By William Qualkinbush.
As a tumultuous fall semester draws to a close, the hustle and bustle of final exams will fill the air at Clemson University. Even as students attempt to finish yet another segment of their studies, questions remain among leaders on campus about how fraternities and sororities are viewed and what the long-term plan is for the Greek community at Clemson.
An atmosphere of curiosity and mistrust rules the day as administrators and students wage a tug-of-war over rules and regulations—and the reactions when those strict guidelines are broken. One school of thought says there may even be a plan at the loftiest levels of the university hierarchy to dismantle the Greek system at Clemson altogether.
Such is the tenor of the conversation as final exams quickly approach. But according to David Wilkins, the chairman of the Clemson Board of Trustees, there is really nothing for those involved with fraternities and sororities to worry about.
“I will tell you that Clemson University considers the fraternities to be an integral part of student life, and it has been,” Wilkins told TCI. “By the same token, I think we always want to make sure there’s proper conduct and everyone is abiding by the rules. The administration is looking into that.”
Wilkins says he hears the comments on both sides. He hears calls for tighter restrictions from those who see fraternities as out-of-control bodies who routinely cross the line. He gets letters and emails from frustrated advocates who feel Clemson has overstepped its bounds by lumping in the law-abiding organizations with those under suspicion.
This fall, the public perception of Greek life at Clemson has been built upon tragedy, punishment, and outrage. Sweeping sanctions designed to halt a growing trend of misbehavior were met with disdain by those students and campus communities who felt unfairly demonized.
Wilkins says the fervor with which this discussion has been furthered underscores an important point about Clemson and its people that is often highlighted in the athletic realm.
The great thing about Clemson University is that people care,” he said, “so when an athletic program or an academic issue or—as in this case—fraternities and sororities, people have opinions and they express them.”
The university has already taken steps to mend fences by appointing an outside consultant to examine ways in which the system can be improved, from the top of the food chain down to the individual student. The consultant will then collaborate with a task force made up of representatives at all levels of the Greek community, as well as members of the faculty and administrators who deal with fraternities and sororities, to compile a report that will be released in mid-December.
Vice President of Student Affairs Gail DiSabatino declined to go on the record with TCI at this time, but she flatly denied any attempt to abolish the Greek system at Clemson and said she hoped the pending report would shed some light on ways to improve the process moving forward.
Wilkins says the strife between students and the powers-that-be at Clemson has the full attention of the university’s power structure, and he says they are committed to making sure there is a lasting resolution that works for all involved parties.
“I can tell you that President (Jim) Clements is actively engaged in this and is focused on this issue,” he said, “and we have full confidence that (the students) will be treated fairly.”