On Monday afternoon, in Ontario Hall, I met Arman Partamian's parents. They had come to campus to clear out his room. It was heart-rending. I can only try to imagine how difficult it was for them.
If the rumors about the cause of Arman's death are true, it stems from his involvement with a group called "the Pigs."
For some time now the Pigs, also known as "the Orange Knights," a non Greek-letter social organization, have functioned in Geneseo as an unauthorized social club. In the '90s, at an off-campus party they sponsored, two students became critically ill as a result of alcohol poisoning. At that time, the college revoked its recognition of the organization, and it has been prohibited from publicizing the organization or recruiting members on campus.
In recent years, the college has repeatedly advised new students and their parents in writing of the existence of groups like the Pigs that "have no affiliation with or supervision by the college." We stress that these groups do not abide by the expectations of the college and that pledging or joining these groups involves "a significant risk of physical or emotional hazing." We also warn that "students who pledge/join unrecognized groups do so at their own risk."
Despite this and other policy and programmatic actions, groups like the Pigs have not disbanded, and they continue to recruit and pledge members - students as well as non-students - as if they were a recognized college organization.
The college respects the freedom of students to associate with whomever they please. Yet now a student lies dead, and his family and friends grieve.
How can we as a community endure the continued functioning of groups such as this? In the past, our students, faculty and staff have affirmed the values of this College and let it be known that certain types of actions are unacceptable. I wonder why the members of our community tolerate organizations whose very existence threatens the well being of our students.
My heart goes out to the Partamians. The College has taken all of the official action it can to minimize the ill effects of the presence of these groups in our community, yet the Geneseo community continues to be diminished by their existence. I turn to you in the hope that together we can prevent another tragedy such as that which has befallen our college and the Partamian family.
Robert A. Bonfiglio
Vice President for Student and Campus Life