SEATTLE — As the parent of a Gonzaga student who is an active participant in campus life and also a member of the Spokane chapter of Kappa Sigma fraternity, I am very disappointed by the recent portrayal of an organization that has contributed in such a positive way to my son’s college experience.
I understand and support Gonzaga University’s long-held policy of not recognizing national Greek letter organizations, but I must respectfully disagree with the negative light in which Dr. Biggs Garbuio portrays the organization in her letter entitled “Greek life not welcome at Gonzaga.”
Dr. Biggs Garbuio states in her letter that Gonzaga clubs and organizations provide opportunities for students to develop friendships and build community within the larger student body.
I would argue that the Kappa Sigma organization is no different.
Rather than being restrictive and increasing exclusivity, Kappa Sigma requires members to participate in a minimum of two Gonzaga clubs and activities, so these young men are highly involved in the school community and campus life.
Rather than reducing social involvement, Kappa Sigma requires members to participate regularly in community service both on and off campus, so these young men are highly involved in activities such as tutoring, Habitat for Humanity projects, charity fundraisers, coaching local kids’ athletics and neighborhood cleanups.
The letter’s statement that these groups have “constituted themselves so that they cannot be held to the same standards of academics, student conduct behaviors, hazing, risk management or safety as the organizations recognized and supported by Gonzaga” is misleading because 1) the statement implies that it was Kappa Sigma’s decision, rather than the university’s, that the group is not under the school’s oversight and 2) the statement implies, incorrectly, that the university has had ongoing disciplinary issues with the organization.
While the university has chosen not to recognize Kappa Sigma and has therefore forgone the option of overseeing the chapter as they would a recognized club, the local and national Kappa Sigma organizations have their own very stringent oversight, including minimum GPA requirements, study hour expectations, high standards of conduct and a risk management program that includes alcohol safety measures and sexual assault prevention training beyond what is required of participants in other university recognized organizations.
Contrary to their portrayal in Dr. Biggs Garbuio’s letter, the young men who formed this organization did so with the utmost respect for the school’s history and community. These founding members met with university representatives before beginning the process of forming their organization and Kappa Sigma’s Spokane chapter has taken great care to follow the restrictions laid out by the university, including meticulously avoiding portraying themselves as a university-sponsored organization.
Gonzaga does, indeed, have a wonderful history of strong community, student engagement and social involvement. The students involved in the Spokane chapter of Kappa Sigma fraternity appreciate and value that history and respect the university’s policy of not recognizing Greek letter organizations.
I would expect the university, in turn, to respect the students’ right, as stated in Dr. Biggs Garbuio’s letter, to participate in this national service-oriented organization, rather than disparaging them in such a public way because they have chosen to exercise that right.
I urge the university to recognize the resourcefulness, collaboration and leadership demonstrated by this group of young men in founding a local Kappa Sigma chapter and to consider the many positive contributions of this “unrecognized organization” that encourages student engagement in both the school and the greater community.