Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ithaca College students participate in Cornell University Greek life

While most college students find a social community within one college, freshman Tracee Cotto spends most of her time across two college campuses.

Cotto decided to join Sigma Lambda Upsilon/Señoritas Latinas Unidas Sorority, Inc. at Cornell University after she heard of the sorority through her sister, who was also a member during her time at Ithaca College. Cotto said while it is a challenge to be a student at Ithaca College and a sorority member at Cornell University, she is happy she joined even with her hectic schedule.

“I have class until five and then I need to be at [sorority] events at six,” Cotto said. “I am always on the run. I usually wake up, have my bags packed and never go to my room throughout the day so that I can get to Cornell on time.”

While Ithaca College does not support social Greek life organizations, about 10 Ithaca College students were initiated into sororities and fraternities this year at Cornell University.

Jarrod Cruz, assistant dean of students for fraternity and sorority affairs, said this semester alone, Greek organizations initiated three Ithaca College students into a fraternity/sorority.

There are two main types of Greek life present on Cornell’s campus: Multicultural Greek Letter Council and Inter-fraternity Council. IFC have Greek letters and are run by Greek letter organizations. MGLC have Greek letters but are organized to increase a connection to culture.

MGLC fraternities and sororities are the only organizations on Cornell’s campus, which are open to admit members from other colleges. Cornell currently hosts 68 fraternities and sororities — 16 are MGLC organizations, which are permitted to take Ithaca College students.

Amelia Bezerra, multicultural Greek letter council treasurer, said Ithaca College students face some restrictions when choosing to participate in Cornell’s Greek life. For example, Ithaca College students cannot be voted in as a president, treasurer or social chair of any chapter.

“You cannot be part of the MGLC Executive Board, yet are expected to pay dues and fill 50 percent requirements for certain events,” Bezarra said.

Bezerra said she sees the struggles that some of her sisters from Ithaca College face, but despite the hardships, the friendships that come from Greek life still attracts non-Cornell students to join.

“The bonds we have cannot be severed,” she said. “That is why we decided to be Greek. The political [atmosphere is terrible], but at the end of the day we're hermanas (sisters), and that's really all that matters.”

Russell Martin, assistant director of the office of student engagement and multicultural affairs at Ithaca College, said Ithaca College does not support a nationally recognized Greek life because of past incidents — including a death — that were directly connected with social Greek life activity.

Martin said Greek life is too much of a liability and, at this time, the college cannot sustain those types of social organizations.

Martin, a member of a Penn State University fraternity since 1998, said he supports social fraternities when they are conducted in a responsibly way.

“There is a lot of value, a tremendous opportunity for leadership, communication and personal development through involvement in Greek social organizations,” he said. “There are a few people that ruin it for everyone else, however, and make the organizations themselves quite a risk for an institution.”

While Ithaca College has a type Greek life on campus, the organizations are not nationally affiliated and are career based only.

“The focus of the organizations here are that they are performing arts and music related,” he said.

Cruz said because some Ithaca College students choose to participate in a more social fraternity or sorority at Cornell, sometimes misunderstandings arise.

“There have been times when I’ve had to call the [Cornell] organizations and ask them to change their Web sites, because they aren’t accurate,” he said. “I wouldn’t want someone to come to IC and be disappointed because they thought we had something that we didn’t.”

Evelyn Santiago, Ithaca College sophomore and member of Sigma Lambda Upsilon/Señoritas Latinas Unidas Sorority, Inc., said she sometimes finds it difficult to be part of a Cornell sorority as a student at Ithaca College.

“It is really hard to get support from organizations at IC because they also carry the connotation that Greek life is bad,” she said.

Jonathan Rosales, ’09 Ithaca College alumni, is currently an alumni and active member of Seal and Serpent, a Cornell social fraternity said the sororities/ fraternities support bridging the gap between the two campuses.

“[Ithaca College] students would really like associations like this on campus because it encourages stronger social life and it encourages students to go outside their own campus,” he said.

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