January 28, 2003

Numbers Vary For C.U. Greeks At End of Rush

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Brutal Ithaca weather could not keep Cornell students from rushing back to campus a week early in aspirations of going Greek. With 37 fraternities and 13 sororities on campus, potential members trudged through the snow in search of the perfect match.

More than 1,000 students came back Jan. 14 for formal membership recruitment, informally known as “rush.” Although this number is not significantly different from last year, the number of men who joined fraternities went down from 488 last year to 406 this year. Women’s recruitment, however, increased; 421 women signed their bids in comparison to 382 last year.

Decreasing numbers in fraternity recruitment can be attributed to several factors.

“I have a feeling a lot more freshmen ‘suicide-rushed’ a specific house, which leads to the problem that if they do not get a bid at that house, they will not be able to pledge anywhere else because they never went anywhere else,” said Paul El-Meouchy ’04, Interfraternity Council (IFC) president and member of Sigma Pi fraternity. Some freshmen, however, still take the risk.

“Some houses did really well with over 20 guys in the pledge class and some struggled a bit more,” El-Meouchy said. The drop took some students by surprise.

“I was surprised to see that the number of freshmen accepting bids to fraternities dropped significantly this year,” said Zach Hollander, rush chair at Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity.

Nikki Letawsky, assistant dean of students at the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs did not have an explanation. “I am not sure why the men’s numbers dropped,” she said.

She was, however, pleased with the way rush went for the Panhellenic councils. This year the maximum number of girls that each sorority could accept was 37, according to Letawsky.

“Ten sororities made quota, one up from last year,” Letawsky said. “More girls were interested in the experience and overall we got a greater retention rate,” she said.

“Rush was a huge success this year. The numbers were up and everyone was in good spirits throughout the entire week, ” said Meghan Bass ’04, member of Delta Gamma sorority.

This year, Panhellenic Council changed its voting process, which may have made rush less stressful for potential new members. According to Bass, under the new system, members had to vote immediately after rounds, rather than wait until the next morning.

“This allowed girls to decide which houses they liked without worrying about being peer pressured into voting otherwise,” Bass said.

The weather, with temperatures as low as -20F, may also have played a factor in rush numbers this year.

“It was the worst it’s been in 10 years,” said Namita Khosla ’03, member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.

The weather, however, “didn’t seem to deter the determined rushes,” Bass said.

Although there are some changes in this year’s statistics, the Greek system, or as Letawsky dubbed it, “the Greek community”, is still going strong, taking seats on Cornell’s Student Assembly and Slope Day Committee.

Although there have been rumors of the University attempting to phase out the Greek System through the West Campus initiative and harsher restrictions on hazing, Letawsky does not see this as a threat to the system itself.

“Greek organizations have been here since Cornell opened its doors,” she said. “I don’t see that there are movements to phase it out; there are challenges but no specifics to phase it out.”

Since last January, three fraternities have been shut down by their alumni, Pi Kappa Phi, Chi Psi and Delta Chi. This semester, Pi Kappa Phi, Chi Psi and Theta Chi, a fraternity shut down four years ago, were rechartered.

Archived article by Veronika Belenkaya