Q&A: President Schapiro talks Abolish Greek Life, standardized testing, leadership transition

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Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

University President Morton Schapiro. Nearing the end of his penultimate year at Northwestern, he discussed Greek life deactivations and goals for his final year as president.

Yunkyo Kim, Campus Editor

Members of The Daily’s editorial board sat down with University President Morton Schapiro last week to discuss Greek life deactivations, standardized testing requirements for undergraduate admissions and his goals for his final year as president. University spokesperson Jeri Ward was present. This interview was lightly edited for clarity and brevity.  

The Daily: The University recorded zero cases from May 14 to 20. What is your biggest takeaway from how the community responded to the pandemic? 

Schapiro: If there are any safer communities in the world, it’s Evanston, Northwestern campus and Streeterville. I really give the credit to the students, faculty, staff, everybody else, but it’s really the students who behaved in an incredible way.  

The Daily: What do you think about the movement to abolish Greek life at NU?

Schapiro:  It’s probably part of a larger movement to create campuses that are safe and inclusive. I know that, historically, it’s been an important part of student life, but I trust the students if the students don’t want to affiliate. 

The Daily: How much do Greek organizations contribute to University donations?

Schapiro: I’ve never seen in my 12 years in Northwestern that (Greek life) has had any impact on fundraising. I have no idea about how other people might feel. It’s not an issue for me, whether a fraternity or sorority is kicked off campus or not.

The Daily: Why hasn’t the University released a statement of solidarity about the violence in Israel and Palestine over the last two weeks, especially given how it is deeply affecting multiple groups in the NU community?

Schapiro: Well it’s certainly affecting multiple members of the community. There’s no doubt about that — both people of Palestinian descent and friends and allies and obviously Israelis, but Jews. If you look at the violence facing the synagogue a couple miles away from here in Skokie, if you look at the attacks on Jewish diners in LA a couple days ago. It’s a really perilous time. A number of people said, “If you can’t unilaterally condemn the actions of Israel, don’t say anything.” I couldn’t and I didn’t. I believe that extremism on both sides is absolutely horrific. 

The Daily: This year saw NU’s first-year admission rate fall to 6.8 percent after the University adopted a standardized test optional policy due to the pandemic. Will the University continue the test optional policy for future cohorts? 

Schapiro: I assume there will be some spirited discussions about whether you bring it back. I don’t really know how that’s going to turn out. It’s something I’m going to miss — I love reading undergraduate essays, and I love interviewing students, and I do dozens of those. But it’s not my authority to actually make those final decisions.

The Daily: With the close of the academic year, what are you looking forward to as in your last year as president? 

Schapiro: We gotta get through graduation and treat the graduates from 2020 and the new graduates from 2021 the way they deserve. We’re working every day about how to do that — make sure everybody walks across the stage and all that — and then we have to be ready for the fall. I really want to reinstate a lot of the traditions that I was part of creating. I’m looking forward to easing the transition. If this search is successful, as I have every reason to believe it will be, they will name my successor in the middle of December.

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Twitter: @YunkyoMoonK

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