With provost's exit, what will become of Greek life?

Special to the Ticker

Special to the Ticker

With Dr. James McCarthy set to take the position of Baruch College interim provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs in August, many of the decisions that current Provost David Christy has made may be about to change. Although the direction McCarthy takes on the issues that his predecessor oversaw has yet to be seen, one topic that may be re-examined is the Greek life moratorium that Christy instituted.

Christy put the Greek life moratorium on fraternities and sororities in 2013 in response to the death of a Baruch student during a hazing incident off campus. Freshman Chun Hsien “Michael” Deng died from bodily and brain injuries due to hazing with his fraternity brothers while on a weekend retreat in Pennsylvania.

The hazing ritual that Deng had been a part of was called “Glass Ceiling” and involved pledging members to be blindfolded and to walk with a weighted backpack while getting tackled by other fraternity members.

The moratorium prevents new members from pledging and joining social Greek organizations without officially disbanding the organizations themselves. This is the strongest action the provost can take toward them; only the Undergraduate Student Government can de-charter student organizations.

The moratorium was placed only on social Greek organizations, which meant professional fraternities and sororities and Greek honor societies could continue operating unaffected.

Christy said in an interview with The Ticker that he believes his moratorium on social Greek life will continue to be upheld after his retirement by McCarthy. The Ticker was unable to confirm McCarthy’s plans for Greek life at Baruch.

Since its initial placement, the moratorium has been extended multiple times. It is currently set to expire in June 2021.

Christy, who served as provost for six years, announced on Feb. 25 that he is retiring after commencement at the end of this semester. McCarthy is set to become the interim on Aug. 1 and serve until the end of the spring 2021 semester.

Thus, it will be up to the interim to decide whether the moratorium will be extended for yet another session.

Christy explained that McCarthy’s area of expertise is public health, and preventing future hazing falls under the realm of public health.

“I think they’d do everything possible to continue the moratorium,” Christy said. “These are dangerous organizations.”

The provost said that he believes the only way to effectively serve students and keep them safe is to keep them from joining fraternities and sororities.His logic: No one can die from hazing if there’s no fraternity to do the hazing.

“I don’t need to wait for a second incident to act on this,” Christy said.

After so long without social Greek life, Christy hopes that the student body has lost interest in them, so extending the moratorium wouldn’t have much of an effect on students.

Additionally, he said that he hopes USG will finally de-charter them officially.The provost has put in multiple requests to USG asking that they de-charter all social Greek organizations.

USG has been reluctant to shut down fraternities and sororities, presumably because taking the blame for closing them could look bad for them. Since they are supposed to represent the needs and desires of the students, ending Greek life could become a controversial decision.

President Mitchel B. Wallerstein, who is retiring at the end of the spring 2020 school year, told The Ticker that he agrees with Christy’s stance on Greek life.

“To be honest, I don’t see the value added for Baruch. I don’t see what the Greek organizations contribute to campus life. I think there’s so many other clubs and organizations on the campus. … And then you have the honor societies and all the other groups that exist,” Wallerstein said. “I just don’t see a need for Greek organizations on this campus.”

He said that he believes the moratorium will continue to be extended under McCarthy and the future president.

In other colleges and universities that have larger dorming communities, Wallerstein said, it is easier to keep track of and control fraternities and sororities.

“The problem is that as a public university, and one that is constantly short of funding, we simply can't afford to hire enough staff to do a responsible job in managing or monitoring what the Greek organizations are doing,” he stated.

“Particularly when you think about the fact that since we're a commuter campus, the meetings of these groups can happen anywhere,” Wallerstein added.

“On a residential campus it would be like a fraternity or sorority row and each of the organizations has a house that's their place. [There] the activities can be monitored to some degree, but that's not true in a place like Baruch. And, in my judgment, the risks of having another incident — maybe not someone dying, but someone getting injured or something very serious happening — are just too great.”

Ultimately, Baruch students will have to wait to see where McCarthy stands on the moratorium.