Thea Gonzales contributed to this article.
During last night’s Greek Council meeting, council representatives, presidents of Greek organizations and executive board members were informed by Katey Bignall of her departure from Augustana College at the end of the 2017 academic year.
This decision was not made lightly. Bignall has been the director of Augustana Greek Life since July 2009 but has been in communication with administration for the past five months regarding the value of her position on campus.
Bignall told those in the meeting how her own personal values did not match those of administration, and made the decision to leave through her own accord. She will continue to fulfill her duties until the end of the 2017 spring term, with Ken Brill, director of Student Life and Leadership, taking on her role temporarily.
The council was also informed along with her departure, how the position of greek life director will be terminated “due to budget cuts”, according to members of the council, and will not be replaced.
President of the council Franco Sposito was informed a month in advance of Bignall’s decision, as the president and the director of greek life hold close relations. He served as a facilitator answering people’s question during the meeting, but not much guidance was given to him on handling the situation.
“This is something that will become a problem later on, there is so much leadership coming from Katey and that office…Without it, it’s hard to imagine how Greek Life will function,” Sposito said.
Elections for executive board positions will take place in two weeks, and Sposito said it will be up to next year’s’ council to handle what comes next. He will stay in touch with the new executive board when the transition takes place, as most of the leadership will be coming from the council.
The council serves as the liaison to the 14 sororities and fraternities on campus, with 14 different chairs responsible for the representation of the groups. It also handles advising and events such as tailgates, the new member process and the recruitment in the Spring.
Sposito said the relationship he had with Bignall was essential, with the president making sure the council runs smoothly and hers assuring the stability of Greek Life as a whole. Without the partnership, Sposito believes the responsibility will fall heavily on the president and the council, which is a lot to fall on the students.
Public relations and technology chair of the council Montserrat Ricossa shared her concerns over the decision made with Bignall shortly after the meeting.
“From my perspective, Ken already does so much on campus, and this added title will be overwhelming. I just feel like it’s not fair to the 43 percent of the campus,” Ricossa said. “Katey is the voice of the greeks, and our fear is that administration will push us to the side.”
As of this year, over 40 percent of the student population is involved in Greek Life at Augustana, and the system has been around for more than 100 years.
Ricossa understands how the director of greek life made tough decisions towards the greek organizations at times, but sees them as necessary for that position to establish order and communication with the rest of the campus community.
“Even though she isn’t the most loved, she’s what we need,” Ricossa said.
Mitch Kragenbrink, first-year student and newly activated Omicron Sigma Omicron member, recognizes that Bignall acts as one of the only bridges of connection between Greek life and Augustana administration.
“I think she is important just because I know a lot of times during pledging we saw her as kind of a nuisance because she made us do things and gives required guidelines. But in hindsight, she gave us all structure, and without that structure, we would collapse. She acts as someone from administration who is on our side. Especially because OZO is already pretty low in numbers, I would be worried because without her outreach, it might make Greek life decline overall. I think OZO should be worried most particularly because we’re so small: there are 24 actives now,” Kragenbrink said.
A petition was started shortly after by Ricossa and other members of the executive board, with the goal to show administration how important this position is to a majority on campus. Regardless of who fulfills the position, Ricossa and others find it necessary for the position to continue.
Within an hour, 382 people signed the petition.
Many students expressed concerns on social media on the decision and felt it would be detrimental to the greek community without the direction of a Greek Advisor. A demonstration is planned to take place on May 3, the same day as Symposium Day, in response to the decision.
“This is a peaceful demonstration and we want to prove how important the Greek Life Director position is in a civil manner,” the Facebook page for the demonstration announced.
This is a developing story, check back for more details.