August 24, 2011

IFC Denounces University Plan to Accelerate Greek Changes

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The University suddenly announced this month that changes to the Greek system, which were previously going to be implemented over the course of a year, would become effective immediately. Interfraternity Council leaders were outraged by the decision but vowed to work within the regulations to preserve their system.

Effective immediately, chapters will not be able to interact with freshmen through informal and formal recruitment activities until Oct. 11, according to a memorandum issued Aug. 4 by Travis Apgar, associate dean of students. Most notably, first-year students will not be allowed to attend open parties.

The IFC Executive Board denounced the memorandum in a message to members of the Greek community, saying that the executive board had no input in the plan to restrict fraternity recruitment and were not consulted by the administration.

“We are not of the opinion that the way to remove the risk in our system’s practices is to remove the wholesale interaction between student populations, with the shortsighted belief that such a plan would be feasible or fathomable to hastily enforce,” the message said.

The prohibition on organized contact between chapters and freshmen within the first few weeks of school is just one part of new restriction imposed upon Greek chapters. The Board of Trustees voted to amend the University’s recognition policy for fraternities and sororities in November. The changes were originally intended to occur over a two- to three-year period but were advanced to the 2011-12 academic year after the February death of George Desdunes ’13, who was found unresponsive in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house and later died after an alleged hazing ritual.

Freshman said the IFC worried that the lack of contact between freshmen and houses would make recruitment difficult for houses and said the IFC intends to combat the six-week moratorium in the beginning of first semester with publicity for Greek life around campus.

According to Dan Freshman ’12, President of the IFC Executive Board, the IFC will turn Greek Week into a more concentrated event, called “Greek Fest,” between Sept. 23 and Sept. 25. The weekend will include events on North Campus and a concert open to freshmen. The IFC has also planned philanthropy programming events for each week of the first six weeks of the fall semester.

“Overall, the IFC needs to focus on programming and more daytime events to offset these losses,” Freshman said.

The memorandum separates the Greek system timeline into four quarters, with different policies and guidelines for each quarter. In the first quarter, from Aug. 19 to Oct. 11, chapter-wide contact between freshmen and Greek fraternities and sororities is eliminated entirely.

In the second quarter, called informal recruitment, freshmen can engage in activities — without alcohol or drugs — with chapter members to learn about individual chapters. This period begins on Oct. 12 and lasts until the end of first semester.

The third quarter is defined as “formal recruitment” and consists of both recruitment week and the new member education — otherwise known as pledging — period. No alcohol or drugs are permitted during either period of contact with freshmen, including night events.

“Even if the location of the event or activity is located outside of the chapter house or outside of Ithaca, alcohol and any other drugs are prohibited,” according to the memorandum.

“The IFC and the Tri-Council have jurisdiction of a governing body to address any violation, regardless of where it occurs,” Apgar added.

After recruitment week, the new member education period continues to prohibit chapters from conducting any social activities with alcohol or drugs if new members are present, including pledge parties and mixers. Hazing is also prohibited.

The fourth quarter, defined as post-initiation, can occur no later than April 2 and permits new members to enjoy the full benefits of membership of individual chapters.

When asked about the backlash he received from Greek leaders for his memorandum, Apgar said that the IFC’s complaints were inaccurate. He said, however, that  lines of communication between the administration and the Greek community could have been more open.

“I think that all around we could have communicated better in the process to put to pen and paper the implementation of how exactly the Recognition Policy Amendments would be applied in the course of this year,” he said.

The memorandum already has Greek chapters looking for new ways to meet freshmen outside of formal and informal fraternity events, including meeting freshmen through other organizations they are involved with on campus.

“I know we have a bunch of guys who were Orientation Leaders; that’s one way of meeting prospects,” said Carlos Cancela ’13, President of Phi Sigma Kappa. “Also, we have kids who are TA-ing classes or they’re involved in their respective academic realms. I’m sure some potential recruitment can come out of that.”

Still Cancela acknowledged that recruitment may be an insurmountable challenge to Greek life in the future.

“I know the University says you shouldn’t recruit on the basis of alcohol, but the fact of the matter is that alcohol is a prevalent part of the college experience,” he said. “Now with that aspect taken out, why is someone going to join a frat?”

Freshman said that, despite the absence of an adjustment period, the Greek community can continue to flourish in a new environment.

“I think there are going to be growing pains, but I’m hoping that chapters can work together and work in concert such that we are going to minimize our incidents and be as responsible as possible,” he said. “I’m hoping that with a good semester and a good year — which I’m optimistic about — we can see some of these changes being decreased or being loosened up.”

Original Author: Kerry Close