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Haas departing for nonprofit role

By David McCabe and Lauren Toole

Director of Student Activities and Greek Life Christina Haas will step down next month, administrators announced this week. Her tenure was marked by an expansion of Kenyon’s Greek organizations and increased oversight over student groups.

Leaving in order to join the American Cancer Society, Haas will work with the non-profit’s Relay for Life Program, an event she has been heavily involved with at Kenyon.
Haas — who formerly went by her maiden name Mastrangelo — did not respond to multiple requests to be interviewed for this article.
Over her four years at Kenyon, people who have worked with Haas say she provided the Office of Student Activities with a new focus on leadership development and reformed a Greek system that had grown unwieldy under previous administrators.

“As Christina Haas heads off to new adventures,” Dean of Students Hank Toutain said in an email, “I’m grateful for her investment of enormous amounts of time and energy in helping students plan, develop and execute a range of campus programs.”

But some of her critics say her vision of Greek life was at odds with Kenyon’s history, and that the policies she introduced were often hard to implement.

“Defense Against the Dark Arts”

The odds were not in Haas’s favor when she arrived at Kenyon in 2010. Previous administrators tasked with overseeing Greek organizations had faltered, and none had stuck around long.
“Her position was a Defense Against the Dark Arts position,” said former Greek Council President Andrew Tint ’13, referring to the faculty position at Harry Potter’s Hogwarts that is perpetually filled by new individuals.
Under this leadership, the Greek system had struggled. The same year that Haas came to Kenyon, the campus chapter of the fraternity Psi Upsilon was put on five-year probation for, among other things, alcohol policy violations. Greek organizations were frequently lurching from one probationary period to another, according to Associate Dean of Students Tacci Smith.
Non-Greek organizations weren’t doing much better. Once an organization was registered by Student Council, nobody was regulating whether they were operating effectively or not, Smith said.
“When the position was open and she was applying, what we were saying in Student Affairs was, “You know what? Our previous folks, while they did well, it kind of hadn’t moved the department along,’” Smith said. “And there were a lot of things that needed some revamping.”

Standardizing “Excellence”

Haas’s first year as Director of Student Activities was “rocky” according to Tint.
“She had a vision for Greek life at Kenyon that wasn’t necessarily shared with us or discussed with us,” Tint said. “I think she tried very hard to implement her vision without the support of the Greeks or Greek Council.”
One of Haas’s most prominent movements within the Greek community was creating the Standards of Excellence. Its several components included academic, philanthropic, community service and Greek Council requirements that every Greek organization had to complete. Its goal was to hold Greek organizations accountable for their actions, given their unique place on campus.
But its introduction incited a backlash within the Greek community.
“The guidelines were confusing at first,” Henry Heuck ’15, president of Delta Phi (D-Phi) said. “There was a trial run, and I know many Greeks were confused about what was really expected of us … it was unclear as to what was mandatory and what was not.”
Though Tint supported the Standards of Excellence and found their contribution to Kenyon Greek life “completely valuable,” he agreed that a lack of understanding surrounded the Standards.
“I don’t think people were upset about Standards of Excellence,” Tint said. “I think they were upset about being forced to do them without even much of a discussion. … I think what ended up happening was that people were talking to her and she wasn’t talking back. When it became a group against her, I think she felt she was backed in a corner.”
Thomas Mattes ’15, co-president of Peeps O’ Kenyon, found that the Standards also forced an image of Greek life onto Kenyon Greek life “which is in my mind a very unique system.”
Heuck echoed Mattes’ statement. “I think that the Standards kind of pigeon-holed groups into a streamlined, cookie-cutter organization,” he said. “And the uniqueness of each individual organization was lost.”
For instance, the Standards require that every organization have 50-percent attendance at Greek Week. Organizations like the Peeps and the Archon Society have significantly more members than groups like Zeta Alpha Pi (Zetas) or Delta Tau Delta (Delts), who have around 30 members. Reaching that goal of 50-percent participation is significantly harder for larger Greek societies who must encourage more attendance than smaller groups.
“It’s hard to equalize the playing field just because we are all fundamentally different,” Zeta President Alex Kruse ’15 said. “There’s also a lack of transparency as to what the rewards and punishments of the program would be, which is very confusing and concerning for everyone involved.”
As to whether the program was effective, some members of the Greek community felt it did little to change the community’s perception of Greek life. “No one seems to know about the program except for the people participating,” Kruse said.
But perhaps the central contention surrounding the Standards of Excellence was that Haas’s vision of Greek life and the Greek perception of what Greek life should be did not align.
“She definitely had a direction for what Greek life should be and what student organizations should be, and she definitely worked toward that goal,” Heuck said. “But whether or not that goal was in common with the students and the Greeks, some would disagree.”
But something changed within Kenyon’s Greek system after Haas arrived. Under Haas’s direction, Greek Council received national recognition for council management and community service for the first time since the Council’s inception.
“None of that would have happened without Christina,” Tint said.

A New Focus on Leadership Development, with a Personal Touch

Though Haas’s role in Greek life had taken up the majority of her time, according to Smith, she also presided over a major expansion of the Student Activities Office — which serves every registered student organization at Kenyon.
When she was hired, the Office was a limited operation. Soon, an assistant director was hired to help with campus programming. This year, the office added another assistant director, Sam Filkins, who focuses on leadership development.
Haas also worked closely with a range of student organizations as an advisor. Until recently, she advised the managers of the Horn Gallery and continues to be the advisor for the Business and Finance Committee, which allocates money to student groups.
Haas is also the advisor for Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society program she will join in April. Since her tenure began, Kenyon’s Relay event has become a national leader in fundraising despite competing with far larger schools.
“She was the best advisor I’ve ever experienced as a student leader in high school or in college,” said Hannah Laub ’16, a co-chair of the Relay event. “She just got things done and had a positive attitude at all times and would always help us jump through hoops.”
And, Laub said, Haas hasn’t stopped at the bureaucracy’s edge. This year, the Relay committee held a bake sale to raise money for the event. Haas was heavily involved in the planning of the event, but surprised her advisees when she showed up with homemade chocolate-covered pretzels to contribute to the event.
They were one of the day’s top sellers.