Six Takeaways from the Senate Committee on Greek Life’s Belated Report
By Lauren Hand and Benjamin Pontz
Nine weeks and three days after the report’s submission deadline and more than a week after the its submission to the Student Senate Executive Board, Senate President Patrick McKenna ’20 released the findings of the Senate Committee on Greek Life (SCOGL) Sunday afternoon.
Last October, then-President Nick Arbaugh ’20 charged the nine-person committee to study the campus social environment and interactions between Greek and non-Greek students and present its findings in a report that was to be submitted two weeks before the end of the semester in late April. After The Gettysburgian repeatedly questioned the tardiness of the report through early June, members of the committee indicated it would not be complete until the end of the summer. However, soon thereafter, one member of the committee, Giacomo Coppola ’22, took the lead in writing the remainder of the report. SCOGL submitted the report to the Senate Executive Board on June 20, a source familiar with the matter said. Ten days later, the board released it to the public by posting it on Senate’s website.
The report contains 15 pages of content and closes with a recommendation that Student Senate continue the committee, seek to interview more students, and conduct a campus-wide survey. Here are five immediate takeaways.
1. The committee’s conclusions are based on interviews with 18 students and 5 college administrators.
The committee reports that it reached out to every Greek organization to participate, as well as “other organizations on campus, which included but were not limited to campus organizations, clubs, and college houses.” The committee of nine “chose to interview as many members of the Gettysburg College community as possible,” for a total of nine Greek and nine non-Greek students, and five administrators, but it lamented the fact that it did not have time to conduct additional interviews.
2. The committee opted to “analyze, synthesize, and summarize the interviews” rather than to share direct quotes, statistics, or data.
The report summarizes the opinions provided by Greek and non-Greek students on the whole in responses to the questions asked. The report does not include direct quotes or individual responses from any of the participants, in order to preserve anonymity.
3. The committee suggests increased focus on transparency from Admissions.
The committee suggests the statistics provided by the Office of Admissions regarding the percentage of Greek students is misleading to incoming first years (students frequently report being told that 30 percent of Gettysburg students participate in Greek Life, but, since first-years are ineligible to do so, the percentage of eligible students who are members of Greek organizations is between 45 and 50 percent).
4. The committee recommends the implementation of diversity chairs in all Greek chapters and incentivizing collaboration between Greek and non-Greek organizations.
The report also recommends that Greek organizations make greater efforts to increase diversity, and, relatedly, suggests incentivizing Greek organizations to partner with non-Greek organizations by including it in the evaluation for Greek organizations. The report also criticizes these evaluations for creating a mentality where organizations complete the requisites in a perfunctory manner, simply to pass. Nonetheless, the committee finds that the inaccessibility of Greek membership fosters negative relations between affiliated and non-affiliated students, and recommends greater emphasis on inclusion.
5. The report makes no mention of sexual assault.
In 2017, the most recent year for which comprehensive data is available, 27 total rapes occurred on campus according to statistics released by the Department of Public Safety. Crime logs for the 2018-19 academic year indicate at least three sexual assaults that occurred in fraternity houses. Sexual assault in Greek Life events was cited repeatedly as an issue that negatively affects the campus climate in the college’s 2016 Campus Climate Study; in that study, 24 students said they experienced unwanted sexual contact at a fraternity house in that study. However, none of the questions SCOGL asked pertained to the issue of sexual assault on campus, nor did the report mention the subject coming up in interviews.
6. The committee feels that although there is work yet to do, it has made “tremendous progress” in assembling the report.
“[T]he interactions between Greek and Non-Greek students and the barriers between the two are not unfixable, but it will be a slow process,” the report’s conclusion asserts. “This report is a step in beginning that process, but it is just the beginning.”
Early Reaction to the Report
Student Senate President Patrick McKenna, who is a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, pledged to reconstitute SCOGL per the report’s recommendation and continue the conversations around the campus social climate that the report mentions.
In a statement released with the report, McKenna said, “We appreciate the work of SCOGL in the spring, but, as laid out in the report, there’s much work to be done. We look forward to reinstating the ad hoc SCOGL committee in the fall to continue to gather input from broader parts of the campus and to look at how to implement some of the recommendations so we can move forward in bettering our campus community.”
Sigma Chi President High Garst ’20 expressed less confidence in SCOGL’s efficacy, arguing that the report misplaces its frustration about exclusivity and ignores the non-social aspects of Greek organizations.
Fundamentally, Garst believes that the Greek community is up front about what being part of an organization entails such as secrecy and financial contributions. It’s not for everyone, he said.
Nevertheless, he hopes the campus community feels comfortable participating in activities sponsored by Greek organizations including philanthropy, social functions, and community service.
As for the merit of continuing SCOGL’s work, Garst expressed reservations.
“I feel that continuing the committee without a close connection with IFC [Interfraternity Council] or Panhellenic Council would neglect the reality that the Greek system is built on a secrecy that we value,” he said, “and it would fail to paint a holistic and positive picture of Greek Life.”