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This past Monday, Oswego State administration denied a Freedom of Information request for documents related to past disciplinary records of Oswego State-affiliated fraternities and sororities, citing the FERPA rights of the members of the organizations as the reasoning for denying the request.
Since FERPA only applies to an individual student’s rights, we appealed the decision, explaining we were not interested in individual names, only the actual charges against the various organizations. We asked the university to reconsider its decision.
We requested the records as a reaction to the veil that has been placed over the Greek Life system at this university. It operates almost entirely in secret. We have been denied access to Greek Council meetings, had interviews refused by high-level Greek Life leaders and FERPA rights similarly cited when asking Student Involvement officials basic questions about the rules governing Greek Life.
It is our opinion that students, whether in Greek Life or not, have a right to this information. Greek Life is a massive part of this university and affects the day-to-day life of every student on this campus. If a student is interested in joining a fraternity or sorority, he or she has a right to be able to access information about how often that organization has been disciplined.
Other universities seem to understand the value in transparency. SUNY Plattsburgh posts the disciplinary records of all fraternities and sororities on its website, easily accessible for anyone seeking the information. If a Plattsburgh fraternity or sorority is constantly facing discipline, that organization will likely lose members, who will see that this organization is not exactly of the utmost standing.
So it was with great disappointment that we heard back from Oswego State administration with our request again denied. When we cited Plattsburgh’s system, administration pointed out that Plattsburgh had created the system that they post online. In other words, it took the information and un-FERPA’d it. Oswego State administration is not required by Freedom of Information law to do this, and apparently does not see value in endeavoring to take on a task as exhaustive as retyping the violations without student names. So it can continue to refuse to release the current information it has.
How could administration abide by such a reckless lack of oversight? They are content to let their students enter in to fraternities and sororities completely blind to the organization’s past transgressions. The current system allows Greek Life, and the judicial system they are governed by, to operate completely void of public oversight.
The system has to change. It makes all other efforts toward Greek Life compliance appear completely hollow. There is absolutely no reason for students not to roll their eyes at the school’s semesterly anti-hazing emails when the school willingly hides all Greek Life violations from the public eye. The school must hold a magnifying glass on fraternities and sororities until all the constant violators wilt away. Until then, Greek Life will continue to be a sour topic among all students not directly involved.
Even if the law doesn’t require the university to compile this data, common sense does.