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Amendment to CSL policy grants appellate jurisdiction over Greek life

Published: Monday, December 9, 2013

Updated: Monday, December 9, 2013 09:12

This past February, the Committee on Student Life (CSL) repealed a provision preventing it from hearing appeals cases from Greek life organizations, re-establishing the CSL’s jurisdiction over the Greek life community. Previously, all other recognized Tufts student groups had the right to appeal decisions made by the Tufts Community Union Judiciary (TCUJ) to the CSL. This change in the CSL’s bylaws marked the end of an 18-year period in which Greek life organizations existed without clear oversight from Tufts faculty.

“It was not like the fraternities and sororities were not running,” last year’s co-chair of the CSL Philip Starks said. “And it was not like they were not student groups. It is just that there wasn’t a relationship [between] the faculty and Greek life.”

According to last year’s annual CSL report, Tufts faculty now “treat[s] Greek life organizations similar to how all student groups are treated.” This change allows the CSL to correct negative behavior in the Greek community by removing any preference that these groups may have been granted by operating outside of the faculty’s jurisdiction. It also grants power to the CSL to fix any unfair penalties that may have been enacted toward Greek life organizations.

Many changes have been discussed through the years in efforts to define the relationship between Greek organizations and the CSL. Beginning in the 1980s, the CSL formed a working group that presented information to the faculty about perceived behavioral issues within Greek life, according to Starks, who commented on the group’s aims.

“It was suggested that the best solution for any problems that we had was to remove the exemption from our nondiscrimination policy that allowed fraternities to be just men and sororities to be just women, thereby forcing them to be co-ed organizations,” Starks said

This proposition, however, was a contentious change for the treatment and structure of Greek life organizations that may have rendered their purposes unattainable on the Tufts campus. It would have also given the CSL jurisdiction over Greek life. Many other universities have incorporated similar policies regarding fraternities and sororities. Middlebury College, for example, passed a resolution in 1992 that all fraternities must integrate women or disband. The school currently has no Greek life.

While Tufts faculty passed a policy forcing Greek life to be co-ed, the Trustees did not — and therefore, the change was not enacted. After this unsuccessful attempt at establishing faculty jurisdiction, the CSL decided to remove themselves from overseeing Greek life organizations altogether.

This decision was solidified in a CSL meeting on April 12, 1995, when a proposal was made to amend the CSL’s bylaws by adding a subsection stating that “the Committee shall not have jurisdiction over matters involving fraternities and sororities, either of a policy or a disciplinary nature.”

This amendment both provided preferential treatment to Greek life by removing faculty oversight, and at the same time created inequality toward the Greek community in comparison to other student groups, because of their lack of ability to initiate appeals. According to Starks, this affected a large number of Tufts students.

“The real issue for me when I was chair [of CSL] was the 18 percent of the undergraduates here at Tufts that were associated with a fraternity or sorority, and we were treating that 18 percent differently than we would any other organization,” he said.

About four years ago, however, students expressed discontent with the lack of a relationship between Tufts faculty and Greek life. They approached the CSL about changing the relationship between the faculty and Greek life organizations and helped initiate the recent change, according to Starks.

“There were some students who wanted a stronger relationship with the faculty,” Starks said. “So we looked into this and found that Greek organizations and sororities in particular have done an outstanding job with the [guaranteed] bid system. They have also done a lot of community outreach and their GPAs, for the most part, are at or above the average Tufts undergraduate [GPA].”

To rectify the situation, the CSL asked the faculty last year to strike down the bylaw that was established in 1995 and allow the CSL to create a relationship with Greek life that was similar to other student organizations. The CSL presented the issue on Feb. 6, 2013, and the entire faculty voted unanimously to remove the bylaw, according to Jacob Wessel, a student representative on the CSL last spring.

“It was a popular decision. ... It was all about equality,” Wessel said. “All student groups should have the right to appeal to [the] CSL, and you cannot give some the right and deny it to others.”

Panhellenic Council President Jaime Morgen echoed Wessel’s remarks.

“It’s great that Greek life organizations are being given the same rights as other organizations,” Morgen said. “Sometimes it’s been hard in the past to navigate what nationals require and what Tufts requires, and this is helping us find a good medium.”

After 18 years — or nearly five generations of students — the relationship between Greek organizations and the CSL has now seen a significant transition. Both groups are working to together to promote communication between students in Greek organizations and faculty members to help this change embed itself into future administrative processes.

“It’s more that we’re normalizing the relationships,” Starks said. “I don’t expect there to be any change in workload for the CSL or any major change with the Greek life organizations, other than maintaining a working relationship again.”

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