Last Sunday, more than 200 students pledging Greek organizations filed into Higley Hall Auditorium for the newly revamped Greek Life 101 program.
Greek Life 101 has been mandatory for pledges for years, but this year the program received an overhaul. The mandatory event was divided into four sessions that students cycled through. Three of these focused specifically on alcohol and wellness, Title IX and hazing. The fourth session served as a snack break. Assistant Director of Student Engagement Allyson Hays said at least 80 percent of Greek organization pledges attended, which she considers a good turnout; those who could not attend were asked to contact Hays or Director of Risk Management for Greek Council Paul Murphy ’18 ahead of time.
In prior years, a lecturer unaffiliated with Kenyon spoke to all pledges at once; hiring the lecturer cost several thousand dollars, according to Murphy. Last year, Greek Council and the BFC began discussing whether or not the money allotted to Greek Life 101 was being used effectively. The conversation prompted questions about how to make the event as useful as possible.
This year, all the panelists were members of the Kenyon community. “Why outsource this when we have all these folks on campus who can really speak to Kenyon as well as to these topics?” Hays said. This year’s Greek Life 101 featured presentations from Civil Rights/Title IX Coordinator Samantha Hughes, Interim Co-Director of Counseling Services Mike Durham, Director of Student Rights & Responsibilities James Jackson and Assistant Director of Student Rights & Responsibilities Melissa Swartz.
“The new format allowed more intimate conversations with members of the Kenyon Community,” Murphy said. “Greeks at Kenyon feel that the system is unique and the people here are unique, and also just the fact that it’s very likely that you would have seen or have met the presenters before makes you a lot more likely to listen.”
For Sunday’s presentation, the group of new Greek members was split into halves, with one half remaining in Higley for presentations on Title IX with Hughes and a discussion on alcohol and wellness with Durham, according to Hays. Many students indicated that the Title IX information they received was similar to information presented in the past, but still worthwhile.
Hannah Lee Leidy ’18, a Zeta Alpha Pi (Zeta) pledge, said she appreciated the information provided, but had one concern. “One thing that did surprise me is that they talked a lot about Title IX, and they didn’t give any type of trigger warning ahead of time,” Leidy said. “I just walked in, and they just started talking about it in a lot of detail.”
Meredith Awalt ’19, an Alpha Sigma Tau (AST) and Archons pledge, particularly appreciated Durham’s speech about taking ownership of one’s choices and being careful about safety. “I thought that was really helpful because a lot of times the information we get is ‘don’t do this, don’t do something that puts you in a compromising position,’” Awalt said. “I felt like the information [in Durham’s speech] was more about like, if you do make these certain decisions … what are you doing to make sure you’re taking care of yourself?“
While half of the pledges were in Higley Auditorium, the other half was split into two more groups, one of which attended a presentation on hazing with Jackson and Swartz.
Maddie Rule ’20, a Zeta pledge, appreciated the lengthy discussion of hazing, but believes the discussion was somewhat limiting. She said the panel defined any behavior one would not ordinarily do as hazing, even if one wanted to participate. “The whole thing for me is that consent does matter,” Rule said.
The last segment, which brought students together to talk and have snacks, received mixed reactions. Some enjoyed the chance to relax, while others found it unproductive.
“The ‘fun room’ was completely unnecessary,” Phi Kappa Tau pledge Oliver VandenBerg ’20, who also works for the Collegian, said. “Since my group did the fun room last, [those who ran the panel] apparently already figured out by that point that it was pretty pointless, so they let us leave immediately.”
Hays and Murphy said the feedback on Greek Life 101 has been positive, but Hays suggests next year’s panel may include student-run panels. “[Student run panels] might be something where, instead of just having a room for icebreakers, maybe we have a panel of SMAs or DAs or PCs,” Hays said, referencing Sexual Misconduct Advisors, Discrimination Advisors and Peer Counselors.
Murphy hopes changing the format of Greek Life 101 will make students feel more welcome. “Hopefully something that came out of this one specifically was just a little bit more feeling like part of the whole Greek community,” he said.