This summer, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life announced the appointment of Eddie Banks-Crosson as director, a position he officially assumed on Aug. 17.
The hire comes after a series of controversies at Penn involving Greek life. Last April, Alpha Chi Omega announced its move off campus, with Pi Kappa Phi following suit over the summer. Last December, Phi Delta Theta received widespread criticism for an allegedly racist holiday photo and was subsequently placed on probation.
Following the first few weeks of serving in his new role, The Daily Pennsylvanian sat down with Banks-Crosson to learn about his background, his positions and his goals for the future.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND?
I’m an inner city kid, from Birmingham, Ala. ... I knew I wanted to go away from home ... Went to [Jacksonville State University], had a great experience but learned very quickly that I was unprepared to be there. So I had a young man that was a hall director that called for me one day in his office ... he said, “I like you, have you ever thought about a fraternity?” And I was like, no, I don’t want to be a part of anything like that. He said, “Okay, I’m going to invite you to our information meeting, if you choose to go, or not go, my door is always open to you.” So I knocked at the door — I didn’t go to the information meeting — and knocking at that door changed my life.
So, fast forward — I finished school with a degree in PR, had a great undergraduate fraternity experience, learned a lot, had never ever been out of the state of Alabama until I joined my fraternity. So I’d like to think that my fraternity also opened the door to national and international travel and learning about different cultures and people ... As I thought about what I enjoyed most about my collegiate experience, it was really doing work with my fraternity.
WHAT DO YOU FEEL ARE THE BENEFITS AND DRAWBACKS OF BEING INVOLVED IN GREEK LIFE?
If I look at my own experience, I had a group of young men that pushed me to be better than what I perceived myself to be, but those men also held me accountable ... my experience and the experience of students that I’ve worked with has been that we’ve been able to navigate this thing called college because of the people that we surround ourselves with. And I think back to some of my fondest memories in college — work with my fraternity brothers.
I think that I wore a suit coat because of my fraternity. I learned to tie a tie because of my fraternity. I learned to function in American society and be a socialite because of my fraternity. Those are the things that I would say are some true benefits to being a part of that group. And I learned a lot about myself. I tell people all the time: I can do anything because I was in a fraternity, because we didn’t necessarily have to like each other to get the job done. And that’s how I approach my philosophy and my work — we don’t have to love each other, we just have to get the job done.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR GOALS FOR THIS SEMESTER AND THIS YEAR?
The goal for this semester and the year is just to really get to know the Greek community at Penn, get to know my staff and get to know what it takes to get the work done. I think it may not be as dramatic as people want it to be, but I think that’s my honest answer.
WHAT CHANGES DO YOU PLAN ON MAKING TO THE OFFICE AND TO GREEK LIFE AT PENN?
Right now, I’m getting new furniture, so I think that’s something I can be open and honest about, but again, I don’t have an idea or sense of what needs to change, and I think the basic answer is ... my vision and direction is just to be great.
HOW DO YOU FEEL THAT THE GREEK SYSTEM AT PENN, BESIDES ITS SIZE, COMPARES AND CONTRASTS TO THOSE OF OTHER UNIVERSITIES?
I’ve been to a lot of campuses and I think the themes are similar. One I can speak directly to is connection. You know, they [students] don’t feel like they have opportunities where they can engage with one another ... I reflect on what a millennial is: You are so connected to your computers and your hotspots and your ... cell phones and everything being connected that there is a component of social interaction that just isn’t there in some students. Being able to help them be comfortable in settings where they can engage and learn about people — that’s a part of why a lot of people today affiliate. They’re looking for this instant community. And so my hope is to really navigate those spaces as well.
THERE HAS BEEN A RECENT TREND OF FRATERNITIES AND SORORITIES MOVING OFF CAMPUS. WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THAT?
I think my opinion is that adults make adult decisions ... I do know that choosing to relinquish your charter ... and still trying to maintain an experience that is unsupervised can be very dangerous.
And you know, I’ve heard things in my career. The institution, there’s too many rules for us to follow. And I don’t really see them as rules; I see them as safety guidelines. And I think that when we reflect on what an experience is today in society we have to think that...things change and societies change, and so expectations change. And we have to be able to navigate those expectations appropriately and necessarily.
SOME MEMBERS OF AXO AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS THAT HAVE GONE OFF CAMPUS HAVE SAID THAT THE CHOICE WAS A GOOD ONE BECAUSE THEY NO LONGER HAVE TO DEAL WITH THE NEGATIVE STIGMA THAT’S USUALLY ATTACHED TO BEING IN GREEK LIFE. DO YOU AGREE OR DISAGREE?
I had a conversation with a group of students that are leaders in their organization and they said, “We’re working to try to provide quality experience for every student on campus, but we’re competing with a group where underage students can go and have alcohol.” So I would, and I’m not going to get in a debate about whether it’s good or bad, but what I’m saying is, you as an adult are making a decision where you’re okay with what happens next. And so that’s what I say ... Once you’re a member of a Greek organization, you’re always a member of a Greek organization, whether or not you want to acknowledge it.
HOW DO YOU PLAN ON HANDLING THE RECOLONIZATION OF AXO? IS AXO AN ON-CAMPUS AFFILIATED SORORITY THAT PLANS TO RECOLONIZE?
I am not directly involved. My supervisor is leading that charge, because he has the history ... my understanding is that the group never closed — members chose to leave. So the group is still technically an active group and I think however that looks moving forward is up to us and their national organization.
Some quotes have been edited for clarity.
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