Thursday, May 30, 2024

Greek life leaders fight for office space

The Fraternity and Sorority Life office is a workspace dominated by students.

By Aleksandra Sidorova

A student petition gathered more than 1,300 signatures in protest of the university’s decision to move the Fraternity and Sorority Life offices. Administration still isn’t swayed, but student leaders aren’t giving up.

On Feb. 15, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life Allison Swick-Duttine learned the office would be moving to the site of Quake Productions, also known as WQKE Radio, in the corner of the recently renovated Burghy’s Den. After Fraternity and Sorority Life moves, the space will become the office of the new vice president of Enrollment and Student Success, who is yet to be hired, according to Chief of Staff Ken Knelly, but is expected to start work in July. 

The move is “disappointing” to Swick-Duttine as students use the space daily. Most disappointed, although “not surprised,” are the student leaders fighting to keep their space. President of the Inter-Sorority Association Emma Peer and President of the Inter-Fraternity Council Deren Purisic created a petition that gathered more than 1,300 signatures from students, alumni, family and friends.

“Not that I don’t believe in our mission or what it stands for, but on a campus of 4,000 students, seeing a number like that is ‘woah,’” Peer said. “It’s definitely a much bigger reaction than I expected, but it makes me really happy that people want to help us and that they do see our value.”

The Fraternity and Sorority Life office’s current location, the space between the Alumni Conference Room and Cardinal Lounge on the second floor of the Angell College Center, is highly accessible to students, regardless of whether they are involved in Greek life, Peer and Purisic said.

The office is home to Project HELP, which connects students with opportunities to volunteer in the local community, but can also give interested students information about how to join Greek Life organizations.

“When they [administration] walk in there — if they even walk in there — they don’t see that it’s a bunch of students,” Peer said.“The director of Greek Life, she has a cubicle in the back, and you don’t really see her. You talk to us, you get to know us, we help you, and I think it’s really unfortunate that they would so easily and so willingly just strip away a student resource like that.”

Vice President for DEI Allison Heard said evicting Fraternity and Sorority Life is a “choice, not a necessity.” 

Heard was offered Fraternity and Sorority Life’s office space as well as the Quake Productions studio, but she refused. Instead, Heard chose to “reclaim” the space in the H.U.B. where ESS is now  — a decision based on months of gathering student feedback.

“I would work in a dungeon if students wanted me to,” Heard said.

Similarly, Swick-Duttine said, “If students didn’t care, we’d move.” 

But neither students, nor Swick-Duttine were consulted in making the decision to move the office. Moreover, the news was sudden to Swick-Duttine, as the office had recently installed tables and chairs recycled from the Flynt Commons in its lounge and arranged for the room to be reservable for student use.

“I think administration is slowly trying to colonize student involvement,” Purisic said. “They’re just slowly taking up more and more student spaces.”

Aleksandra Sidorova / Cardinal Points

The area outside of the Fraternity and Sorority Life offices is decorated with flags and displays representing the Greek Life organizations at SUNY Plattburgh.

Swick-Duttine said the new space won’t be able to serve the office’s needs unless it is renovated. According to Peer, Fraternity and Sorority Life has 11 staff members, while ESS has four. If Fraternity and Sorority Life moves to Quake Productions’ studio, it is unclear where the radio will go. However, the club is “working on it,” according to Quake Productions President Garrett Jones.

The Fraternity and Sorority Life office moved four times in 25 years, Swick-Duttine said. Before it moved to its current location around five years ago, it occupied the space where the Center for Student Involvement is, adjacent to the H.U.B. Enyedi references this fact in a statement to ABC22 & FOX44, a Vermont news source:

“This is a planned move to a different space within the same area of the Angell College Center. The space will be similar in size to what they have now. They have moved within the student center before. This is a high demand building with adjustments that take place from time to time. Fraternity and Sorority Life is important to this campus and we value what they provide.”

Finding space for administrative offices is not an issue, Heard said, as the former Title IX and ESS offices both stand vacant on the sixth floor of Kehoe. Heard’s current office in Hawkins Hall is “cozy” and “treated us well”: it sees student traffic and is close to Enyedi’s office. It has an office with a meeting room next-door, a seating space where an assistant can work and three empty rooms, each potentially their own office or space for the Cardinal Cupboard.

“If it’s not good enough for them, why is it good enough for me?” Heard asked. “If the radio is good enough for Greek Life, why isn’t it good enough for the VP?”

Peer and Purisic met with Dean of Students Stephen Matthews and Interim Vice President of ESS Cori Jackson, who encouraged the two to “stop fighting it,” as Purisic explained. Today, March 3, they will speak with Enyedi.

“[Matthews] basically, in better terms, said that we were wasting our time and we’re essentially wasting our terms on something that was kind of a done deal, but I don’t see it as a waste of our terms to fight for something that affects us and our entire community for the foreseeable future,” Peer said.

Purisic said he sees administration in a new light: promises of supporting students are not delivered on.

“It wasn’t actually what I thought they were like. I thought they would be more supportive of us,” Purisic said.

Peer said it is “interesting” that administrative figures would discourage students from applying the primary idea they learn in school and college — standing up for what they believe in.

“In a way, I feel like they should almost be proud, like, aren’t you proud that your students care so much about the school that they go to?” Peer said. “Isn’t that a source of pride for you that we came to this college these shy, young little beings and we’re turning into these mature, professional humans who fight for what they believe in, who work towards common goals?”

Jackson “doesn’t want to talk about” the Fraternity and Sorority Life office, Administrative Assistant Lyndsey Lafountain said.

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