Is Hunter Rawlings anti-Greek?

Washington, D.C.


It’s a question I’ve always considered, especially in light of the fact that the former Cornell president was so instrumental in the 2001 push to move all freshman to North Campus and, later, the destruction of the West Campus U-Halls (R.I.P. Class of ’26) and creation of “living-learning” centers in their place.

Back in my undergraduate days, the ramifications of Rawlings’ decision and their impact on the Greek system was discussed at length. Administrators assured those concerned that their motivations were sincere: they simply wanted to provide upperclassmen with additional attractive housing options – and that they had no intention of dismantling the Greek houses that relied on the same students to fill their ranks.

But now Rawlings is saying otherwise.

According to this piece in Ed Life, the quarterly supplement in the NYT that I’ve written a couple pieces for, the North Campus and West Campus Residential Initiatives were, in fact, meant to discourage the “pre-fraternity experience.” Rawlings wanted to combat the work hard-party hard ethic that is at the heart of most Cornellians’ existence. And who better to target than those beer-swilling Greeks?

“That struck me as not the healthiest of models,” he said. “So I thought, if we could set up residential colleges, where students were living not only with their peers, but faculty and graduate fellows, we’d create a different atmosphere, one where residences are not so divorced from the classroom and the library.”

What Rawlings is implying here — and what really is actually pretty insulting — is that Greek residences are divorced from the classroom and the library. But according to Suzy Nelson, former associate dean of students, the average GPA for all sororities is 3.4 and the average for all fraternities is 3.2.

So, was the issue academic performance? Or something else? The former president and architect of the University’s $250 million anti-Greek crusade has spoken.

The role of alumni giving in admissions

MetaEzra cites an interesting study by Princeton and Stanford economists that takes a new look at legacy admissions – and how schools benefit from pursuing this policy. Researchers analyzed 30-years worth of alumni giving data from an unnamed, private, four-year school. Taking into factors such as undergraduate record of the alum, occupation and degree level, they found some not so surprising – yet still eye-opening – results.

If an alumni’s child was accepted, the probability that they would give money to their alma matter the following year increased by 10%. A rejection meant a 25% decrease.

Without an understanding of a donation’s size though, I’m not sure we can determine the degree this plays in admission’s decisions. If weighing two similar candidates, an admissions officer might admit an alum’s child — but what if the applicant’s father only donated $100 last year?

I’d be more interested in learning about the role contributions made before an applicant’s review play. Does a $50,000 check for new squash courts get your kid into Amherst? What about $250k to the new biotech building at Columbia? Which leads to the big, looming question:

What does it cost to get into Harvard nowadays?