Sunday, May 20, 2018

Student opinions disregarded in the Charter Committee report

Chanel Palacios ’14

Arts Editor

It is safe to assume that most people have read or heard about the report – the one with the really long title, the one that is spurring more debate than the presidential elections. And just like in the presidential elections, numerous errors are made in the report.

Is the decreasing GPA during sophomore year really a result of joining a Greek organization as the report suggests? Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, and blaming this sophomore slump on fraternities and sororities is a fallacy. My first semester of sophomore year also saw a dip in GPA, and I’m unaffiliated. Sophomores, as they take classes that are more advanced and catered to their majors, inevitably face a harder work load that takes adjusting to after the breeze of freshman year. One crappy class, one teacher who didn’t like your writing style, one bad midterm, and one bad grade is all it takes for a GPA to be inevitably lowered. It takes several classes to make up for one bad class. To implement GPA requirements on Greek life is unnecessarily invasive, when the blame does not necessarily belong to Greek life.

Greek life is the main target of this report. “The Trinity faculty, in the majority, would like to see the fraternities and sororities abolished as they see those organizations as exclusive and offering social advantages and physical resources that are not available to all students.” This is the opinion of faculty, and it is just one perception of this campus. Faculty has a perception of Trinity as having mostly over-privileged, white, preppy students who do not put as much energy into their academics as they do into their parties. This is the driving perception behind the report. It comes from faculty, and not from the students themselves.

Why is the administration’s opinion held above all other opinions? To answer that, here is this statement from the report. “The unaffiliated alumni and current students are divided in their opinions on retaining fraternities and sororities, but as a rule they seem to care less about the issue than the faculty do.” If this were true, I would understand faculty taking such a prominent role in social reform. But it is not true. As an unaffiliated student, I can say that most of the opinions I have heard do indeed come from unaffiliated students. Yet being truly involved in campus life, I have also heard opinions from various Greeks. Overall, it’s hard to believe that faculty cares more than unaffiliated students, when every person I have spoken to has an opinion, even differing opinions from my own. The statement that faculty cares more makes opinions from unaffiliated students have less weight. Overall, the report gives the faculty more attention than students.

The report states “adolescence has a longer lifespan than it did thirty years ago, and parents increasingly want their sons and daughters managed, while colleges want them to learn self-reliance and act like adults.” By mostly soliciting advice from faculty, the college administration is placing faculty in a parental role for students. When did college become daycare? The main issue is that faculty shows a blatant disdain and hostility towards students. They are trying to determine a social atmosphere for students when they are not part of our social lives. While I can understand that many faculty remain here for longer than four years, why is their influence more important than that of students? They are the voices that matter, and three students on this committee are insufficient to represent the student body.

I am not suggesting faculty be disregarded in this matter. But I am questioning the wisdom of faculty when it comes to the social atmosphere. How many professors actually take time to build a relationship with students? How many take an interest in students’ lives at all? Very few. If very few professors care about what students are doing beyond the classroom, what gives faculty the right to try and insert themselves into a parental role?

Faculty has several misconceptions about students on campus. They are generalizing us as a reckless student body focused solely on partying. While the school does have a party reputation, it’s also known that students work just as hard as they have fun on the weekends. There are always going to be students that give a bad name, like the ones who show up drunk to a Friday morning class, or simply refuse to take Friday classes so as not to interfere with their social life. Those students are few in number. I would like to think that faculty is above generalizing us, but the various statements from the report just prove otherwise.

The report goes further and states, “When we look at the fraternity and sorority population at Trinity in isolation, it is apparent that they stand apart from their Trinity peers.” Greeks are so involved in this school, and for some reason faculty does not see that. Perhaps this is because faculty does not take the time to look at the events on campus, or be a part of them. Each fraternity and sorority promotes involvement with the community, and promotes events for everyone. Has faculty seen the pictures from Psi Upsilon at Do It Day? Or Kappa Sigma volunteering at the Wadsworth? Do they realize that nearly every fraternity and sorority helped sponsor Trintoberfest? No they don’t. They are continuing with their generalizations, based on misconceptions.

Trinity will try to implement a new system, the House system. It’s a nice idea in theory, but in essence it is faculty and administration determining your friends. College is about finding your own group of friends, and there is no scientific way to determine how friendships form. College implemented systems are not necessarily a good thing. Take a look at the Fred. Their parties and events are open to all, but not everyone can be part of the Fred. To be a part of the Fred, there is an entire process to go through. You have to apply. You have to interview. And inevitably, people are rejected, and there is no knowledge as to what makes someone Fred material. Is the Fred evenly divided in gender?

Another issue in the report is the co-ed mandate. It is simply a backhanded and political way of shutting down fraternities and sororities. Charters are given to these fraternities and sororities under specific conditions, some of which do not allow them to be co-ed. While it doesn’t apply to every fraternity or sorority on this campus, it still makes a difference. If even one fraternity or sorority loses its charter, it’s not fair. To lose recognition in a national organization would be detrimental for many students who truly gain good experiences.

The co-ed mandate is only targeted at Greeks. “Social organizations whose members are Trinity students shall not be affiliated with national organizations that do not adhere to a coeducational philosophy. Exceptions include academic organizations (e.g., professional and scientific organizations) and athletic and musical organizations.” The exceptions are ridiculous. If there is any place that should have gender diversity, academic organizations would be it. I understand why musical and athletic organizations are exempt. It would seem absurd to make an all boys team have girls, and it would make no sense for an all-girls group to take guys. Why doesn’t this apply to Greeks also? Fraternities and sororities are inherently based on gender. That’s quite simply how they exist, just as that is how sports teams and some musical groups on campus exist. Would you force the Trinitones to have a male in their group? Why would you force Kappa Kappa Gamma to have males, when doing so would cost them their national charter?

The report dismisses these issues, showing a disregard for students. Greeks may only compose about 20 percent of students on campus, but they are a part of this campus nonetheless. To say they stand apart from their Trinity peers greatly reduces this campus. The report further reduces the opinions on this campus by disregarding the opinions of unaffiliated students, and giving more weight to faculty opinions. Trinity faculty and administration forgot to consider the unaffiliated students that do care about this school, all of this school, including Greeks. Trinity faculty should realize that we have already moved past the image of Trinity as an over privileged, predominantly Caucasian, partying school. As an unaffiliated, Hispanic, not privileged, and involved member of campus, I don’t appreciate being generalized into a misconception. I can understand that Greeks also don’t appreciate the negative image they are being given. The report should consider all student opinions more, and the report should consider that faculty does not necessarily understand the student body.

I’m not dismissing everything in the report. I understand that more options should be here for students at night. Fraternities and sororities are but one option of Trinity, and they should remain. Yet the purpose at the beginning of social reform was to give students more options, not completely take away what students enjoy. Trinity needs to retain the essential characteristics that brought students here to begin with. Trinity is not like other NESCAC schools and we should not be concerned with our reputation amidst a small handful of schools. Each student here is unique, just as Trinity is unique from other NESCAC schools.

I came to Trinity because of what it was at that time. It had, and still has now, a good creative writing program. It is a small, liberal arts college, but it still offers a taste of larger schools. It has a good academic reputation, and yet it is known that students here still have fun. Had I wanted to become robotic and gone through the motions of academia, perhaps I would have gone to a different NESCAC school. But then I would have lost the inspiration that comes from being a Bantam. I would have chosen a different major, been less creative, and lost what makes me unique from college students across the nation. This is what Trinity is risking losing. They are risking the essence of being a Bantam, and despite what the report states, students here have a great pride in being a Bantam, and no one wants to lose that pride.


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