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Greek Life


To The Editor:

An open letter to

President John F. Schwaller, SUNY Potsdam

Annette L. Robbins, Director of Student Conduct and Community Standards

William Morris, Dean of Students

Ruth A. Policella, Director, Campus Life

Julie M. Dold, Assistant Director, Campus Life

Mona Ouimet Vroman, Director, Alumni Relations

The Greater Potsdam Community

Recent events by some persons associated with Greek Organizations have enabled the governing body of SUNY Potsdam to enact harsh, unreasonable limitations on Greek Organizations to properly educate potential new members for acceptance into their respective Organizations.

First, let me start by saying, neither myself nor any responsible current or past member of Greek Life at SUNY Potsdam condone the inappropriate actions of a few.

That being said, the benefits of Greek Life far outweigh these isolated incidents. President Schwaller and Julie Dold think they can quantify the effect of Greek Life on a person by convening a “Task Force”. I submit you cannot quantify what this experience has on a young woman or man’s life, I can only afford you my thoughtful reflection on the topic.

What I learned from my Greek Experience:

I learned to get along with people through sharing intimate life experiences with them. Not through proscribed hour-long interviews, but through sharing meals, taking walks and visiting their families.

I learned to never judge a person before getting to know them.

I learned to look for the good in people; and even when there were parts of their personality I may not have liked, I learned to find their strengths and love them for that.

I learned to rely on others and appreciate their support when I felt too weak to make it on my own.

I learned what it meant to have life-long friends who I can call on to this day.

I learned to find joy in making someone else happy.

I learned that the world is bigger than me, and that the good of a whole enhances each part.

I learned how good it feels to do things for people in need.

I learned that I never have to feel alone.

I learned that unconditional love brings out the best in everyone.

I learned that I have a responsibility to younger generations.

I learned to be the best person I can possibly be and when I falter, there are people there to support me until I regain my footing.

I learned to love the Town of Potsdam and have put the welfare of my two college age children in its hands.

I learned how important it is to have a sense of community.

I have learned how to be a better mother, sister, daughter, friend and educator from my Greek Experience.

I have learned that you don’t punish a whole for the action of a few and sweeping, thoughtless punishments do not bring on permanent change –only continuing education can do that.

The lessons learned as a young lady in college have carried me through my life and I am saddened by the thought that our future generations of young people will not be able to experience this amazing growth.

Zuangzi, the famous 4th century Chinese philosopher said, “Reward and punishment is the lowest form of education.”

I challenge SUNY Potsdam to rise to its title as a place of “higher education”, to take a step back and consider alternatives to their broad, ignorant, heavy handed decisions and become a model in guiding young people to grow into responsible adults.

I call on the Greek Alumni of SUNY Potsdam to immediately discontinue all Alumni donations to protest the college’s decision.

And I call on the people of Potsdam to let the college explain why their hotels will not be filled, their restaurants will stay empty and their businesses will not be patronized due to Alumni having nothing to come “home” to.


Tonia Kelemen McGowan, MS CCC-SLP TSSLD

Founding Secretary, Arethusa Sorority

Past Vice President, Arethusa Alumni Association

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