The Colgate Scene
May 2005

Self-governed and making strides
An update on the Broad Street community
 

The Broad Street community has made significant strides in this second year of Colgate's new residential education program.

Composed of juniors and seniors who live with selected groups of friends, the Broad Street community is self-governed through the Broad Street Community Council (BSCC), with representatives from all residences, including Greek-letter organizations, college-owned houses, and theme houses. Other examples of individual communities are 84 Broad Street, a healthy living community, and Creative Arts House, where residents explore their interests in the arts.

The BSCC, which met weekly throughout the year, spent the fall semester developing a governance structure and a mission statement. Attendance at meetings was reported to be nearly 100 percent on a regular basis, said Jennifer Adams, assistant dean of the college. The BSCC mission, unanimously agreed upon, is "to address the concerns of students in a fair and equal way and to actively communicate in an effort to foster greater cooperation among students, their communities, Colgate, and the town of Hamilton, while maintaining the integrity of each individual community."

By early in the spring semester, the BSCC had elected their executive board and established subcommittees to carry out specific initiatives. The executive board is a team of coordinators responsible for governance and membership, administration, recording and secretarial duties, events, public relations, and the Broad Street transition. Adams; Joe Leo '01, assistant director of Broad Street; and Kelly Opipari, director of fraternity and sorority affairs, observe meetings and serve as advisers and mentors.

Members of the council organized several activities throughout the year, including a Lights on Broad Street holiday house decoration contest, as well as collaborative social events for Spring Party Weekend.

To support the various BSCC initiatives, the dean of the college's office created the Broad Street Community Fund, which operates as a social venture fund. According to Dean of the College Adam Weinberg, the goal of the fund, to encourage innovation and creativity, allows for students to learn by taking risks and experiencing both success and failure as they implement new Broad Street communities, as well as ideas and activities that support the development of their individual communities. Groups submit proposals, which are evaluated by the BSCC in consultation with staff advisers.

Regarding the effort to fulfill the residential education plan's requirement that all students, including members of fraternities and sororities, live in university-owned housing beginning in fall 2005 (except for 250 seniors granted permission to live off campus), alumni of nearly every active Greek-letter house voted to transfer their houses to Colgate. At press time in early April, with other alumni groups scheduled to complete their voting the following weekend, Colgate expects that as many as 10 active fraternities and sororities will occupy houses on campus next year, including three organizations currently without residences.

Three houses for various reasons have not come to terms with the university. Delta Kappa Epsilon has sued for the right to continue housing students in its privately owned structure. In March a U.S. District Court judge denied a DKE request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, finding that DKE failed to show a likelihood of success on any of the claims contained in its complaint (a link to that decision is in the news archives on www.colgate.edu for March 10).

On April 12, a group of 200 to 300 students gathered on the front lawn of the DKE house to protest the Colgate-owned housing requirement. Students invited guest speakers including David Horowitz, president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, and David French, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, to argue against the policy. A group of students then presented President Rebecca S. Chopp with a petition that "demands Colgate respect [students'] rights as American citizens," along with a list of demands that, among other things, seeks to modify the student handbook, calls for the university to "re-recognize" Greek-letter organizations that have been put on probation, demands changes to the application and approval process for the university's townhouses, and calls for the reversal of the policy on ownership of Greek-letter houses. Chopp accepted the documents and said that the university will give them a close review.

In response to the questions of student rights, Chopp wrote a letter to students, which is posted on the Colgate website.

Overall, Chopp said, "I am encouraged by the numbers of students and alumni who have partnered with Colgate as we have begun the work necessary to build a strong and healthy Broad Street community. These positive changes will ensure the continuation of a viable Greek-letter system that will benefit from more direct university oversight."

Chopp is chairing a committee of Greek-letter alumni who will assist in the transition, maintain open lines of communications, and mentor students. The first meeting, with representation from Colgate trustees and the Alumni Corporation board, was scheduled for late April.

Recognition of the Broad Street community's progress came in late March when the online journal Inside Higher Education featured the Broad Street program in a story headlined "Making student life educational

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