This article is part of a special issue looking back at the 2012-13 academic year. Read the rest of the issue here.
From the Brownstone Review Committee last fall, to the assignment of new East Campus townhouses this winter, to Zeta Beta Tau’s hazing infraction—which jeopardized the fraternity’s charter—Greek life was in the news throughout the year.
The Greek Judicial Board recommended in late January that the Columbia chapter of ZBT be dismantled after the fraternity committed an unspecified hazing infraction.
However, the fraternity appealed the sanction, and Dean of Student Affairs Kevin Shollenberger reversed the decision, allowing ZBT to keep its charter and brownstone pending the completion of an action plan.
The judicial board’s initial decision, which had been upheld by the Inter-Greek Council and Dean of Community Development and Multicultural Affairs Terry Martinez, had also recommended that the fraternity lose its house on 115th Street between Broadway and Riverside Drive.
“We are deeply saddened that this event took place and are extremely disappointed in the actions of this chapter and want to reiterate that the Greek Community at Columbia University does not align itself with organizations that engage in actions that psychologically or physically harm others,” the Inter-Greek Council said in a statement.
ZBT’s national organization stepped in to help the chapter appeal the decision and prepare a plan of action to rebuild the fraternity’s reputation.
ZBT international said that “the undergraduates and alumni are eager to partner with the University, Fraternity and Sorority Life, Delta alumni, and the ZBT International Headquarters as we foster a true non-pledging and non-hazing Brotherhood focused on our Mission.”
The action plan includes a review of the chapter’s membership, suspension of social activities, mandatory training, adherence to the Greek ALPHA Standards, and a recommitment to ZBT’s national values, according to Student Affairs spokesperson Katherine Cutler. Columbia’s ALPHA Standards require fraternities and sororities to meet minimum standards for philanthropy, academics, and leadership development, among other categories.
If the fraternity does not adhere to the plan, is found responsible for any additional violations, or fails to receive a satisfactory rating on the standards, its charter will be rescinded and the organization will lose its house.
Progress reports will be due at the end of the semester and at the ends of the next two semesters.
So far, ZBT has stuck with its plan and “will clear the first checkpoint” on May 31, Martinez said in an interview this month.
Following the ZBT incident, Greek community leaders and administrators said they believed a larger conversation about hazing was necessary.
“The Greek community will continue in our efforts to raise awareness about the prevalence of hazing in the University community,” IGC spokesperson Jonathan Dean, CC '15, said in a statement. “We hope to help eradicate these practices from our community, and will support Zeta Beta Tau and all of our chapters in their plans to move forward and grow while addressing this important issue.”
Martinez, who will take over as interim dean of Student Affairs when Shollenberger departs for Johns Hopkins University this summer, has formed an anti-hazing task force that will work next year to determine how best to educate students about what constitutes hazing and how to prevent it.
She also confirmed that there have been individual disciplinary actions connected with the ZBT incident against students not involved in the fraternity. It’s widely known among students that an athletic team took part in the hazing, although Martinez would not confirm whether that was the case. She emphasized, however, that the hazing education task force is aimed at all student groups, not just Greek organizations and athletic teams.
“People think that what they’re doing is just initiation to new members in their organizations and traditions, and technically it’s all hazing,” Martinez said.
This year also saw the reassignment of three 114th Street brownstones. Previously the homes of Alpha Epsilon Pi, Pi Kappa Alpha, and Psi Upsilon, the brownstones became regular dorms when the University kicked the three frats out in spring 2011 after several of their members were arrested for selling drugs.
Thirteen groups, including the three Operation Ivy League fraternities, applied for the brownstones last semester in a selection process run by Shollenberger and the Brownstone Review Committee. The committee consisted of four administrators and six students, four of whom were involved in Greek life—a balance Shollenberger said administrators deliberately created to “honor that, historically, those brownstones have gone to Greek organizations.”
Alpha Chi Omega, Lambda Phi Epsilon, and Q House eventually won the three brownstones in November, but some students criticized the selection process.
Matthew Renick, GS/JTS ’13, resigned from his position of Greek Judicial Board chair shortly after the decision, saying in a letter to administrators that “the entire process by which it was decided was fundamentally and morally wrong,” and arguing that AEPi and Pike had earned their former brownstones back.
In February, six special interest groups and two fraternities won new housing. A former convent on 113th Street was divvied up between the Columbia Pre-Health Community, the Student Wellness Project, Creative Commons, Manhattan House by the Native American Council, and the Application Development Initiative. Writers House won a Special Interest Community space in Wallach Hall.
Meanwhile, Alpha Epsilon Pi and Pi Kappa Alpha were selected from a group of four finalists to live in two East Campus townhouses next year.
Yasmin Gange contributed reporting last semester, before serving as editorial page editor.