The Colgate Scene
November 2005

Alumni leaders discuss Greek system transition

John Dunn '87, Tighe Sullivan '83, and Will McCawley '06 (left to right) chat during a gathering at Beta Theta Pi in October. Sullivan invited 17 alumni to spend a weekend reconnecting with the house and meeting current members. [Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]

The fall 2005 semester marked the beginning of a new era for Greek-letter organizations at Colgate. With the transfer of Greek-letter house ownership completed over the summer, Colgate's 10 active fraternities and sororities are moving forward as members of the Broad Street community.

Colgate is working to ensure that the students have the resources they need to make the important transition from alumni ownership to university ownership of fraternity and sorority houses a success. Colgate's dean of the college staff is mentoring and supporting Greek-letter students in their organizations' active participation in the Broad Street community. Last spring, a new Fraternity and Sorority Alumni Initiative (FSAI) committee was formed to provide assistance with the various issues and opportunities that Colgate's ownership presents.

Led by President Rebecca Chopp, the committee includes representatives from each of the alumni organizations of active Greek-letter houses as well as from the Board of Trustees and Alumni Corporation Board of Directors. Senior Colgate administrators provide staff support to this advisory group, helping Colgate address issues regarding the operation of the houses, establishing open lines of communication between Colgate and Greek-letter alumni, and finding ways to support mentorship programs that assist students in Greek-letter organizations.

The Scene spoke with the alumni members of the committee, asking about their involvement and what lies ahead for the FSAI.

Why did you get involved with the FSAI?

Paul Lobo (Theta Chi): I got involved because I believe in the Broad Street Initiative, but I really felt Colgate could have done a better job of rolling it out. The road ahead for the students was going to be challenging, and I thought it was important to have alumni involved and supporting the process.

Kathleen Allen (Kappa Alpha Theta): In order to support the undergraduates in the best way we can, we need a vehicle to voice our opinions directly to the administration -- we didn't have that before. The net effect will be better support for our undergraduates.

Leslie Anglada (Kappa Kappa Gamma): During the acquisition process, I advised my alumni network that the change in ownership did not mean the end of the fraternity and sorority system. I was eager to participate on the committee to help make good on my word and to work to bridge the gap between Greek alums and the administration. The time is now for us to ask the school for the support and specific things we need to strengthen the chapters. I got involved with the committee to help capitalize on this opportunity.

Sandy Wohlleber (Gamma Phi Beta): We all have a vested interest in the success of the future of the Greek system at Colgate. Not only has this committee provided us with an opportunity to be directly involved in the shaping of that future, but it has also provided us with an appropriate vehicle with which to maintain and grow in our relationships with each other -- both as individual Greek alumni leaders speaking with university administrators but also amongst ourselves.

What is the significance of having President Chopp on the committee?

Sandy: I believe it makes a strong statement that she truly does believe in the future of the Greek system on the Colgate campus. I believe that it is also a sign of respect to those of us who have been involved with our chapters that she has asked us to advise her in regard to Greek matters. Why reinvent the wheel when you have cooperative and willing resources at your disposal?

Mike Martin (trustee): She is not only on the committee, she chairs the committee. This is tangible evidence of her strong desire to maintain the Greek system and continue to integrate it into the greater Broad Street community.

Bob Smoler (alumni board): Having her involved from the beginning shows that there is no secret plan [to eliminate the Greek-letter system] and that she is very much behind the effort.

Paul: We have the right players at the table to begin a dialogue to benefit the students and put an end to the "us vs. them" mentality that has been around for the 20 years that I have been involved with the university.

What is the committee focused on right now?

Tighe Sullivan (Beta Theta Pi): The most important thing that I think the committee is focusing on is reengagement of alumni. One thing that I heard in my house and up and down the row is that alums don't return to the houses like they used to. A lot of that had to do with the relationship between the houses and the administration. My idea was to get alums back and involved with students, because that's what it's all about.

Paul: If you had asked most people if there was going to be a meeting at this level, most wouldn't believe that the president, dean of the college, and senior administrators would be sitting around a table talking about student life and fraternities and sororities on Colgate's campus in a productive manner. This is a great achievement. Colgate also committed to make several million dollars of capital improvements to the fraternity and sorority houses. The committee will be working with the university and students to ensure this commitment is kept and the funds are spent wisely.

Leslie: Because KKG didn't have a house, alumnae had very little involvement with the chapter. Colgate is helping us engage alums to provide mentoring and build relationships. The students are looking forward to having these relationships and support.

Mike: A major objective is to preserve valuable Greek traditions and to ensure that students are benefiting from the standards and support systems of their national organizations.

What do you say to those who ask about the future of the Greek-letter system at Colgate?

Leslie: This committee is a sign that there is a strong future for the system. Alums need to understand their responsibilities for getting involved and really making the houses work. Alumni involvement differentiates the fraternities and sororities from other types of student organizations at Colgate. It's part of what we've fought so hard to preserve, and we should use it to our advantage to strengthen the individual chapters and the system as a whole.

Mike: The establishment of this committee following the creation of the residential life program at Colgate is predicated on the notion that the Greek system will be preserved and strengthened. The system is being nurtured and strengthened, as has already been demonstrated by the successful fall rush and physical improvements to the houses. Student mentorship by active alumni presents even greater opportunities ahead.

Paul: This year will tell a lot about the future of the fraternity and sorority system at Colgate. How we work through this transition will give us the answer. There are still curves to work through. The administration has been responsive to the needs of the students and ensuring that they still have leadership and learning opportunities, but with greater responsibility than they have exercised in the past.

Tighe: The success of the Greek system, in my opinion, depends on two things. First, renewed, active, positive involvement from alumni -- mentoring, career advising. The more alumni get re-involved, the stronger the row will be. I also believe that the fraternities and sororities need to get back to their roots. The houses need to be in strong standing with the nationals -- they can learn a lot from the nationals -- they can learn and deal with the major risk factors that any living unit on a college campus must face in a responsible manner. The history of the different houses is old-fashioned but based on sound principles that are still valid in today's world.

FSAI members*
President Rebecca Chopp, chair
Kathleen Allen '01, Kappa Alpha Theta
Leslie Anglada '87, Kappa Kappa Gamma
Ron Burton '69, trustee
Tom Dempsey '72, Delta Upsilon
Mark Lawrence '88, Sigma Chi
Paul Lobo '89, Theta Chi
Mike Martin '69, trustee
Jon Robins '86, Phi Delta Theta
Bob Smoler '79, alumni board
Tighe Sullivan '83, Beta Theta Pi
Sandy Wohlleber '84, Gamma Phi Beta
* Representatives for Delta Delta Delta and Phi Kappa Tau are being identified.
Staff support
Jennifer Adams, assistant dean of the college
Kelly Opipari, director of fraternity and sorority affairs
Sue Smith, director of residential education
Bob Tyburski, vice president and senior philanthropic advisor
Adam Weinberg, vice president and dean of the college
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