Trinity College President, Trustee Chair Announce Plans to Step Aside as Debate Rages Over New Social Code

By May 6, 2013

This morning, Trinity College President James Jones sent an email to the Trinity campus community announcing his intention to step down from his post on June 30, 2014, one year earlier than his contract was scheduled to end. Jones will resign from his tenured faculty position at that time as well. In his email, Jones also announced that—at the same time of his planned resignation—Board of Trustees Chair Paul E. Raether will step down from the Trustees’ top position.

The announcement that these two top Trinity officials will be stepping down simultaneously is particularly notable given the controversy over Trinity’s new social code, which has roiled the Trinity community this year. As FIRE wrote last week and in a March 13 letter to Jones, the new code erodes freedom of association for fraternities and sororities in a host of ways, among them banning selectivity in membership, prohibiting affiliation with national single-sex Greek organizations, mandating quotas for "minority gender" membership and leadership, and threatening possible expulsion for students participating in unrecognized social organizations.

The new code gets relatively little mention in Jones’ email, as he highlights other achievements in his years as president, but the choice of Cornie Thornburgh to take the trustees’ leadership after Raether steps down suggests that the new code’s implementation looms large on the administration’s consciousness. As Jones points out, "Cornie is currently the liaison to the Board of Trustees as we implement the new social initiatives unanimously adopted in October from the Charter Committee’s recommendations." (What’s that Al Pacino line from The Godfather? Something about needing a wartime consigliere?)

Bloomberg‘s David Glovin, writing about Jones’ announcement, also notes the significant controversy brought by the new code, noting that "[s]ome alumni who belong to fraternities have formed a group that has threatened to challenge the initiative in court and said they have also been withholding donations to the college." Additionally, Glovin notes that the announcement comes mere hours before a planned campus meeting, sponsored by Trinity’s Inter-Greek Council, to discuss the new code’s threats to freedom of association. None other than FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff will be headlining tonight’s discussion.

Despite the controversy and criticism ignited by the adoption of Trinity’s new policies, Jones’ email states that he is looking forward to the policy’s implementation. The suddenness of this double-departure announcement suggests something else, however: an eagerness to pass the baton. 

Schools: Trinity College Cases: Trinity College: New Social Code Erodes Freedom of Association