A letter to the Colby community regarding secret fraternities
To the Colby Community:
Over the past several months, our office has been hearing an increasing number of concerns regarding the presence and activity of alleged “underground fraternities” at Colby. Because of the sense of division and strife this issue is creating in our community, I am writing to encourage your participation in an open campus conversation about this issue.
Colby abolished fraternities and sororities in 1984 “because they were inconsistent with so many of the fundamental values to which the community subscribes,” (Colby Student Handbook). Several issues contributed to the decision to eliminate fraternities and sororities; most notably gender inequity and the disproportionate influence of all-male groups in determining social life on campus. At that time the College adopted a policy that prohibits fraternity and sorority activity at Colby. The policy on fraternities and sororities states:
As mandated by the trustees, 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. (Colby Student Handbook; search “Fraternity Activity.”)
Throughout the post-fraternity/sorority era at the College “underground” or unrecognized fraternity activity has been a source of concern. On two separate occasions in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s groups of students were suspended from the College for engaging in fraternity activity and in violation of Colby policy. More recently, alleged underground fraternities are frequently rumored to be associated with national/international fraternities, linked to a number of recurring parties and social events, and connected to several off-campus residences.
The exact nature of the alleged “underground fraternities” is unclear. Many students report that the underground groups dominate the student social scene. Others suggest that these secret groups are a peripheral and minor element of student life, while some deny that the groups exist at all. It’s hard to say what the truth is. However, the widely held perception that underground fraternities exist at Colby creates a divisive reality that is harmful to the campus culture and is significantly at odds with our commitment to being an inclusive and welcoming community.
Our purpose in initiating this conversation is to bring the issue of fraternity activity out into the open. This is not intended to be an investigation. Our objective is not to “catch” and/or punish violators. Rather, we want to understand why concerns about underground fraternity activity are increasingly prevalent and to illuminate and affirm the College’s policy regarding fraternities and sororities.
To facilitate dialogue about this (and other matters related to student life) there will be a campus forum in Page Commons on Tuesday, November 15 at 7 p.m.
Jim Terhune Vice President for Student Affairs Dean of Students