November 18, 2014

EDITORIAL: Reforming the Quarter System

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On Thursday, the Student Assembly unanimously endorsed an investigation of the controversial quarter system, which regulates formal contact between freshmen and Greek chapters. The system — which was established in 2011 in order to curb unsafe behaviors — places strict limits on official contact between freshmen and sororities and fraternities. The S.A.’s move was prompted by widely-shared concerns that the quarter system has driven contact among members of the Greek community and freshmen underground, popularizing unsafe and unregulated off-campus social events. We at The Sun share these concerns and applaud the S.A.’s unanimously approved resolution as a meaningful step towards the improvement and reform of the University’s Greek system.

Prior to the institution of the quarter system, freshmen were permitted to attend open parties at fraternities. These events were typically heavily regulated, with sober monitors and bouncers present to guarantee the safety of attendees. The quarter system — which prohibits freshmen from attending Greek events during the first academic quarter and permits them to attend only non-drinking events during the second academic quarter — has pushed drinking among freshmen “behind closed doors,” particularly to unregulated, informal events at residences in Collegetown. Further, it has severely limited formal Greek contact with new students at Cornell, engendering difficulties for first-semester freshmen who are interested in learning about the fraternities and sororities on campus. An investigation and reevaluation of the quarter system by the University community is certainly in order.

We at The Sun believe that contact between members of the Greek community and potential new members should be regulated in such a way as to maximize student safety and facilitate engagement. The popularity of unsafe, off-campus drinking events and the hurdles that Greek chapters face in establishing relationships with first-year students suggest that the quarter system has failed to achieve both of these aims. With this in mind, we welcome the Student Assembly’s unanimous call for an investigation of the quarter system. Reforms that improve the accessibility and safety of freshmen contact with the Greek community are certainly within reach, but we at The Sun believe that in order for the evaluation process to be fruitful, it must be informed by input from students.