Greene addresses College at gathering, points out shortcomings of the community

Greene Web

On Monday, March 14, 2016 the community gathered to discuss recent events, posts, and incidents on campus that have left some members of the community feeling vulnerable and unsupported.

There was an event previously scheduled for the same date and time at which the Task Force on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity was supposed to host a forum with members of the community to discuss the task force’s progress and ideas. President David A. Greene, in an email to students on March 11, changed that meeting, saying that “it seems clear at this point [due to the recent incidents on campus] that this kind of community gathering, while important, is not what Colby needs at this time. My hope is that we can take that time for a different kind of gathering.”

Greene went on to say that this time would instead be used to discuss how he has heard that “systems that are intended to protect students seem to be inadequate or even perceived as harmful,” and to address recent “[student’s] frustration that it is time to move from discussion to action.”

The talk opened with Greene broadly addressing the current problems on campus. He said that he “recognizes that far too many of our friends and colleagues are hurting and are finding themselves on the outside looking in at Colby.” Greene went on to say that this is not just the issue of people who are hurting, because he “believes that when the safety of any member of our community is threatened we are all at great risk.” He went on to say that Colby is capable of making a change though, saying, “we cannot forget that we are part of a community that is evolving and struggling to become its best version.”

But Greene did not suggest that these recent incidents were a reflection on everything that has been happening recently at the College. For a large portion of the speech, Greene talked about the great things that are constantly happening all over campus. From daily interactions he has with students, to the everyday kindness shown by students and faculty, to the amazing talents and openness of everyone that steps foot on the Hill, Greene acknowledged there are many great things continually happening at Colby. However, Greene said that it is because of these great things that the current issues facing the College are highlighted. In his own words, Greene said that it is “perhaps the preponderance of good will and the pervasive commitment to personal growth at Colby makes our flaws all the more apparent and troubling.”

Greene targeted “underground” fraternity activity as a key cause for concern on campus. A task force created in 1983 found fraternities to be “divisive, detrimental, and exclusionary” to the broader Colby community. The task force recommended that the College ban the fraternities, and placed sanctions on students if they chose to continue participating underground. The sanction decided by the committee for students found currently engaging in fraternity activity is “separation from Colby,” according to Greene, with a minimum one-year suspension and with permanent expulsion also a plausible option.

Greene followed up his account of the 1983 task force by saying that “he [is] committed to doing everything [he] can, by harnessing the resources of the College to eliminate the destructive parts of our culture.” He continued by saying that it is not just the task of the administration to eliminate malignancies. Instead, eliminating the destructive parts of Colby’s culture requires a whole community to act.

One aspect of action that Greene touched on was the use of social media and anonymous message threads. Greene noted that students must use caution and compassion when thinking about posting their accounts on public forums, as one-sided stories, while sometimes verified, can do great harm to both individuals and the overall community. Greene said in his speech that “trying individuals and promulgating rumors via anonymous posts can cause great harm and create further challenges to students coming forward.”

Greene closed the talk by calling for the help of the community to raise issues on campus that are damaging in all aspects. Greene, along with other members of the college’s leadership team stayed after the speech to welcome the thoughts of students and faculty members. Greene’s closing line again acknowledged that Colby is a great community, and it will persevere through these tough times. In Greene’s words, “even in our most challenging moments, Colby gives me reason to hope.”