Cal Poly will hire two staff members to educate the greek system about the dangers of alcohol and hazing. The decision was announced just hours after police arrested four students in connection to the death of freshman Carson Starkey.
President Warren Baker said the two full-time positions will directly advise student leaders about safety and responsibility.
The San Luis Obispo Police Department arrested four members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Thursday on charges of hazing and permitting a minor to consume alcohol in connection to the Dec. 2, 2008 death of Starkey.
The university is currently reviewing applicants from across the nation for the positions and decisions are expected to bemade by August.
According to Director of Student Life and Leadership Ken Barclay, the official titles of these positions will be coordinator and assistant coordinator of greek affairs. Their official duties will be to provide oversight to fraternity and sorority organizations by training student leaders on risk management, as well as serving as resource staff to address the concerns of the greek community.
Barclay said the first position will be permanent and will focus primarily on fraternities, while the latter will deal with the Pan-Hellenic Council and for the time being is slated as a 12-month position pending future budgetary conditions.
The university is offering a yearly salary of $45,000 for the coordinator and $35,000 for the assistant coordinator, with a combined salary of $125,000 including benefits.
Many students not affiliated with the greek community have raised objections, questioning if student fees will have to pay for these salaries.
However, Vice President of Student Affairs Cornel Morton said that funding of these positions would not come from student fees, but out of the operational budget from the general fund.
Morton also pointed out that the university had someone in a position identical to the coordinator position until roughly two years ago and it has remained vacant since.
“What we are hopeful of is that we will have fewer instances where we feel we could have avoided problems associated with alcohol and social parties that get out of hand,” Morton said. “These counselors will provide that guidance and oversight.”
The university also plans to create training sessions for student leaders pertaining to pledge activities, as well as signed agreements by organizations to comply with a no-hazing policy and a risk management plan for alcohol-related events off campus.
University officials also conducted an internal investigation into the case, which resulted in nine SAE members being permanently withdrawn or suspended for at least one year from the school, according to Baker.
Coordinator for the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities Adrienne Miller said that she could not comment on the identities or academic status of SAE members involved in the case. She did confirm, however, that nine students have so far reached “a resolution” with the university and that the investigation is still ongoing.
“The students were sanctioned by the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, the same office that would hear cases of plagiarism and academic fraud,” Student Life and Leadership Associate Director Stephan Lamb said. “That office has a lower standard requirement of proof where the criteria is ‘Is it more likely than not that something happened?’ In that context the university has more latitude than the courts in disciplining students.”
One of the four SAE members arrested last Thursday, computer engineering senior Russell Taylor, was still at his seat at the full ASI Board of Directors meeting yesterday Wednesday.
In light of recent events, some students have also raised questions as to why the university does not break ties with greek associations if they become a financial and safety liability.
“We have researched institutions that basically did just that,” Lamb said.
“The University of Santa Clara is one that took that measure and it turned out that the university ended up having no control, no relationship with the greek organizations. Staff will tell you the situation is much worse and they have had to hire additional staff to handle off-campus (problems).”
Since Starkey’s death, the relationship between Cal Poly and the greek community has changed, with the university clamping down on alcohol use and monitoring potentially dangerous situations.
“I think (the relationship) is certainly more intrusive,” Morton said. “The university has taken a more direct interest so that we do not see any bad environmental issues or abuses of alcohol. We will have to rely more on self-policing and self-governance. We can’t prevent a tragedy if the leadership does not show vigilance with regards to those issues.”
Lamb said he already sees these measures resulting in drastic changes in the attitudes of greek community members.
“I think from this tragedy, if anything good could come from it, it has in this case,” Lamb said.
“Students have engaged with us and reevaluated their organizational behavior. I’m very pleased with where we are now from six months ago. We’ve had some very difficult conversations but once again, Cal Poly students have emerged with responsibility and leadership. I think our students are very special.”