by Emily Chassman ’16
Last Saturday, April 6 at 5 p.m. a small group of Trinity alumni and members of Trinity’s Greek life organizations gathered to discuss the changes being made to Trinity’s campus that are outlined in the Committee Report released this fall and to also develop a realistic course of action moving forward.
Spearheaded by Robert Bibow ’89, the group of four male Trinity Greek organization alumni, who all are volunteering their time to help students, opened the forum by voicing their disgust for the new social policies set to be implemented as early as next fall, specifically those aimed at destroying many, if not all, of Trinity’s Greek Letter Organizations. There was a consensus among alumni that the new social policy changes were not only unfair but nothing more than the administration pushing back against what they deem as “the problem with Trinity’s social life.”
Although many wouldn’t argue that there are definitely improvements to be made to Trinity’s current social environment, students and alums both agreed that the administration is going about solving that problem in a completely backwards way. Instead of expanding the spheres for social growth on campus, they said the administration is taking away “the only social outlets present on campus,” as a member of the Ivy society described it. When asked if other projects, such as the new Crescent Street housing or the improvements to Vernon Social Center, would realistically provide social opportunities for night life at Trinity, all students present unanimously agreed that they would not, and that if those projects were the only perceived social channel on campus, Trinity’s social scene would essentially be nonexistent.
Bibow then turned the meeting over to the students present and asked their opinions on the issues, specific dilemmas they have already faced, and how they think the alums could best serve them. Every Greek organization was represented and all were passionate about the issues at hand. One member of Ivy Society voiced her qualms with the new social policy: “It seems to be blatantly clear that the administration’s goal is to end all Greek life on campus. The bonds and ties I have formed within my all woman community is sacred to me and it just seems so cruel that the administration is taking away from us.”
Many students are most concerned with the specific part of the committee’s report outlining the coed mandate that is to be imposed on all current Greek organizations, a mandate that would essentially wipeout more than half of Trinity’s current fraternities and sororities. When asked about student’s perceptions of the administration’s intended goal of the social policy changes, Pi Kappa Alpha President Sonjay Singh ’15 explained that he didn’t believe their intention was to be cruel but rather a way for the school to reinvent themselves and fix (what they see as being necessary to fix) the perception of Trinity as a “party school not focused on academics.”
Alums echoed this belief and even brought light to the fact that Trinity graduates have the highest initial earning salaries of any NESCAC college. This fact calls into question the legitimacy of the “problems” the administration has. Members of Psi Upsilon confirmed similar beliefs, citing reference to the extreme increase in TCERTs that took place on campus while the fraternities were prohibited from opening. The discussions present at the meeting were expansive; alums seemed to really want to understand the current social and academic environment on campus, as they believed this to be the most effective way in preparing to combat the administration regarding these issues. Many inconsistencies were revealed, both by students and alums, regarding the Charter Report. One alum described the report as, “something the school should be ashamed to have put out.” Another disclosed that there was a census that, “The report could have never been submitted to peer review,” which is a fundamental test to the legitimacy of an academic document.
Members of Greek organizations seem to have the biggest problems with “Trinity faculty voting to take away something they know nothing about.” A Psi U brother echoed this same feeling explaining how his house hosted members of Trinity’s faculty for “Conversations over Cocktails” at their house a few weeks ago. Many faculty members expressed their surprise at the level of sophistication and elegance of the house environment, even admitting that it was not what they imagined the fraternity environment to be like. All present seemed to agree that there is currently an extreme disconnect between the students (especially Greek students) and faculty on campus, and that the only way to gain any support from the faculty is to educate them about the true nature of Greek organizations on campus, not just the stereotypes surrounding them.
The meeting concluded by discussing the course of action for all moving forward. Bibow reiterated that the best thing for current Greek members to pursue right now is the support of the student body, Greek and non-Greek. One alum, who also happened to be a lawyer, explained that, “The administration’s strategy is a ‘slow burning’ one, they are trying to wait this thing out so it does just what they want it to do. What we need to do is stick together on these issues. Never underestimate the power of one’s own voice on campus.” Many alums have put together a non-profit organization to ensure that Greek organizations remain a part of Trinity, and they urged students to join online at http://www.savetrinity.com.
Students were advised to remain optimistic and were assured that a large number of Trinity alums are rallying to stand up for students and that no one is taking this lying down. Alum after alum stated in some way that the most valuable things they learned at Trinity didn’t come from the classroom but from the Greek organizations they were a part of and were passionate about maintaining the features of Trinity that made their time here so special.