Frats, scholars question rush ban

Under a University regulation announced earlier this month, Greek organizations cannot hold freshman rush during the fall semester.
Under a University regulation announced earlier this month, Greek organizations cannot hold freshman rush during the fall semester. Photo by Christopher Peak.

Yale’s ban on fall rush for Greek organizations replicates the policy of several Ivy League universities, but whether such a policy reduces instances of hazing remains contested.

Following the announcement of the ban earlier this month, an implementation committee composed of administrators and Greek leaders will meet Thursday to begin discussing the details of the new regulation. Higher education law experts interviewed said they recognize that administrators hope the policy will allow freshmen to become better adjusted to college life before joining a Greek organization, but they questioned whether the policy effectively combats hazing.

“We didn’t do this to be popular,” Yale College Dean Mary Miller said, “but we’ve done this to be in congruence with national practice and do what we believe is the best for our students.”

John Meeske, associate dean for student organizations and physical resources, said the committee will address issues such as freshman attendance at fraternity parties during the fall, adding that the ban applies to only Greek organizations since they exist primarily for social reasons, unlike other campus groups.

Meeske said Yale is not “inventing a draconian policy that nobody else does,” as administrators evaluated rush processes at peer institutions when considering the ban.

As Greek leaders at Princeton University have collaborated with administrators to finalize details of a similar policy announced last August, two Princeton fraternity leaders interviewed said they feel administrators have not adequately considered their concerns. In response to the new policy at Princeton, which goes beyond Yale’s new regulations by banning freshman rush in both the fall and spring, Greek organizations formed a Greek council with members of each fraternity and sorority to present a united front to the administration, said Jake Nebel, the former president of Princeton’s Alpha Epsilon Pi chapter. But Josh Miller, former social chair of Princeton’s Zeta Psi fraternity, said Princeton’s Greek council had no effect on administrators’ decision-making process.

Yale fraternities considered establishing a similar council last fall but ultimately decided against it to avoid excessive administrative oversight, fraternities leaders told the News at the time.

Josh Miller added that he thinks the only way students can effectively combat the new rule is with the support of alumni, who he said have more influence with administrators than current undergraduates.

In addition to negotiating with administrators, some Greek organizations at Yale and Princeton may try to continue their rush processes despite the bans. Avi Arfin ’14, president of Yale’s Alpha Epsilon Pi chapter, said his fraternity has considered calling themselves the “Jewish Men’s Club at Yale” and becoming a Jewish cultural group rather than a fraternity.

“The fact that this is a viable option underscores that the line the administration is drawing is somewhat arbitrary,” he said.

Arfin added that his group would still like to keep their ties to the national fraternity, and will wait to see the final details of the regulations before making any decisions.

Nebel said he does not think Greek organizations will conduct “underground rush” periods for freshmen because the risk of getting caught and facing penalties is too high, but Josh Miller said he thinks some fraternities may sidestep the policies by assuming new identities.

Four higher education experts questioned whether the policy effectively combats hazing.

Alison Kiss, executive director for the nonprofit organization Security on Campus, Inc., which addresses campus security issues, said she thinks banning fall rush for freshmen signals a “step in the right direction” but will not completely eliminate hazing issues. Campuses generally need a “dramatic” cultural change to eliminate hazing incidents, she said, adding that these changes can be difficult because of “institutional backlash” from fraternity members and alumni, many of whom she said often donate to the university.

“[The ban] recognizes the evidence that freshmen in particular are vulnerable to a number of things during their first few weeks of college,” she said. “[But] simply delaying when something happens is not a penalty, so I don’t see it as a deterrent from future hazing.”

The announcement of the ban at Yale came in response to a recommendation by the Committee on Hazing and Initiations, which formed after Delta Kappa Epsilon pledges made offensive chants on Old Campus in October 2010.

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