By Gabriella Levine
In August, Sunni Solomon resigned as the Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life after serving in the position for the 2012-2013 academic year. Solomon accepted an offer to pursue his doctoral degree and began classes at the end of August.
In an e-mail to the Greek community, Solomon explained that “parting ways with the college was inevitable.”
Solomon didn’t plan his departure from Union so soon after being hired, but noted that he was always very vocal about his desire to obtain his PhD when speaking with the deans about his professional aspirations.
This week, the Greeks have headed into the rush season without a director, but according to the President of the Interfraternity Council Rylee Merrill ‘14, the search committee for a new director began a review process directly after the departure of Solomon. Student members of the committee include President of the Panhellenic Council Nora Swidler ‘14, President of the Multicultural Greek Council Orlando Diaz ’14 and Merrill.
Dean of Students Stephen Leavitt stated in August that he was unsure of how long the review process would take. “We are committed to doing a thorough search, and want to hire a strong director, and will take the time we need to accomplish that,” he said.
Solomon’s resignation marks the second consecutive year in which the Greek community has been faced with the transitional experience of finding and training a new director. At the end of the 2012-2013 academic year, former Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life Timothy Dunn stepped down after serving in the position for seven years.
However, Leavitt instructed that frequent turnover rates for positions in student affairs are not unusual. “Student Affairs administrators, including Greek Directors, are often looking to move into positions of more responsibility, so turnover is going to be a part of that,” he stated.
President of the Sigma Phi Fraternity Ryan Bottin ‘14 noted that the search for a new director can be a challenge to the Greeks. “I think the Greek Community certainly has and continues to face challenges when it comes to the transitional experiences posed recently,” Bottin remarked. “With Greek Life being put in a negative ‘hot seat’ over the past few years, we are very fortunate to have an administration that backs its continuation,” he continued.
Solomon, despite his departure, remained optimistic regarding the Greek experience at Union for this fall term and coming year. “Even with my departure, I expect an even better fall term than what we saw last year. The Greeks have been empowered, and they are ready to move forward with improving the fraternity and sorority experiences at Union College.”
Dunn assured that this most recent transition may actually benefit the Greek community. “This challenge presents the students with a valuable opportunity. Since 2007, countless hours have been spent developing Greek Leaders and equipping the Greek organizations with the tools to be a premier Greek System,” Dunn stated. “Not having a permanent director presents an opportunity to demonstrate that leadership and show the college what spectacular students are involved in the Greek System,” he continued.
Leavitt pointed out that Greeks can prosper with a director who remains in the position for a short period of time if the system is “flexible in dealing with year-by-year change.” The key, according to Leavitt, is finding a director with experience, enabling the system to “hit the ground running.”
However, certain leaders of the Greek community expressed a hope to see a new director remain in the position longterm. President of Delta Delta Delta Ali Feldman ‘14 explained that new directors oftentimes bring innovative ideas to campus. But according to Feldman, it’s challenging for directors to successfully implement ideas in a short period of time. “Therefore, it is crucial that the director be present for an extended period of time,” Feldman stated. “Being present for an extended period will also allow the director to grow and transform with our college and Greek life organizations.”
Merril also voiced a strong opinion on finding a new director who will stay in the position for a longer duration: “It is absolutely essential for the continued development of Greek life and the stability of the Union community that whoever fills the Greek director position remain in that position for years to come.”
Moving forward, leaders of the Greek community are searching for a director with qualities that fit their expectations for the position.
Diaz, for example, is looking for a director who shows a passion on par with that of the students to improve the Greek community and “mesh with all the different personalities that make up our Greek life here at Union.”
Swidler described an ideal candidate as someone “who is invested in Union College’s Greek life and who believes in the enhancing experience that being in a fraternity and sorority provides.”
“It would be wonderful to have someone who supports the idea that the Greek system can enhance the overall Union experience not just the experience of the Greek students,” she continued.
Bottin argued that the Greek community requires a director who “is not just the ‘boss,’ or simply ‘in charge’ of Greek Life, but rather a team captain who can play a 24/7 active role in helping move Greek life forward.” Furthermore, Bottin stated that he believes Dunn should “serve as an example of the type of personality and genuine care we need in a future Greek director.”
President of Delta Kappa Epsilon Chris Sainato ‘14 summed up the key attribute he hopes to see in a new director: “An ally.”