Hoards of students returned to Ithaca in waves last Monday, a full week before the scheduled start of classes, in order to rush sororities and fraternities. While sorority rush is strictly dry and confined to the daytime, men rushing the Greek system are encouraged to attend late-night beer-soaked parties at prospective houses.
The Inter Fraternity Council points to statistics suggesting that evening events are only of secondary importance to students who consider joining a house; the fraternities themselves, however, continue to lavish outlandish sums of money on rush week parties, and it is not uncommon, as a result, for a house’s rush budget to run in the tens of thousands of dollars.
To suggest that parties and alcohol have no natural role to play in fraternity recruitment risks sounding naive — undeniably, alcohol and parities are common throughout Cornell and within the Greek system. Even so, the astronomical expenditures frats pour into rush week are worrisome for a number of reasons, first among them being that such recruitment strategies can often project a distorted notion of what the Greek system represents.
It is not uncommon to hear stories of fraternity rush events that aim to appeal to recruits’ basest instincts. The IFC acknowledges, for example, that while chapters are discouraged from using strippers as a rush tool, the practice does occur.
The use of exotic dancers has decreased in recent years, but even still other unseemly pastimes continue to pervade the process. Illustratively, despite the IFC’s recent efforts to curb binge drinking during rush, a student required medical transport to the hospital after drinking too much at a rush event last week, according to IFC president Greg Schvey.
It is possible the fraternities involved violated no regulations leading up to the incidences, and that the students who got sick simply made poor choices. Yet, parties during the rush process played a role in this hospital visit.
Fraternity life is not narrowly focused on sex and alcohol, but by giving chapters license to spend ungodly sums of money on exactly that, the IFC is in effect forcing recruits to base their ultimate choice of house on those very factors too often. Not to mention that when some frats’ budgets dwarf those of their competitor chapters, the playing field isn’t exactly even.
Fraternities are valuable members of the Cornell community, dedicating thousands of hours each year to community service and producing some of the University’s most accomplished alumni. However, during rush this spirit is often drowned out behind the debauchery that takes center stage during fraternity recruitment.
The IFC has done a decent job of encouraging chapters to maintain a safe and responsible rush environment, but it should do more to see that fraternities do not place such an emphasis on alcohol and parties during recruitment.