Pan-Greek Alumni meet BU Admin. Delta Pi Alumni leads the way….of course

Written by Dave Decoteau : 3-9-12

Delta Pi Board,

It is my honor and privilege to report that the first meeting between the Student Affairs Office and the Pan-Greek Alumni Group was a great success!

Although, all the problems in regard to Greek life are not fixed at this point, I would have to say that this was the first meaningful dialog I have ever experienced at Bloomsburg in regard to Greek Life and the problems (and frustrations) that exist on both sides.  I’ll recount the past day, so that you can see how thing developed.

We spent last evening making sure we had paper copies of all information collected over the past months in regard to the Survey, MRP and DPU.  Anything missing was printed and added to the binders that contain the rest of the programs.  I sent a copy of the highly controversial Rush Poster with the Brick photo to Staples and had it printed in a full size glossy format.  These materials were easily transportable, indexed and reviewed so they could be accessed easily and quickly.

We then researched the people we were meeting with.  Dr. Somerville comes from Iowa State.  She ran the Dean of Students office there.  So we thought we might like to see what greek life is like at Iowa State.  Here is a link that I think you will appreciate.  With her experience, you would think she could bring some good ideas to the table for our group:

Dr. Somerville, oversaw all these things on this page.  Please pay special attention to the “Alumni & Advisors” tab on the left of the page.  This is something we will use as a model for our PanGreek Group going forward.

We also met with Tom Kresch, Director of Resident Life.  Tom is a Zetes brother from the early 80’s.  Kelly Lewis (active in the PanGreek Group) told us that Tom was a good guy, and often found himself torn between his official duties and his experiences as a greek Alumni. That concluded our meeting prep.

I had a different meeting this morning from 9:00 a.m. until Noon at the Moose Exchange building next to Russel’s.  That was convenient.

Morgan (Pit Lady) and Wendy Lyden Benedict and I met at Clancy’s at noon for lunch and strategy.  We agreed that all the University was interested in discussing was the “right to know” requests and making them stop. We therefore decided that we would discuss that last.  We had from 1:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m. for our meeting.  We decided we wanted to use every second.  It’s a Friday, late in the day, right before Spring Break.  It seemed like a perfect time and perfect set of conditions to get some agreements and concessions late in a long meeting.  We agreed to use the letter (attached again, but we added a topic #2 “National Pan Hellenic”) as our guideline for discussion.

At my earlier meeting, I met with Dave Kurecian, (“Otto” from SIO to those of you that went to Bloom in the early 80’s).  He asked if he could go along and I welcomed his participation.  This gave us a team of two women and two men representing 3 different greek organizations.  I felt this was a “right sized” group.

I won’t try to recount each subject completely, but I’ll hit the highlights respectively as listed on our letter/Agenda:

1. Fraternity Recruitment – This is the subject of “illegal” pledges.  We discussed the environment that we all know exists at Bloomsburg.  How Fraternities are presently faced with the poor choice of taking illegals or going extinct.  We discussed screenings.  We discussed using some processes at the university level.  We discussed changing the rush environment at Bloom.  ACTION – We agreed that this is a real problem, but that this would be one of the topics of discussion at upcoming Pan-Greek / Student Affairs office meetings.

2. National Pan Hellenic – The sorority NPC at Bloomsburg does not follow the standards and procedures of the National Panhellenic Council.  Many of the national sorority headquarters and advisors are frustrated because the rules aren’t followed consistently if at all.  Consequently, girls who go through rush can sometimes get multiple bids and sometimes go bid-less altogether.  Everyone agreed this is a problem and reflects negatively on greek women.  ACTION – There will be further discussion about sorority rush and the bids process with hopes that the process will be more collaborative.

3. Advising our Active Members – With a nod to Gretchen, we informed Tom and Dr. Somerville, that Alumni are trying to be more involved in with our Active Organizations.  This is in response to Gretchen’s request for more Alumni involvement.  We then went on to express our DEEP FRUSTRATION, in the lack of process.  How off-handedly dismissing things like the Millennium Recruitment Program as simply “Hazing” was not acceptable, and frankly insulting.  We stated that by crushing every attempt to reform with flip replies or no response at all is CAUSING the exact type of environment for greek life that they claim to abhor.

I showed the Rush Poster at this point.  I read them the writing on the poster.  I asked them what they thought of the poster.  They said they thought it was a beautiful poster.  When I told them that the poster was rejected with no explanation and then our guys hauled in and threatened with disciplinary action SIMPLY FOR SUBMITTING IT FOR REVIEW, I saw some looks of embarrassment on their faces.  However, at this point Dr. Somerville went a  little on the offensive telling me that it probably wasn’t the poster itself, but the process I used to create the poster.  She felt it should have been more of a collaborative process between us and the University.  I asked her, “Like you mean I should have called first and said, I’m thinking of using Helvetica here, what do you thinK?”  She didn’t really appreciate that comment, but I enjoyed making it.

I went on to tell her there was no time for “collaboration”.  I told her that we had submitted the MRP program to Gretchen for review months earlier so that we could have time to collaborate, but that Gretchen decided to sit on it until a week before rush and then reject it, but tell us we could take pledges (without a pledge program of course).  I told Dr. Somerville, that I did not agree with her assessment of the situation being our unwillingness to collaborate, but more a reflection on her process.  I asked, “Since this was rejected, doesn’t that mean that we are presently “collaborating” towards the eventual approval of a Rush poster? But that their system of “collaboration” was to reject and threaten without an suggestions what so ever.

We kind of left it there, but here is the ACTION – Tom Kresch was tasked with looking into our situation and our program and our attempts to upgrade and modernize our program.  He was asked by Dr. Somerville to PERSONALLY see that our situation was addressed properly.  This is huge!  I’m very hopeful for our program at this point as I feel like for the first time, we have a person that will work in good faith with Delta Pi.

4. Greek Meeting Place – This was a very interesting topic because it had a “brick and mortar” direction.  Basically, Tom believes that the reason Greeks don’t hang-out at the Union anymore, is strictly due to the redesign of the building that happened years ago.  He believes that when the redesigned the building so that there was no flow through the building that gave the greeks a place to both “see” and “be seen” that the Union Greek area began to die.  He says it wasn’t by design, but more a architectural miscalculation.  And then the BIG SURPRISE CAME – Dr. Somerville pulled a document off her desk that was 11″ X 17″ in size and about 2″ thick.  It was a conceptual plan for a NEW $100 Million UNION BUILDING on the Bloomsburg Campus!   One of the design considerations is the inclusion of areas like what used to be provided by the old Union Design.  This was very exciting, and I believe we are all encouraged to review the document and the design and provide our feedback.  This is the opportunity that may be better than we could have imagined.  It still has plenty of problems and site consideration to work out, but at least we know that we are not the only group that has identified this problem.  Funding is the biggest stumbling block right now and both Tom and Dr. Somerville said that there is no policy (overt or covert) against greeks having a gathering place on campus; it is strictly a space issue.

5. Expanded Greek Week Celebration – Dr. Somerville has only been at Bloom since July, so Tom led this discussion.  It was his opinion that Greek week has lost some of it’s luster more from the student side than from the Administration side of the equation.  He believes that intramurals are bigger now than anything else and that IFC sports are also in decline.  I voiced that I believed that Greek Week was not about serious sport, but more a late semester celebration that showcased Greek Life. It was fun, and maybe “greek week” is not exactly accurate in regard to what we were requesting.  We agreed that this “event” could be more like Greek sing of past, or maybe something completely new.  But what we were requesting was a public campus coordinated event that can put greek life out in front of the entire Student population in a positive and fun way.  ACTION – We decided to give this idea more thought and make it an Agenda topic at an upcoming meeting.

6. Philanthropic Clearinghouse – This topic was not met with any differing opinions.  We compared stories.  The greek representatives gave examples of what we are doing (for example the event we ran last weekend).  The University folks, gave us some new contacts that we can use to expand our ability to help our students fulfill community service hours.  This topic is one of the easy ones, that will just get better and better now that we have a line of communication.

7. Greek Retreat Workshops – Much like the Philanthropic topic above, everyone thinks this is a good idea.  Show students what has been attained at other campuses.  Show them what others have done with greek life.  Teach them what is possible, and then let them pick and choose which of those things they saw and heard might work on the Bloomsburg Campus.  In other words, don’t fight for slices of pizza: bake a bigger pizza so everyone can have more.  ACTION – On this topic and on all topics discussed here, we decided that BETTER COMMUNICATIONS was the key to success.

8. Homecoming – We discussed the growing number of people returning for Homecoming.  We also discussed the police state that seems to be present some years. We told them that some Alumni have children in different schools and no one had seen a police presence that was as menacing as the one experienced at Bloomsburg.  Wendy said that her Homecoming experience and the police conduct was one of her main concerns when her daughter was thinking of attending Bloomsburg.  She said this environment was not how she remembered Bloomsburg and not what she wanted for her daughter.  We discussed the police preying upon the students during homecoming and I relayed my experience from a couple of years ago, when the students were enticed onto town property by police so they could be tested, ticketed or arrested. ACTION – They said they would look into the situation, and that there is already some consideration being given to this subject.  They asked if I thought last year was better in this respect, and I had to agree that I thought last year’s Homecoming was less “military” looking than other recent years.

9. Greek Career Day and Job Fair – Discussed what we would like to do as Alumni to promote employment of greek students of Bloomsburg University.  Although the University Representatives could not promise special ALL GREEK career days on campus, they did think there were opportunities here that could develop.  ACTION – Further discussion and integration with existing campus programs and initiatives will be discussed at future meetings and in future correspondence.


I think everyone left the meeting with what they realistically wanted from the meeting:

We left with a new point of contact.  Dr Somerville gave us each her business card.  Her direct phone # is (570) 389-4063.  She said that if anyone feels they are not getting the information they need from Greek Life or if anyone is frustrated with Bloomsburg in a way that falls under her area of control; to PLEASE CALL HER.  She went on to also give us her Cell phone #.  I’m not sure that she wants everyone to have her cell #, but that is something we can ask her in later meetings.

We got recognition – as a group with special needs on the Bloomsburg Campus that are not presently being met.  Dr. Somerville began to talk about additional staff to help us and budget concerns.  We told her that we were not asking for MORE staff, what we are asking for is an environment that can allow Greeks to grow their own organizations, identities and programs.  A less punitive environment and a more fostering environment.  This conversation led to the obvious point blank question of, “What does Bloomsburg see as the roll of greek life on campus going forward?”  To me, this was the most disappointing moments of the meeting as there was not a clear answer given.  When I pressed, and asked, “Well, does Bloomsburg want greek life or not?”  I was again given an answer that was not completely convincing.  Perhaps this is the place we need to begin next time.  Maybe a common mission statement in regard to what BOTH groups want to see from Greek life in the future.

We got time – Both to work on a higher level directly with policy makers and for future meetings with the larger group of Pan-Greek representative.  This will help across the board, and it is the kind of working relationship we have never had before.

They got my assurance – I told them I would request that all Alumni that had made Right to Know requests would either rescind them, or stop making new requests WITH THE CAVIAT that any information Greek Alumni want from the school will be provided in the same timetable.  So to be clear, if you want information from Greek Life, you can still request it, you just don’t have to fill out a form anymore.  You can call Gretchen or Dr. Somerville, and they will respond to the request in the same amount of time as is required by “right to know”, but with less bureaucracy from their side of things.  I believe this is a reasonable arrangement, because if we want information, we now have a direct line to get it.  And if they fail to hold up their end of the bargain, we can always go back to the Right to Know method.  This should be a win for everyone.  We start the relationship by holding up our end of the bargain.

We welcome your comments and thoughts on this first meeting.

Dave for: