Last Friday, USC released a letter requiring students who want to join the Greek system to have a minimum USC GPA of 2.5. Fall formal Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic recruitment for first-semester freshmen will be deferred to the spring semester.
USC has justified this decision by describing freshman year as the “toughest year of the transition to college as students experience the most social and academic challenges” and claims that “a number of our peer institutions have implemented policies that support first-year students by allowing them time to acclimate to the University’s academic and social climate before participating in Greek-letter organizations.”
Though the first freshman semester is a challenging time for many students, deferring Greek recruitment may do little to decrease stress and address pervasive mental health challenges, while negatively impacting future new students.
The first semester of freshman year is a difficult time to transition to campus life. Students struggle to juggle independence and cope with new tasks like managing money, acclimating to college classes and maybe even doing laundry for the first time.
But ultimately, most studies, including one produced by the American College Health Association and National College Health Assessment last year, show that many mental health issues among freshmen stem from loneliness. A freshman in their first couple of weeks of school wants to find friends, feel included and be comfortable in college life. Whether freshmen find this in sports teams, clubs or the Greek system, that decision should be available and open to them from their very first semester at USC. Prohibiting new students from joining the Greek system is both an overstep of USC’s involvement in student affairs, as well as discriminatory toward the Greek system.
The deferment focuses solely on the Greek system (which makes up just 26 to 27 percent of students), but does not address other campus organizations. Student athletes spend innumerable hours practicing and playing varsity sports, and freshman athletes have to adjust to the same unfamiliarities as their freshman peers while competing on the collegiate level, and yet USC does not limit the ability for these athletes to join sports teams. Many campus clubs are larger time commitments than Greek organizations and have received no directives from USC. USC cited mental health concerns among freshmen as a factor for pushing recruitment to spring, but the University is not taking steps to combat the issue among the other 73 to 74 percent of freshmen on campus. Either the University should mandate all clubs to defer student involvement, or should rescind the decision that specifically targets Greek life.
Additionally, citing peer institutions’ decisions to defer recruitment as a reason to pass this directive is a weak bargaining point on USC’s side. This University takes pride in its individuality and its culture of academic excellence, athletic performance, student involvement and social engagement. Using other universities as a rationale is not a valid reason for deferment.
Although USC cites adjusting to academic climate as a reason to push fall rush to the spring semester, the Greek system has a higher GPA at 3.34 than the rest of the student body at 3.25. Many sororities and fraternities mandate study hours and have minimum GPA requirements. The tight-knit communities of fraternities and sororities also ensure that students can find classmates to study with, or older students to tutor them. As an incoming freshman, receiving advice about classes and having older mentors can substantially relieve academic stress.
This mandate may disproportionately affect Panhellenic sororities. The Interfraternity Council at USC has traditionally participated in both fall and spring rush, and so financially, next year, the lack of a pledge class in the fall will be less impactful. For sororities, existing members could experience increased dues to make up for the lack of a pledge class next fall. Financially, this may render Greek life more exclusive, as some members may not be able to afford increased dues.
Incoming students should have the freedom to associate with whichever club or organization they desire. Limiting options and forcing students to wait for organizations they are eager to join not only conflicts with the independent spirit of USC, but could also have myriad unintended consequences regarding mental health and student wellness.