Sunday, December 12, 2004
ALUMNI PROTEST COERCIVE PROPERTY TAKINGS AT COLGATE UNIVERSITY
When the shennanigans get wild enough to get the alumni involved, it's an interesting story. I particularly find it offensive that a university would tell a student what organizations he can or cannot be a member of.
Students & Alumni for Colgate, Inc.
P.O. Box 30 Hamilton, NY 13346
NEWS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, December 9, 2004
INFORMATION CONTACT: Christine Burtt, sa4c executive director 303.722.9958 firstname.lastname@example.org
ALUMNI PROTEST COERCIVE PROPERTY TAKINGS AT COLGATE UNIVERSITY
Colgate Demands Sale of Greek Houses with Threat of Elimination; Colgate Trustees Renege on Promise of DKE Temple Library Autonomy
HAMILTON, NY (December 9) – Several hundred alumni and current students of Colgate University have organized to protest the coercive property takings of Greek-letter fraternity and sorority houses by Colgate University. The group is organized as Students & Alumni for Colgate, Inc. (www.sa4c.com) and was founded by Colgate alumnus Charles H. “Tim” Sanford.
As a key component of the University’s “New Vision for Campus Culture,” the Colgate Board of Trustees and administration have demanded that all privately owned fraternity and sorority houses be sold to the school, or their chapter will no longer be recognized. Further, any student joining a non-recognized chapter may be subject to suspension or expulsion.
The Residential New Vision anticipates that University-owned Greek-letter houses will become the Broad Street Community and serve as “theme” houses. Current theme houses are designed as residences for students who want to live with others who share a common interest or background – Asian, African-American, Latino, homosexuality, creative arts, environmental activism, and peace studies.
Soon, Colgate is expected to announce which Greek-letter organizations have signaled their acquiescence to a deal to sell their house. But, the contracts must be ratified by a quorum of fraternity or sorority alumni and student members. Colgate has named a March 15, 2005 deadline for ratification.
Fraternities involved include Phi Delta Theta, Delta Upsilon, Kappa Delta Rho, Theta Chi, Beta Theta Pi, Alpha Tau Omega, Sigma Chi, Delta Kappa Epsilon. Sororities involved include Gamma Phi Beta, and Kappa Alpha Theta.
“Fraternities have been an integral part of Colgate since 1856. They provide a meaningful experience and positive lifelong friendships. For many years, the administration and faculty have been determined to eliminate fraternities and sororities,” said Sanford. “Taking control of the houses is the next step in that effort. There is no other credible rationale for these coercive property takings. We must take a stand now, or lose a valuable part of the spirit that is Colgate.”
-more- sa4c page two Dec. 9, 2004
Sanford is a 1958 Colgate graduate, with membership in Phi Delta Theta. He served on the Alumni board and the Colgate Board of Trustees. He is a Trustee Emeritus and benefactor of the Charles H. Sanford Field House. Both of his sons and daughters-in-law and brother attended Colgate.
“Fraternity and sorority members consistently have a higher GPA than the rest of the student body and provide the most public service hours per individual to the community. The fraternities and sororities are the basis for most social activity on campus – and that includes our non-Greek friends,” notes Colgate Senior Sean Fitzmichael Devlin, a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon. “It’s a network that will be valuable far beyond my academic studies here.”
Acting in good faith, and believing there was no option but to sell the houses to ensure the continuation of the Greek-letter organizations, various letters of intent have been agreed to between the individual fraternities, sororities and the University. In each instance, the University raised their initial offer to a price equal to far less than half of the replacement value. In several cases, the school had proposed that all proceeds from the sale be gifted back to the University.
In no instance has the school guaranteed the right of the fraternities or sororities to continue to exist on campus. Rather, the school has devised a formula of minimum occupancy by Greek-letter members in “their” house in order to retain an exclusive right for fraternity or sorority members to live there. The University prohibits pledging of new members until their sophomore year.
Signing Colgate’s offer to purchase gives up a great deal more than just the real estate. Hidden in the documents are measures that give Colgate University dictatorial power over the operations and future viability of fraternities and sororities. It would allow an unfriendly Colgate administration to eliminate the system entirely without legal recourse. The Colgate “New Vision” mandates that all students live in University-owned housing. Colgate is in the construction stages of a new housing complex. Once completed, it is unclear whether a current discriminatory practice of allowing an elite group of 250 students to live off-campus in private housing will continue.
Reneging on a Promise After weeks of bargaining in good faith, the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) Alumni Corporation received a Final Offer to Purchase from Colgate University. Contrary to all previous assurances, the contract included a demand for the sale or right of first refusal of the DKE Temple Library to Colgate University. The clause was slipped into the purchase document at the 11th hour with no prior discussion and made a non-negotiable condition. Owned by the charitable MU of DKE Foundation, (and not the Alumni Corporation, owners of the fraternity house), the Temple Library is the oldest facility of its kind in continual use in the United States. It took five years to build by students and members of the faculty and was completed in 1877. It is designated an historical site by the New York State Historical Registry. It is a meeting venue, not a residence.
-more- sa4c page three Dec. 9, 2004
Thomas P. Halley, chairman of the MU of DKE Foundation and Colgate class president 1973, stated that he was present at a meeting on August 14, 2003 at the University Club of New York where he personally asked Colgate President Rebecca Chopp if the DKE Temple Library was involved in the Broad Street Community program. She replied, “absolutely not.”
Halley said, “I have monitoring these so-called negotiations since August 2003. From what I can see, the Greek houses have engaged in give-and-take, while the University has adhered strictly to its original position. The fraternities and sororities have proposed every possible alternative, while Colgate’s position has remained immutable. I have negotiated more than one hundred contracts in my career. I find this hard-nosed unwillingness to seek a compromise, coupled with last minute demands, to represent the utmost in bad faith on the part of Colgate.”
If the University eliminates the fraternities and sororities in the future (as is assumed by sa4c), there would eventually be no more living Colgate DKEs, and the Foundation would be forced to sell to Colgate. The University’s demand guarantees their eventual ownership of the Temple Library even if they themselves eliminate fraternities at Colgate.
John Wilson is a former trustee, a 20-year member of the Alumni board, a lifetime member of the President’s Club and member of the board of the MU of DKE Foundation. Nine members of his immediate family have attended Colgate. “My devotion to Colgate stems from my father’s 72 year allegiance to his – and my alma mater,” he said. “I’ve spent more than 50 years serving Colgate and I’ve never seen such shameful behavior on the part of the Board of Trustees and the administration. Their coercive behavior to forcibly take private property against the owner’s will through threats of elimination is outrageous. It is an insult to the entire Colgate community. Many would call this blackmail.”
“After more than a year of negotiating in good faith with the Colgate Board of Trustees and administration, there is still no understanding on their part of the value of fraternities and sororities to Colgate students,” said Tim Sanford. “Now we’re forced to use more confrontational methods to convince the board of trustees, led by Chairman John Golden, President Rebecca Chopp and Dean of the College Adam Weinberg to rescind their capricious action. We’re asking potential donors – alumni, foundations, corporations, students and others – to delay their contributions until the New Vision for Campus Culture is adjusted to respect the important contributions made by fraternity and sorority members to Colgate.”
www.sa4c.com has been visited by more than 7,100 people since its launch in late October, 2004. At least two hundred students and alumni have contacted the organization indicting their support and willingness to publicly endorse the efforts of Students & Alumni for Colgate, Inc.