A Revised Statement Regarding Cornell University:
Cornell University has decided to withdraw, effective immediately, its recognition of itself, pursuant to its University Recognition Policy for Universities. The revocation is for a period of no less than five years, and the campus must be vacated by March 31, 2011.
This decision was taken as sufficient facts became available that warranted action by the University against the University. At this time, the information provided to the University indicates that George Desdunes, 19, was provided alcohol while in the care of Cornell University students in Cornell University Housing on Cornell University Property, and became incapacitated. Even though the Cornell University students recognized the condition Desdunes was in, they failed to call for medical care. He subsequently died.
The above is not funny. Nothing about this tragedy is. But Susan Murphy’s statement, parodied above, should serve as a stark warning to all organizations and communities officially recognized by the University. The original statement, of course, refers to the University’s decision to withdraw recognition of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. But imagine for a moment replacing the name “Sigma Alpha Epsilon” with “Football Team,” “Chinese Students Association” or “Clara Dickson Hall.”
As a parent, I cannot bear to imagine the pain this has caused George Desdunes’ family. My soul aches for them.
As an alumnus of both Cornell University and SAE, I am disgusted by the actions — or most egregiously, inaction — of certain brothers and pledges of SAE. Frankly, I have no problem with clearing out the current house members and associate members to make clear what a terrible blow George Desdunes’ death is to the Cornell community. But if the University feels it needs to banish an entire organization, I hope it is prepared to delve out punishment equally to any other, whether or not it is adorned with Greek letters.
The loss of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (New York Alpha) is not a small one to thousands of alumni. Hillcrest, as the house is called, was our home away from home. We each took care of it — just a few years at a time — working hard to proudly pass it on to the next group of members. My class had the pleasure of celebrating SAE’s 100th year at Cornell. The idea that one tragic night’s poor judgment by a handful of current members could destroy all that chills and saddens me.
The University needs to take a good look at itself. Student organizations — even fraternities — are not islands. They are informed by the same social norms as the general student population. The parties at fault above are Cornell students living in Cornell housing. The University at large shares in the blame for this terrible loss, and should be taking responsibility for its actions and inaction as well.
If the University wants to clear out SAE for five years — or more — so be it. But I hope they are committed to bringing Sigma Alpha Epsilon back when the time comes. A hundred years of history and memories deserve that.
Per Jacobson '93 was an active member of SAE New York Alpha from 1989-1993 serving as Deputy Eminent Archon during his tenure. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.