November 20, 2011

OFSA Limits Information It Receives From Fraternity Parties

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The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs will no longer collect information from ID scanners used to keep freshmen from fraternity parties, administrators confirmed last week. Students had previously complained that their privacy was being infringed upon by the scanners, which collect information about which fraternities they visit.

Since the start of the semester, fraternities have been required to use the scanners — which indicate students’ names, class years and whether they are 21 years old — at registered social events. Previously, OFSA staff received this information about each student after events, but the scanners are now modified so that the office will only be able to access the total number of freshmen who attended each event.

“We concluded that it was unnecessary to have that level of student detail … to provide the Greek community with a means to determine students’ class years when considering their entry to an event,” said Travis Apgar, associate dean of students in the OFSA.

The changes were enacted shortly after Fall Break, according to Kara Miller, associate dean of students and advisor for the Interfraternity Council.

“We got feedback from chapters and people around campus [and] we realized that people were upset about this issue … so I brought it up with the OFSA,” said Dan Freshman ’12, IFC president. “We felt like the easiest thing to do was to solve it.”

Apgar said it was too early to know if the scanners have been effective in improving safety in the Greek community. He added that the intent of introducing the scanners was not to monitor chapters’ compliance with IFC policies, but to give them the opportunity and means to abide by rules. Accordingly, there have been no incidents in which the OFSA used information collected by the scanners, he said.

Miller said, however, that OFSA staff “will be able to use that data to follow up as necessary.”

Similarly, Apgar said that “the generic student information we continue to receive provides us with enough information to determine if the chapter is using the devices in an effective manner.”

With fraternities sending less information from the scanners to the OFSA, several students said they felt that chapters would be more relaxed about abiding to IFC regulations.

“I don’t think they’re going to be strict about it at all. … It’s a flaw in the system,” Kriti Agarwal ’15 said. “Now that frats don’t have to send information in, they won’t be held accountable — they’ll either not scan [IDs] at all, or it’ll just be for the formality.”

Stephen Pawlak ’15 agreed, saying fraternities would “probably let more freshmen in and not worry about it as much” with the changes in the scanners.

Chapter leaders, however, refuted perceptions that the changes would encourage fraternities to disobey restrictions on freshmen attending social events. Under the quarter system, implemented in August, chapters were not allowed to interact with freshmen until Oct. 12. From then until the end of this semester, chapters are allowed to host events open to freshmen, provided that they do not involve drugs or alcohol.

Ken Babcock ’13, president of Phi Kappa Tau and incoming IFC vice president for judicial affairs and standards, said that despite the OFSA’s decision to no longer retain specific scanner information, he expected that “business will go on as usual.”

“The way the four quarter system policy is currently being enforced, it’s in our best interest to not let freshmen in [to restricted events]. I really don’t think that [the OFSA] not keeping information will affect anything,” he said.

While acknowledging that many fraternities host social events to informally recruit freshmen, Babcock questioned the assumption that restricting attendance has pushed chapters to find ways to step around IFC regulations.

“It isn’t OFSA’s job to make sure freshmen don’t go to events,” he said. “Our entire system is based on self-governance; it’s our job to acknowledge rules, and the scanners are proving to be a decent means for us to enforce that.”

Still, some raised concerns that the scanners have proven to be too effective in deterring freshmen from attending events, pushing students to resort to other drinking venues. One freshman, reflecting on his first semester at Cornell, said that with no place to go on weekends, students have frequently turned to drinking in their dormitories.

“Not having as many open parties, obviously, a lot of kids were drinking in the dorms. People are still going to want to party, so they’ll just do it in other places,” Keith Rayburn ’15 said.

Rayburn said that drinking in dormitories was inherently riskier than attending larger, open fraternity events, because of the lack of supervision in dorms.

“It’s probably more dangerous, because you’re just in a dorm, and you can’t do anything except drink and drink more,” he said. “If you’re going out, at least you’re not just drinking — you’re dancing, meeting people and have more motivation to not get as drunk because you don’t want to embarrass yourself in front of a bunch of people.”

Freshman said that though the IFC is concerned about unsafe drinking in dormitories, there is little it can do to address the problem. He said the University has shown no interest in altering the quarter system, despite the “considerable resistance and disapproval [of the system] expressed by the Greek community, most particularly the IFC.”

“Over the summer, several proposals were put forth by the IFC to administrators designed to mitigate these concerns, but all were rejected,” he wrote in an email. “We hope that resident advisors … can tackle this issue, as it is their direct responsibility moving forward.”

Original Author: Akane Otani