Rumors about fraternities increase
Responding to increased student rumors about the presence of fraternities and similar social organizations on the Hill, Senior Associate Dean of Students Paul Johnston sent students an Official Announcement on March 9 that reminded them about the College’s policy on such groups.
In the email, Johnston reminded students that “Colby abolished fraternities and sororities in 1984 because, as noted in the Colby Student Handbook, ‘they were inconsistent with so many of the fundamental values to which the community subscribes.’”
Johnston wrote that “though the College’s stance on fraternities and sororities has not changed for nearly three decades, rumors persist of ‘underground fraternities’ or ‘secret societies.’”
“There’s been more of that talk this fall than what we’ve seen in years past, so the timing seemed right to remind people [of the College’s stance],” Johnston said. “It’s just a low hum of talk, but not from any particular place.”
According to the College’s policy on fraternity activity, as Johnston cited in the email, “‘Rushing, pledging, perpetuating and initiating activities by fraternities and social organizations are strictly prohibited. Anyone engaging in these activities on or off campus, either as a member, recruiter or potential pledge, will be suspended for a minimum of one year and may be subject to additional penalties that could include expulsion.’”
Johnston wrote that “exclusive, single-gender organizations are divisive and out of step [with] Colby’s mission and values.” Since he sent out the Official Announcement—which was issued to students only, not faculty and staff members—Johnston has received some positive feedback.
“I had three really quick responses from students saying ‘thank you for putting this out,’” he said. Johnston said that the students who emailed him noted that they came to the College because there were no fraternities on campus. In their responses, the students clarified that they “just want to trust that should anything evolve, the school would take care of it,” Johnston said.
In the Official Announcement, Johnston encouraged students to “engage in conversation with [their] peers on this topic. It’s imperative that we stand together and embrace the notion that no group or organization discriminate against a fellow student,” he wrote.
“My hope is that students will begin to talk more about the impact [that] these alleged groups have on the entire Colby community,” he said. “If those conversations become a catalyst for action, I suspect some students will want to share what they know about these organizations. The Dean’s Office is committed to following up on any information we receive.”
Johnston said that “if the rumors [about such organizations existing on campus] are true, then we want to address that….If it’s just talk…then it’s one of those things that’s fun to talk about.” However, “if such groups exist and are having a negative impact on the experience of others, then we need to address it, but people need to come forward and talk about what they know.”
“If they do [come forward] that’s great,” Johnston said. He explained that “if students go to whoever these mystery people are and say [that] this isn’t cool, [that] this isn’t acceptable here…if the community stands up and says, ‘this isn’t something we want to see in this place,’ then maybe it takes care of itself.” However, he said, “If people want a more concerted effort, that will be the direction it takes.”