February 8, 2012
Thank you for caring.
The recent announcement related to Greek Life initiatives was met with many concerned responses from our alumni, many of whom were members of Greek communities during their time at Potsdam; these concerns have been shared through Facebook and through emails and calls to the College. SUNY Potsdam recognizes that it is the passion of our students and alumni that is and always has been a critical component to SUNY Potsdam’s success, so we are truly grateful that our alumni are taking the time to share their concerns.
There have been many misconceptions and threads of misinformation circulating which make light of the recent activities on campus and assume that the current culture is consistent with memories of Greek Life from decades ago. Therefore, it is important that people understand the gravity of the current situation as well as the complexity of a changing culture, changing laws and regulations, and finally, changing attitudes.
Taking this Seriously
Despite an investment of resources and educational programming, the College has continued to see a significant number of dangerous incidents during new Greek membership programing, which is why we are taking strong steps to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our students. Through the temporary new member programming initiative and Greek review Task Force we hope to address an alarming trend. The Task Force will be charged with considering, in detail, that nature and consequences of hazing incidents as it relates to the current culture of Greek Life on the SUNY Potsdam campus and what recommendations they have for moving forward.
Overview of Activities Warranting Current Actions (occurring 2007 to 2012)
We invite the entire Potsdam community to take a closer look at the disturbing trends and activities putting students at risk:
- 6.3% of the full time undergraduate students at SUNY Potsdam are members in Greek organizations
- There have been 68 reported incidents involving Greek Life organization, including alcohol and drug charges, theft, damage, fighting, sexual harassment, and hazing.
- 29 of those 68 are hazing related charges, including 4 serious hazing charges in Fall 2012 alone.
- 4 organizations lost recognition:
- 2 were successful in completing sanctions and regained their recognition.
- 2 had additional incidents during the time that they were unrecognized, which resulted in a permanent ban.
The College’s Response
- SUNY Potsdam has zero tolerance for hazing.
- In 2007, SUNY Potsdam created a position, that in part, is devoted to working with and developing programming for Greek organizations. The focus of this position is to support positive change and accomplishments in the Greek Community, to include educating and working with chapters on areas of risk management.. Accomplishments to date include:
- The overall Greek semester GPA has increased from a low of 2.57 (Fall 2009) to a 2.81
- Greek philanthropic giving has increased from $5,000 in the 2007-08 academic year to $22,000 in the 2011-12 academic year
- The Coordinator of Greek Life worked with members of All Greek Council eboard and of the Greek community to develop a 5-year strategic plan in Spring 2010 which focuses on the areas of academics, community service, friendship, leadership, risk management, and public relations
- Greeks continue to be in leadership positions on campus (SGA, athletics, clubs/organizations)
- Efforts specifically made to work with and educate chapters on areas of risk management/hazing awareness and prevention have included:
- National speakers have been brought in to talk about risk management and improving Greek Life on 7 different occasions.
- A semesterly review has been done of each chapter’s risk management plan
- The decision was made to hold all groups on campus, including Greek organizations, to the same hazing policy. This can be found at http://www.potsdam.edu/studentlife/studentconduct/codeofconduct.cfm (Section VII, subsection 12). The policy that was quoted on Facebook, which was developed by Greek Leaders nationally, is no longer applicable.
- A Fraternal Information and Programming Group presentation on alcohol has been held for all chapters each semester since Spring 2011. Starting in Spring 2012, this presentation has been held at McDuff’s to demonstrate appropriate third party vendor procedures and to allow for more informal discussions.
- A hazing presentation has been held for all chapters since Spring 2011, which has included Greek participation in National Hazing Prevention Week.
- When chapters have been found responsible for incidents, they have been given educational sanctions aimed at helping them to identify their mistakes and strengthen their practices.
- A Greek Life Graduate Intern offered a 2 credit class, just for Greek students, on hazing prevention in Spring 2010.
- Through sponsorship of the Greek Alumni Council, a Greek alumnus gave a presentation on Risk Management in Fall 2011.
- The Morale-Zagorski Greek Life Intern held 3 peer-to-peer risk management presentations in Fall 2012.
- A Greek Leadership Class has been created, and is offered once a year to help Greek students identify challenges that the Greek Community faces and how to address them.
Here are a few articles that give an idea of what is happening nationally. We encourage everyone to do your own research on the topic of hazing, as well as the issues of alcohol abuse in the world of higher education.
- “Death in Underground Frat’s Hazing Ritual Shakes a SUNY Campus,” New York Times
- “When Hazing Goes Very Wrong,” New York Times
- “At a Campus Scarred by Hazing, Cries for Help,” New York Times
- “Criminal Charges for 13 in Florida A&M Hazing Death,” New York Times
- “Frat members charged in freshman's hazing death,” Chicago Tribune