March 15, 2011

A Rash Decision

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THE INTERFRATERNITY COUNCIL’S DECISION on Friday to ban social events at fraternity houses this past weekend was rash, poorly thought out and ultimately achieved very little in the way of substantive progress toward any of the Council’s stated goals of bettering the student body and the Greek community.

The IFC publicly stated that the major impetus for the prohibition of social events was to recognize the Board of Trustees presence on campus and to demonstrate to them the IFC’s capacity to control its member fraternities. Yet the decision fails to advance the Council’s primary objective of creating long-term safety in the Greek system.

In reality, the Board of Trustees has virtually no involvement with the Greek community. In an interview last week, Board of Trustees Chair Peter Meinig ’61 told The Sun that he does not directly oversee the Greek system, instead leaving that responsibility to the University’s administration on campus. He added that he has not even been made aware of any student feedback or backlash regarding the fraternity rule changes.

Yet another stated reason for the prohibition of social events was to assert the Council’s authority and prove its ability to control its member fraternities to University administrators and Trustees. Cancelling social events on a single, relatively arbitrary weekend, however, was unnecessary to demonstrate the IFC’s power to control and affect change within the system. In fact, no one has questioned the Council in this capacity.

Only two short months ago, the organization successfully executed a dry night of rush week, the first in a series of steps that will overhaul the Greek system. The Council has also remained strong in continuing to move forward with the plan. Though one may disagree with the general policy, at the very least, the dry night in rush week progressed toward a stated, tangible goal: to make the Greek system safer for the student body in the long-term.

The same cannot be said for the ban on social events this past weekend.

The decision itself was not only poorly conceived and based on false pretenses, but the timing of the IFC’s verdict bolsters the claim that this was an impulsive decision made at the last moment. The Board of Trustees meeting has been on the University calendar for months. The IFC discussed and reached its decision to ban social events this past Friday afternoon, sending out an e-mail shortly after.

Viewed in this light, the IFC’s prohibition on social events at best can be seen as a power move intended to exercise its authority and assert control; at worst, however, it can help reinforce claims that the Council is increasingly shifting to the side of the administration on major matters when it should be representing the needs of the majority of fraternity members it represents.

Unless the IFC opts to ban social events throughout the rest of the semester or takes a week-by-week approach towards whether to prohibit them for a given weekend — two initiatives that IFC leaders have dismissed — banning social events for a single weekend does nothing to achieve long-term safety in the Greek system. In the end, it fails to achieve an institutionalized change that can be replicated from year-to-year and begin to attain the long-term safety in the fraternity scene that it desires.

To be successful at this, IFC leaders should refocus their efforts on initiatives that will begin to reach the root of the problem and institutionalize long-term change in thinking and action. The organization should shift its attention toward uniting and educating the Greek community, searching for alternative venues for social events beyond fraternities and increasing outreach to better gauge the pulse of the student body on major issues — not just relying on those who attend their meetings.

The IFC is a powerful organization, and the individuals involved in it deserve a good deal of credit for working to preserve a major piece of social life on campus. At the end of the day, however, they are representatives for one-third of the undergraduate male student body and cannot afford to take actions that are arbitrary, ill-conceived or undertaken hastily. This will only lead to frustration, confusion and resentment towards the Council.

The IFC must take the time to carefully plan and consider the consequences of any decision — with an emphasis always on long-term goals.