Following a resolution passed by the Academic Senate, student leaders and administrators are engaged in an ongoing discussion over potentially deferring greek recruitment to the spring semester for freshman students.
Representatives of the Interfraternity Council met with administrators last Tuesday to discuss the proposed changes. Panhellenic Council members met with administration on Monday.
On Sept. 30, the Academic Senate unanimously passed a proposal to defer greek recruitment. The proposal also requires transfer students to wait to rush until they have obtained a USC GPA. The Academic Senate hopes this will ease recruitment for students on both sides of the process, but greek leaders are opposed to both the proposal and the way the resolution was reached.
This proposal is not an action or policy adopted by the administration. Instead, it expresses the opinion of the USC faculty and is serving as a formal impetus for a conversation about greek recruitment at USC. This conversation is led by Ainsley Carry, vice president for Student Affairs, whose main focus is easing the transition into college for new students.
“We want to give new students a softer place to land when they come to college,” Carry said. “What is so bad about that idea? We want to make sure you feel comfortable before we put you in the game. I can’t see what’s wrong with that.”
The Senate attributed its concerns to a nationwide pattern of decreasing mental health and academic performance in first-year students. This pattern is reflected at USC, and many faculty members feel that it is especially true in the 45 percent of new students who participate in fall recruitment.
Academic Senate President Ginger Clark said that many professors feel that the recruitment process hits students too hard and too fast in their first weeks in a new college environment. Many are adjusting to life on their own, far from their families. In the Senate’s opinion, the week-long process of rush — followed by a period of pledging for many fraternities — provides too rigorous of an environment for new students.
“We know that grades suffer during the rush period,” Clark said. “We know that there is a lot of stress reported to us due to the rigorous social expectations, as well as the fear of being rejected. And then there is the impact of not being accepted for those who are not chosen. All of this in one’s first semester as an independent young adult? It doesn’t make sense.”
For senior Jake Simon, president of the Interfraternity Council, the proposal came as a surprise. The Senate and other members of the administration approached Simon and other chapter presidents in the past for informal conversations about the pros and cons of moving greek recruitment. However, Simon did not feel that the Senate gathered an adequate amount of student opinions to make an informed decision.
“What we’re mostly upset about is that, up until a few weeks ago, there was absolutely no student involvement here,” Simon said. “There’s a lot to be discussed when it comes to moving recruitment, and we need to be involved with that.”
Simon’s concern is shared by the Undergraduate Student Government, which is coordinating between the greek organizations and the administration. USG President Rini Sampath said that USG has yet to take an official stance on the proposal, but that they are prepared to make a formal statement in the future in support of what is most beneficial for students.
“My biggest concern is that the student voice isn’t being heard in this process,” Sampath said. “Our number one priority, regardless of their position on the proposal, is supporting the students this is going to impact first and foremost and ensuring that their concerns are being heard at the administrative level.”
Carry hopes to finalize conversations surrounding recruitment by the end of this semester. If he reaches the conclusion at that time that deferred recruitment is the best option, that policy will be implemented for the 2016-2017 school year. This means that sororities and fraternities would be expected to overhaul their recruitment processes in less than a year.
This timeline for deferred recruitment raises many concerns for the IFC presidents and chapters, including financial challenges for smaller fraternities who rely on fall recruitment to generate revenue and bring residents into their houses. These concerns are echoed by the Panhellenic Council, which also fears that deferring recruitment would complicate the process for active members and lead to potential “dirty rushing.”
The current formal sorority recruitment process takes place during the first week of enrollment. For active members, this week is preceded by a “polish” week to prepare for recruitment. According to Panhellenic Council President Caroline Cannan, moving this process to the spring would be a drastic and difficult transition for every sorority.
In order to prepare for recruitment, active members would have to return from winter break a week early, creating a logistical difficulty for out-of-state and international students. In the meantime, Cannan said that deferred recruitment increases the probability of “dirty rushing” — situations where potential new members interact with active members, either innocently or in the hopes of boosting their chances of success during rush.
On top of these concerns, the Panhellenic Council holds their positions for a calendar year, spending their first semester preparing for recruitment. This schedule would be entirely flipped, and the council’s timeline and leadership would have to adjust as well.
“I can’t imagine a smooth transition into it at all,” Cannan said. “Pushing it to the spring semester, you’re still going to have the same difficulties. Classes still exist, responsibilities still exist. I don’t think it will solve our problems.”
Concerns such as this are why both sides believe that the past three weeks’ meetings only serve as the beginning for a widened discussion. And during these conversations, both Carry and Clark emphasize that the Senate’s proposal is not meant to be “anti-greek.” Their hope is to analyze a significant portion of the new student process and to open this topic up for a campus-wide discussion in order to improve as a college community.
“I know it provides tremendous benefit to our University,” Carry said. “The Greek community creates a tremendous amount of good. I wish everyone could have that intimate interaction and engagement with a group of people. We need to lift it up. But we can’t ignore what is happening. We need to look at the process as a whole and start asking questions.”