The Association of Student Representatives hosted a Greek Life Town Hall forum at 6 p.m. on April 24 in the Fiesta Room in order to address the recent fraternity and sorority suspensions and the future of Greek life on campus.
Panelists included David Tuttle, dean of students; David Ahlburg, president of the university; Jamie Thompson, assistant director of Campus & Community Involvement; and Raphael Moffett, director of CCI.
At the outset, ASR president Joe Moore made clear that the main purpose ASR had in mind when organizing the event was to better understand the hazing policy at Trinity and any future changes to implementation in light of the recent suspensions of Gamma Chi Delta, Chi Delta Tau, Bengal Lancers and SPURS.
In regard to the suspensions handed down, Ahlburg made it clear that an appeals process is ongoing; however, the panel remained adamant that the punishments were necessary and appropriate, despite many contentious student questions on the issue. The panel maintained confidence in Moffett’s decision to suspend Gamma Chi Delta, Chi Delta Tau and SPURS for three years and the Bengal Lancers for two years.
As students repeatedly questioned whether the organizations could have just been disallowed to take new members rather than being fully suspended, Moffett and Thompson were adamant that full suspensions were necessary to cause change in the sanctioned organizations.
“The 3-year suspension is to clean up the mindset and practice that has been perpetuated over time with individuals who are here. It is difficult to have this many people in something like a fraternity or sorority that is very rooted in camaraderie, rooted in conformity, rooted in values, to stop that behavior and start with something completely new,” Moffett said.
Another contentious issue became the lack of personal punishments handed down for sexual harassment, despite the same charges being held against the organizations involved. However, Tuttle and Ahlburg were clear that some individual punishments had been handed down for alcohol and hazing abuses, but the sexual harassment cases were mostly organizational.
“Whenever there are allegations of a sexual nature, there are difficulties for the members of these individual hearings that they just didn’t want to go in there and put these things on students’ records,” Tuttle said.
The town hall represented the first occasion for Ahlburg to address the Trinity community in regards to the recent Greek suspensions, and he took the opportunity to give a firm wake-up call to the Trinity community.
“I had to sit through years at the University of Colorado dealing with the death of students from behavior much like what was carried out on this campus. So, wise up. It does happen. Just shaking your head and saying it doesn’t happen is bullshit,” Ahlburg said. “I’ve been there. I’ve seen it. I know it happens. I do not want a death on this campus. Is that clear? We’ve already had deaths on this campus from this kind of behavior. It is totally unacceptable and you shaking your head doesn’t make it go away.”
Ahlburg also took the opportunity to address the backlash from many alumni regarding the suspensions, particularly the possibility of lost donations.
“Some [alumni] are really pissed off and have said we will never give you another penny if you do anything to sanction these people. Well, guess what? We can’t be bought. I don’t care. If that is the price of a donation, it ain’t worth it,” Ahlburg said. “This institution cannot be bought. Period. What I care about is the connection between those individuals and their organizations, particularly for Trinity. Trinity exists, therefore these groups exist, not the other way around, and many people forget that. We have to figure out a way for these groups to continue to exist and for us to figure out a way for these negative behaviors not to happen.”
The forum remained extremely civil, despite the tensions between many of the students and some of the panel members. However, the panelists all emphasized their dedication in maintaining Greek life as a positive component of Trinity student life.