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The Observer

Case Western Reserve University's independent student news source

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Travis Apgar, former RPI dean, to become CWRU’s vice president for student affairs

Travis Apgar, current associate vice president for student life and dean of students at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), will join Case Western Reserve University as the new vice president for student affairs, as announced on Dec. 8 in The Daily. He will arrive a year after the retirement of Lou Stark, former vice president for student affairs. Apgar will be the first non-interim president to preside over a much larger Division of Student Affairs since many different campus services were placed under its domain. The university stressed that he was a part of a “slate of finalists presented to them by the search committee, which included students, as part of a national search.”

“Given his decades of experience in student affairs, President Kaler and Provost Ward felt that Apgar is best suited to be the next leader of student affairs at Case Western Reserve,” the university said when asked for comment. “As they noted in The Daily announcing his appointment, he understands the exceptional opportunities students have at a leading university and knows how to support them so that they grow and excel throughout their time on campus.”

When asked to provide comment, Apgar noted that he is “honored and thrilled by [his] appointment as vice president for student affairs at Case Western Reserve, a university preparing individuals to shape the world’s future across critical disciplines.”

His career at RPI draws many accolades and some criticism. This includes two large changes made to Greek Life and the student governing system, both of which inspired student commentary.

In 2018, RPI was rocked by severe allegations regarding hazing and sexual assault in its Greek Life system, with such claims making their way to local news sites and social media. A university-sanctioned report found that in the 2017-2018 academic year, half of their sexual assault complaints occurred at Greek Houses and parties, despite Greek students only making up 23% of the student population.

In response, RPI created the Greek Life Task Force in June 2018, of which Apgar was a member. He previously spoke against hazing on college campuses, describing his personal experiences with hazing while rushing a fraternity. The committee’s first step was canceling recruitment for the fall 2018 cycle, but it was shortly reinstated due to alumni outcries. As the work of the committee progressed, Apgar was in charge of implementing the recommendations of the task force in June 2019. Most controversially, the committee recommended the installment of deferred recruiting, so students who were considering joining Greek Life—both fraternities and sororities—had to be full-time students at RPI for at least one semester prior to rushing.

Deferred recruiting at RPI was implemented without comment from student leaders, leading to intense community meetings. Throughout these meetings, Apgar was the face of these changes to Greek Life, serving as a discussant and directly responding to students’ questions and concerns. Shortly thereafter, a committee of students formed “Save RPI Greek Life” and threatened to protest, with their protest poster specifically calling out Apgar.

Many online forms, from Reddit to College Confidential, claimed he had a vendetta against Greek Life. However, Apgar authorized a multicultural society and fraternity council at RPI, and he frequently cites his Greek affiliation.

Apgar also oversaw a changing structure of the Union, which is RPI’s student government. Controversy over the Union started in 2016 when the Union’s director resigned. When Apgar arrived at RPI 2017, there was controversy over how much power the president’s office should have in hiring the Union’s director.

During this, Apgar denied a request for students to protest. The denial was reportedly due to safety concerns and a lack of resources from RPI to manage both Homecoming festivities and a large student protest. Once the protest was over, Apgar and his office began “pursuing judicial inquiries” against students involved in the protest, according to The Polytechnic, RPI’s student newspaper. Afterwards, Apgar received a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union, calling the charges against the students “spurious” and “inappropriate.”

Apgar further responded to many claims stemming from controversy over the Union. Most notably, in 2018 there was a claim of election interface over elections for the Union’s grand marshal, their student leader. Union organizers claim RPI was trying to undermine the confidence in the vote after pro-Union candidates won, while administrators claimed legitimate procedural and fairness issues were raised. By the start of the 2018-2019 academic year, a new director was hired due to student objections.

When contacted by The Observer, Apgar did not provide comment regarding his time at RPI.

However, Apgar did express his anticipation for his time at CWRU. He said, “I am eager to start, and looking forward to gaining insights from students, colleagues, families and alumni/ae about CWRU, and how I can further elevate the student experience.”

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About the Contributor
Zachary Treseler, News Editor
Zachary Treseler is a third-year student majoring in international studies and economics, with minors in art history and French. Outside of writing to The Observer (sometimes at the last minute), you might be able to catch them walking backwards around campus, in Northeast Ohio's various bookstores, or seeing a show at Playhouse Square. Zachary also makes fudge…sometimes.

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