Flagel consults Greek leaders
In an ongoing conversation surrounding the status of Greek life on campus, leaders in the Greek community, as well as Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel, say that the desire for Brandeis to officially recognize fraternities and sororities has gained steam.
However, in separate interviews with the Justice, Flagel and current presidents of Greek organizations at Brandeis disagreed on the source of this push for recognition.
"There seems to be a group of [members of Greek life at Brandeis] that are particularly interested, at this moment, in recognition," said Flagel in an interview with the Justice. "And that ... seems to kind of ebb and ... flow depending on who's in leadership roles in those organizations, but right now there seems to be some energy behind it."
Abe Feldan '14, president of the Greek Awareness Council, said in an interview with the Justice that he first became aware of an initiative to recognize Greek organizations early in the fall semester. "As far as I know, one individual in the administration is pushing for this: Andrew Flagel," said Feldan.
Feldan said that he had not personally spoken to Flagel, but added, "I know for a fact that he has contacted individual presidents."
Of the eight presidents of fraternities and sororities at Brandeis, only one, the president of Alpha Epsilon Pi, Joe Robinow '14, agreed to be interviewed by the Justice. Robinow said that he became aware of a conversation surrounding the possibility of recognizing Greek life near the start of this semester, but that he knew little else.
Lisa Katsnelson '15, president of Delta Phi Epsilon, and Carolyn Williams '15, president of Kappa Beta Gamma, also stated in separate emails to the Justice that while they had limited knowledge of ongoing conversations, Flagel was leading the initiative.
Flagel, however, regarded this as "a big misperception."
"There's no initiative that I've launched or started, other than talking with many Greek representatives ... in response to their inquiries about how that might work," he said regarding recognition of Greek organizations at Brandeis.
Flagel would not name any of the individuals with whom he had spoken on the matter, which he said included multiple students and alumni, but did say that he had met with the presidents of two fraternities on campus: Zeta Beta Tau and Phi Kappa Psi.
"Both have raised concerns about whether or not recognition would be in their interests, and we've had conversations about it," said Flagel.
Oren Saskin '16, the current president of ZBT, wrote in an email to the Justice that he "will not be able to answer any questions on the matter."
Joseph Botsch '15, the current president of Phi Kappa Psi, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
"There's nothing that this administration is doing to seek Greek recognition," Flagel said when asked about these meetings with Greek leaders. "We have not in any way initiated any activity, although I'm perfectly willing to meet with any groups about what it might involve to support the University and come into alignment with our organizational values."
Flagel was himself a member of Phi Sigma Kappa as an undergraduate at George Washington University and served as an adviser to a fraternity and a sorority for about 10 years while he was a dean at George Mason University, prior to his arrival at Brandeis.
Flagel remained ambivalent when asked whether he would like to see recognition of Greek life at Brandeis.
"As I've said, there's elements of the best of Greek life, when I see philanthropy, when I see commitment to one another, when I see them participating in school spirit in various events across campus, that really make me believe in how ... that could be a powerful, positive addition to the University," Flagel responded.
"I'm also very well aware of the negative sides of Greek life.
So I'd only want to see that happen if we could do it in a way that was distinctly Brandeis," he added.
Feldan said that, among the fraternity and sorority presidents, there are a range of views on whether or not Greek life should be recognized at Brandeis. However, he said that the range is "very much skewed" to the negative side. "And I've spoken to them all individually," added Feldan. "This is not a hunch."
Flagel said that he has heard from the presidents of some of the Greek organizations at Brandeis, and that he agrees with Feldan's perception of general opposition.
"I think the fear of these organizations is once recognition is in place at the University, if you're not recognized you lose your charter from national," said Flagel, referring to the national umbrella organizations of each individual fraternity and sorority.
Robinow, of AEPi, also mentioned the national factor in each organization's calculation, but said that ultimately, he supported recognition.
"Personally, for my group of guys ... I think it would benefit us," said Robinow. "I trust the administration to be able to handle it well. I don't think it would get out of hand.
"I understand a lot of concerns from students that it would change the culture on campus. But I think if the administration and the people that run the Greek life organizations do it together, on both of their terms. ... I think if they do it well, it can work. And I think it can be a positive thing for the Brandeis campus."
The University formed its official stance on Greek life in 1988 when the Board of Trustees resolved that "social fraternities and sororities, in particular, are neither recognized nor permitted to hold activities on campus or use University facilities" due to their exclusionary and secretive nature.
Robinow and Feldan both questioned the effect a non exclusivity policy would have if applied to Greek life.
"I think that for the university to consider recognizing Greek life, there would need to be some sort of non-exclusivity principle, which would, I think ... destroy the integrity of the organizations," said Feldan.
According to Robinow, a non-exclusivity agreement would present a unique problem for his organization, as the Brandeis chapter of AEPi actively decided to maintain its entirely Jewish membership with this semester's pledge class, in keeping with a national AEPi initiative.
"We're between a rock and a hard place if the University requires us to allow everyone that goes into the program, but our nationals says, 'Oh, you can't have 70 percent of the people in the organization be not Jewish.' That's a problem," said Robinow.
However, Flagel took a different stance. "Is being exclusionary necessary in order to sustain a strong organization?" Flagel asked. "I would argue that it's not."
Zachary Romano '15, president of Alpha Delta Phi, Alicia Ball '15, president of Sigma Delta Tau and Ben Davis '16, president of Sigma Alpha Mu, did not respond by press time.