Prospective singers might be less surprised when their rooms are stormed by a cappella groups on Tap Night this coming fall.
The Yale Singing Group Council drafted a proposal Sunday that would allow groups to pre-tap rushees, or offer them spots before the official Tap Night in late September or early October. While current SGC rush rules currently prohibit a cappella groups from pre-tapping, SGC members said unofficial pre-tapping is already common among many groups and that legalizing the practice could help to level the playing field for the few that still abide by SGC guidelines. The recommended changes to the rush process have not been finalized, SGC co-chair Ian Janer ’11 said, and will be reviewed when the next SGC chairs are selected after spring break.
“Pre-tapping is not inherently bad,” said Janer , who is a member of Mixed Company and the Whiffenpoofs. “By making the rules more lenient, it allows quite a few groups to go through rush without breaking any rules, whereas in the past because of how many groups pre-tap, it can be seen that groups who follow the rules have lost their competitive edge.”
The majority of the council agreed that pre-tapping should be allowed within certain limits, following a set timeline and limited to rush meals, phone calls or e-mails. A majority of attendees also agreed that the SGC should not define a formal system obligating groups to pre-tap rushees, according the meeting minutes.
Despite current rules barring pre-tapping, most of Yale’s a cappella groups still use this strategy, both Janer and co-chair Gussie Binns-Berkey ’10 said. The council tried to deter groups from breaking the rules in 2009 by making the consequences for pre-tapping more severe, Janer said, but the policies seemed to have no impact. No groups were punished for pre-tapping this past fall, and only the Baker’s Dozen incurred a penalty, for alcohol-related reasons.
Eleven of 13 freshman interviewed Monday night said they were pre-tapped for their respective a cappella groups. Of those 11, six said they were pre-tapped by multiple groups.
“I think it’s fairly inevitable that groups will express their interest in you prior to Tap Night, whether it is formally or just by indicating that you would be a good fit for their group,” Spizzwink Brandon Levin ’13 said. “By legalizing some sort of pre-tap procedure, I think the SGC would be alleviating some stress for both rushees and groups on Tap Night because they will have a better idea of where they stand.”
Janer also said he thinks allowing pre-tapping would help to decrease the stress of both rushees and a cappella members by giving prospective singers the time to make more informed decisions about what groups they join. Authorizing pre-tapping would also cut down on what the council called “sketchy things” in its meeting minutes e-mail, such as pressuring freshmen to join a particular group and taking rushees on late-night walks.
One freshman rushee, who spoke anonymously to avoid getting any groups in trouble, said he was pre-tapped by four different a cappella organizations and went on six “late-night sketch walks” around campus with members prior to Tap Night. He said he hopes allowing pre-tapping will eliminate these walks.
Sara Stalla ’13, a member of the all -female Something Extra, said she thinks women’s groups tend to use tamer methods, such as pre-tapping dinners, while men’s groups have more “cult-like rituals.” Other a cappella members told stories of friends who were taken to the tops of buildings or who received midnight visits from zealous recruiters.
In Sunday’s minutes, the council expressed concern that authorizing pre-tapping could make Tap Night boring. But Janer said he thinks the official Tap Night will remain more than ceremonial.
Twelve of the 13 freshmen interviewed also said they are in favor of pre-tapping, and 10 said they support the SGC’s proposal to allow the practice.
Carmen Thunem ’13, who joined Shades in the fall, said she thinks the benefits of pre-tapping outweigh its costs.
“If you know before Tap Night that you are going to get pre-tapped, I don’t think it ruins the surprise at all,” Thunem said. “It gives people a chance to think about what groups they really want to be with because it’s a big commitment — it’s three years.”
The Singing Group Council presides over 15 undergraduate a cappella groups.