Evan Downey On 'Leveling' with Fraternity Men and New Beginnings

Evan Downey (Photo by Durin Hendricks)
Evan Downey (Photo by Durin Hendricks)

Often Evan Downey chooses to sit at the spare front desk in the Office for Campus Living and Community Development. He wears a simple t-shirt, khakis and plain brown shoes. He has been mistaken as a work study student because of his youthfulness, when in fact, Downey is the adviser for DePauw’s Interfraternity Council, the student-led governing council for DePauw fraternities.

“I think a little bit of it as kind of just the millennial way to work, and how we don't like being cooped up in our offices,” said Downey on why he sits at the front desk. “I like to be able to talk to people or go for a walk. Overall, you work to live, and you don't live to work.”

Downey is from Mooresville, Indiana, 30 minutes south of Indianapolis. He completed his undergraduate degree in public relations at Franklin College, close to his home. While he was in undergrad, he was inducted into Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity (TEKE).  

“When I got to school, I thought the last thing I would become would be a fraternity man,” Downey said, talking about his rushing experience. “I hated the whole stereotypical nonsense of you know, the Croakies, the bro side and everything so that was everything that I opposed to be(ing).”

He rushed TEKE because they were the “misfits.” Downey described the chapter as not being sports-driven. He said that felt he could always hang out with any of the brothers. “I'd be lying if I said they didn't have an awesome social scene as well,” Downey added. He finds that DePauw has a similar Greek life to Franklin College’s small campus and Greek system.

Downey did not expect he would still be an active member of Greek life three years after his graduation. “I knew that I wanted to work in higher education, but I wasn't really sure where, but I knew that the environment was just constantly learning, constantly improving itself,” said Downey. When he saw an opportunity at DePauw to work as the IFC adviser, he moved to Greencastle with his girlfriend to take the position without a second thought.

Downey has been with DePauw since August 2018. As IFC adviser, Downey collaborates with the executive board of IFC and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life to act as a liaison with the administration. Downey has also used his position to “level” with fraternity men to improve DePauw’s campus. He said he would have appreciated an administrator that would have “beeen real” with him and helped him when he was in undergrad..

IFC President Andrew St. John has been open about his appreciation of Downey. “Evan has been great. He's always available, always helpful. He's always thinking forward and when he says he’s going to do something, he does it and always follows up.” St. John praised how Downey uses his position to advocate for the IFC. Currently DePauw’s fraternities are hoping to institute an IFC Community Standards Board to oversee some infractions against IFC houses instead of the university Community Standards committee. “He has pushed the whole Community Standards Board idea up the food chain and he's been keeping after it consistently. That's huge for us.” said St. John.  

His office, where he frequently meets with Greek life members, is adorned with posters of pop culture: Chelsea football club, Game of Thronesand Star Wars.

“I would be inclined to say Cersei,” said Downey on the character who plays the “game of thrones” the best. “I thought she made every move wrong that can ever be made. Yet, she's still hanging in there. She's still a very, very prominent figure, whereas many other people that I would have thought played it a little bit better are now dead.” Cersei Lannister, played by actress Lena Hadley, is one of the queens in the show, who is characterized by her ruthless, violent and vengeful way of protecting her family and eliminating other characters.

The affable Downey moved into DePauw-provided housing, adopted a beagle puppy with his girlfriend, and was well received by many associated with DePauw Greek life. He enjoyed his job.

But on Feb. 26, he was informed that he was being laid off, along with 55 other staff members, as part of a plan to reduce DePauw’s debt.

“It was surprising,” said Downey when he heard his position was eliminated.

“I thought that, you know, that position was going to be something that was going to be very relevant on this campus for quite some time,” said Downey. The IFC adviser elimination came at the same time the Board of Trustees and the DePauw administration began to expand outreach to Greek life and alumni in the form of the Greek Strategic Initiatives Board and the Greek Community Board. Downey’s fellow advisers from the Panhellenic Association, the National Pan-Hellenic Council and Multicultural Greek Council have not been let go.

According to Kevin Hamilton, assistant dean of students, the IFC adviser position was eliminated based on who was last hired. Hamilton confirmed that the elimination came from the Vice President’s office and a position in Campus Living was eliminated for the same reason.

Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life Dean Harwood commented, “I will say one thing: we love having Evan and have had a great experience with him. He's done a fantastic job. I think it's important to recognize it's not the IFC position that was eliminated. It is a position. And he just happened to be in that position. So, framing it as the IFC position was targeted to be eliminated is inaccurate.”

Downey does not feel angry about being laid off, although he anticipated being in Greencastle longer and “establishing some roots” in the city.  When asked if he agreed with his firing Downey remarked, “There are more intelligent people than I that make these decisions. And so, I'm hoping that they do have a game plan.”

The leadership team at CLCD, which includes Kevin Hamilton, Dean Harwood, Director of Campus Living Yug Gill and Assistant Director of CLCD Nicci Collisi,  is still figuring out how to replace Downey’s position by cutting the workload across CLCD. “We are literally in the middle of restructuring and structuring what CLCD will look like with one less person,” said Hamilton. Downey has not been included in conversations about who will take on his workload; however, he does not want to “drop things on everybody’s laps” as he leaves.

“I just cherish the time that I’ve had to work here and with the students I've had the opportunity to work with. So, I've been very, very blessed in my professional career thus far.”

Downey does not know where he is going next but has an optimistic spirit. Master’s degree in hand, Downey wishes to continue working in higher education around the Indianapolis area. He says that he will leave DePauw with other eliminated staff members on June 30 without any regrets or feelings he made the wrong decision to work at DePauw.