College hires external investigator to uncover underground Greek life

by Sonia Lachter

Fraternity brothers and a woman student line a fraternity house fire escape during Spring Carnival in the early 1970s.

The College is hiring an external investigator to aid in eliminating “underground Greek organizations and secret societies,” according to an email sent to the student body from Dean of the College Karlene Burrell-McRae ’94 on Feb. 26.

In an email to the Echo, Burrell-McRae wrote that “students are often attracted to Colby partly because we do not have fraternities and sororities on campus. Upon arrival, those students are usually dismayed to hear from other students that we have underground societies trying to continue the legacy of Greek life.” Burrell-McRae explained that the College employs the services of external investigators “with some regularity,” but that the common practice is to not “announce their engagement to anyone other than the parties involved.” She said that in the current situation, “given the profile and importance of this issue, we found it appropriate to disclose the involvement of the investigator.”

The investigator, Jon Goodman, has been previously employed by the College, Burrell-McRae added. Goodman’s professional experience “includes conducting independent employment investigations in the areas of discrimination, retaliation, sexual misconduct, insubordination, employee theft, physical assault, unprofessionalism, drug use, abuse of authority, criminal allegations, and other types of misconduct.”

According to his law firm’s website, Goodman served as a sergeant with the Portland Police Department, has a law degree from the University of Maine, a master’s degree in Education from the University of Southern Maine, and a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Maine.

Members of Delta Upsilon and guests are shown at a mixer at a Colby fraternity house in the 1950s.

In terms of what students can do to help Goodman’s efforts, Burrell-McRae highlighted the kinds of evidence students can provide. Such evidence could include “detailed information involving names of individuals, locations, dates, the nature, structure and name of the organization, videos, texts and other digital communications, logs and books, membership and pledge lists, paraphernalia, proof of rituals, admission of membership in a secret society, recruitment information, activities, etc.” She added that a student coming forward with such information must also be willing to reveal information to an investigator or a conduct board.

For students concerned about the risk of supplying information non-anonymously or of revealing their own involvement with an underground organization, Burrell-McRae said, “we will consider leniency for those involved in a secret society who come forward with credible information. At the same time, we will strictly enforce our policy against retaliation to protect anyone — whether a member or not — who comes forward with credible information that informs the investigation.”

In 1983, the College’s Board of Trustees voted to abolish Greek life on the College’s campus. In a Colby Magazine article from 2006, Julia Hanauer-Milne explains that “in 1983 the Board of Trustees created the Trustee Commission on Campus Life and charged it with conducting ‘a comprehensive inquiry into residential and social life in order to determine whether contemporary arrangements sufficiently reinforce Colby’s educational mission and to recommend improvements.” The Commission eventually recommended the abolition of the College’s eight fraternities and two sororities. However, 35 years later, members of the College’s student body still engage in Greek life through secretive underground organizations.

In Burrell-McRae’s email to the student body, she wrote that College President David A. Greene has “made clear that our goal is to eliminate secret societies from our community and that we should act quickly to achieve that goal.”

Indeed, it seems that the administration is seeking to respond to the recent public allegations, particularly a post from Kabir Singh ’20 on Feb. 22 entitled “A Very Relevant Story.” In the post, Singh describes part of the recruitment process for a secret society, Erosophian Adelphi, during his freshman year.

Singh did not join the organization, and his post serves as an exposé of some of the organization’s processes and ideologies which he encountered in his experience. He writes: “This group of toxic men thought they were the saviors of this campus. They have the privilege to remove themselves from the issues of campus into a literal frat in which they believe they can forge healthy masculinity safe from those who challenge them.”

In Singh’s post, he mentioned that he was told that alumni of the fraternity would be present at a future event. He also recalled that one of the reasons given to him for joining the organization was the “benefits of having a great alumni net

work for jobs.”

When asked about the role of alumni in perpetrating the College’s under

ground fraternities, Burrell-McRae wrote, “I am not aware of alumni role, if any in this secret society. The College has been contacted by an alumnus offering information about EA and the investigator will be interviewing the alumnus.”

Singh concluded his Civil Discourse post by saying that, “Erosophian Adelphi is an underground ‘frat.’ I write this at this time on campus (this past week, today, and this weekend) very intentionally. I hope that this information is useful.”

Burrell-McRae echoed this sentiment, stating, “we are at a unique and unprecedented time in which members of the community have come forward with information about these secret societies in ways we haven’t seen before.”