
“Each Greek chapter at UR holds a unique place on this campus, and as a community [Greek life] is comprised of some of the most dedicated, passionate, inspiring and involved students on our campus,” Richlin said.
Dean of the College Richard Feldman agrees that Greek life plays an integral part in campus activities.
“It’s clear that participation in organizations and activities of some type is a key component of a successful undergraduate experience,” he remarked. “Fraternities and sororities are organizations through which many students find friends, opportunities for leadership and ways to participate in the life of the College.”
This being said, leaders in Greek life and the UR administration admit that they “don’t always see eye to eye,” as senior Jake Baritz, a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, puts it.
He believes that although the administration does have the best interests of Greek life at heart, they do not always go about business in the best way. In his opinion, the administration’s approach is more focused on abstinence rather than on fostering an open dialogue.
Piazza takes a similar stance. The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs was moved from Wallis Hall, where the Office of Admission is housed, to Wilson Commons a few years ago with the intention of improving communication between Greek life and the administration.
Unfortunately, in Piazza’s opinion, communication has still been problematic at times. Instead of being more immersed in the student body, Piazza believes that the administration tends to “make decisions in a vacuum.”
Feldman admits that communication could be better. In order to improve it, he is implementing a new program which will allow students to talk to him about issues concerning Greek life.
He plans to initiate a new series of meetings to address concerns, tentatively called “Deans Advisory Lunches,” in which he will “meet with students for informal discussions of topics of mutual interest.” The first such meeting is scheduled to take place on April 13.
While most criticism regarding communication is directed at the administration, members of Greek life believe that some of this criticism should be directed at students as well.
“I have little tolerance for students who believe the administration’s agenda is to rid the campus of Greek life,” Piazza said. “Not only is it the responsibility of the administration to voice concerns, but also that of the students. I have little sympathy for those students, both inside and outside of the Greek community, that passively complain from the confines of their dorm room.”
“I fear that sometimes [students] distrust administrators without first asking for meetings at which difficult issues could at least be discussed,” he said. “It may be that we won’t always agree. But I think that we’ll do best if we discuss issues openly.”
Some students have raised concerns regarding how the administration handles certain issues, especially when alcohol is involved.
According to Feldman, “there have been some unfortunate incidents in some of the organizations over the years,” some of which involve “potentially dangerous behavior to which the College has had to respond appropriately.”
Junior Taylor Moot, president of Phi Sigma Sigma sorority, believes that the administration focuses too much on the so-called drinking problem.
“Sure, we drink, but that is not who we are or what we are about,” she said. “I know that for Phi Sigma Sigma, each member must have above a certain GPA, must be involved in at least two organizations outside of the sorority and must have committed 10 hours of community service over the year.”
Philanthropic contributions are also a big part of Greek life, Moot added.
“Each sorority holds an annual philanthropy event, raising money for their national organization,” she said. “If you count up the purely philanthropic contributions of the Panhellenic community on its own, that’s approximately 4,500 hours and I would guess more than $5,000 donated to various charities and causes.”
With this in mind, she argues, the drinking problem appears relatively trivial.
“The school focusing on the ‘drinking problem’ that Greek life has is frustrating for all of those involved because we are so much more than partiers,” she said. “People have messed up, I’m not going to pretend that they didn’t, but treating us like we do not do anything for this campus is simply disheartening.”
In line with Feldman’s view, Piazza stressed that the administration is tied down by the law; they have a right to be upset when fraternities and sororities break the rules, he believes.
Unfortunately, many students get the wrong idea.
“I sometimes hear it said that the administration is out to get the fraternities, especially those on the Fraternity Quad,” Feldman said. “This is simply not true.”
About a year ago, Feldman appointed the Fraternity Quad Task Force to help fraternities on the Quad deal with the costs of managing and maintaining the buildings they live in. The Task Force is comprised of representatives of the fraternities on the Quad, alumni and trustees.
According to Feldman, the task force was created “only because our goal was to develop a long-term plan that would enable the fraternities to succeed.”
“Were we ‘out to get’ the fraternities, we simply would not have undertaken this effort,” he said.
Piazza understands where the administration is coming from.
“As a senior, I have the advantage of experience,” he said. “Every administrator I have talked with has reconfirmed my belief that they do not make decisions maliciously, but rather for the safety of the students.”
Piazza and many other leaders in Greek life believe that the administration understands the importance of Greek life and, as a result, proactively pushes fraternities and sororities to be their best.
While this appears to cause tension in the relationship between the two parties at times, the overall relationship appears to be relatively healthy.
“We continue to look for ways to minimize these tensions while also upholding our community standards,” Feldman said.
For the relationship to continue, communication seems to be key, according to Bartiz.
“As long as there is a dialogue [between the administration and Greek life], there is a lot of room for cooperation.”
Scantlen is a member of the class of 2015.