Bwog spoke with former Greek Judicial Board (GJB) Chairman Matthew Renick about his resignation following the decision on the 114th street brownstones. The GS/JTS student is former President of AEPi. In interview below, Renick explains himself.
Bwog: Do you think the statement was appropriate? Do you regret sending it?
Renick: No, I do not regret sending it.
Bwog: Do you think that it will positively or negatively affect the image of AEPi and the broader community?
Renick: The statement was not made on the behalf of AEPi, which is why I did not mention my affiliation with AEPi in the letter. The statement was made as the Chairman of the Greek Judicial Board and as a representative of residential programs and the Columbia University Administration. I felt that there had been significant problems with the way the whole thing had gone. I don’t think it should have any bearing on the reputation of AEPi. …this was not done or sanctioned by AEPi, nothing like that.
Bwog: Your criticism is with the result of the committee as a whole, but the outcome disappointed you.
Renick: Yes, the outcome did disappoint me, but the outcome itself is not the problem I had. It was that the administration had said, “This is what the brownstone committee is looking for.” Then, clearly, that is not what they actually looked at. They told me, and every other chapter president, that the ALPHA Standards of Excellence were going to be the most important factor in determining – if they were going to choose a Greek organization, that was going to be the way they evaluated them against each other. And for them to then take a 4-star chapter over two 5-star chapters…I felt like they had not been truthful to me.
Bwog: Can you explain the ALPHA Standards process?
Renick: ALPHA Standards was put in place in December of 2010 as a way to evaluate every Greek organization on campus.
Bwog: Was that a response to Operation Ivy League?
Renick: No, it was actually put in place one day before Operation Ivy League. It’s split up into five different categories which spell out ALPHA: Academics, Leadership, Philanthropy, Housing, and Alumni. They’re available; you can see it online. Based off those results, fraternities and sororities could be evaluated against each other and would have certain privileges. If you were below three stars, you were put on every kind of suspension, and if you did not improve the next year you would be kicked off campus. If you got five stars, you would be in the running for chapter of the year, you’d get funding to go to your national organization’s convention, things like that.
Bwog: Were you told ALPHA Standards would be used to judge each Greek organization against each other, or separate between sororities and fraternities?
Renick: The understanding was that all Greek organizations would be held to their ALPHA Standard scores. This was never put down in writing. This was never the most clear thing in the world. That was one of my big complaints. I kept bringing this up to the administration, trying to speak to people and say, “This doesn’t make sense,” and I wasn’t getting any response. I was just getting told, “We’re going to go through with it. It will be fine.” So, yes, my understanding was that every Greek organization was going to be held to their ALPHA Standard score.
Bwog: Do you think the fact that AXO got a brownstone despite the fact that they had a lower ALPHA score than AEPi is a sign of some ulterior motives?
Renick: I can’t speak to the committee’s potential ulterior motives. What I think is, they told us that ALPHA Standards was going to be the most important factor, and they had a lower ALPHA Standard score than us. AXO does great work on campus, and they were very deserving of this brownstone. What I don’t think is OK is the process by which this was decided. Information was presented to the Greek community, and it does not seem like what they told us is how they actually evaluated these things.
Bwog: Do you think that the Operation Ivy League legacy had any impact on the decision?
Renick: Unfortunately, yes. Even in some of your comments on Bwog, on Spec, the thing by bored@butler. It’s clear that Operation Ivy League is still remembered on this campus. We did not get any specific questions about it during the presentation, which we were prepared to address. Now, I can’t say whether or not it was, but I’m searching for reasons why 5-star chapters lost out to 4-star chapters.
Bwog: Do you think the notion that history should impact the current decision making process is ill-conceived?
Renick: No, I think history absolutely plays a role, but I think you also need to look at what AEPi and Pike overcame. Look at AEPi and Pike and compare it to Psi Upsilon, for example. PsiU is still here, but they only got three stars, and they’re not recruiting at the same level as AEPi and Pike. AEPi and Pike made very concrete decisions to change the way they did things. If you’re going to look at us as Operation Ivy League, that’s fine. That is a part of our history, and that is very valid to bring up. But you should also recognize the challenges we had above and beyond the other organizations that were applying and decide whether or not we responded to it. I think the fact that we’re a 5-star chapter proves we did a lot.
Bwog: The first thing you criticize about the committee is that it was made up of, you say, “random students.” So what do you think would have been a better way to form the committee?
Renick: The committee was supposed to be representative of the Columbia student body, at least in some capacity – this was never really made clear. But I think that there are so many elected people on this campus–you have the four councils which are democratically elected, ABC and SGB, even the Inter-Greek Council and the Chairman of the Greek Judicial Board. These are people who Columbia students have put in these positions of power, that they believe can lead, and I’m saying if all those people are available why do we need to have a separate application process where two or three administrators are picking members of the committee.
Bwog: You also criticize Dean Martinez for failing to protect the anonymity of the people on the committee, implying that they would face social pressure to decide in a popular way, maybe in line with Bwog comments…
Renick: Initially, we were told that the committee would remain anonymous, the same way ALPHA standards committee remains anonymous. That would have made a lot more sense because the problem is, you release these names, you guys [Bwog] and Spec’s gonna write about it, people are gonna talk about it. And that puts pressure on individuals. I’m not saying anyone was subjected to threats or anything like that, I’m just saying I don’t know. It’s not fair to put these students in that position because you don’t know what anyone’s going to say to them. Why would you subject them to this when it could be done in a much more effective way? If you are going to release the names and have this be an open and transparent process, it needs to be with people who are democratically elected–comfortable speaking on behalf of students.
Bwog: Do you think there’s a dominant anti-Greek bias on campus?
Renick: No. I don’t. I think a number of people are ambivalent to it. The Greek community is very strong internally, everyone in the Greek community really believes in it and in what we have to offer. There is a certain segment of the Columbia population that is extraordinarily anti-Greek, for reasons that I don’t understand, but I don’t think there is a dominant anti-Greek bias. That might come out in Bwog and Spec comments, but I don’t think that there actually is.
Bwog: Anything you’d like to clarify for our commenters?
Renick: Just that I support the organizations that got the brownstones. My argument is not with them, it’s with the process. This was not done honestly, and there’s a million ways it could have been done better. The fact that there were a variety of students that were not listened to, and that obvious problems were pointed out and ignored, shows that it was not an effective way to go about it. These three organizations will do great things in their houses and I support them, but that does not make me think that the process was done the way it should have been.
Interview edited for brevity and clarity.