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.

Comments

  • eli1

    > “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.”

    This quote by Comrade Miller sums up exactly what is wrong with Yale administrators and how they just do not have a clue. While she consulted with absolutely no Greek leaders about the policy she sure is certain that what she wants is “best for our students.” Absolutely ridiculous.

    > 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.

    Really dude?? You want to limit freshman attendence at fraternity parties? Is there anything more invasive and draconian than telling students where they can and can’t go on campus? And only the frats are singled out? Again, the frats have no connection with the university due to the intense beaurocratic overreach seen here. Also, the fact that Greek organizations exist primarily for social reasons is just flat out false. Tell that to dke brothers who raised thousands of dollars in honor of their brother who succombed to cancer last year. Or the same brothers who raised thousands of dollars to help a former brother open an education center in Africa. Or the aepi brothers who do all kinds of good deeds throughout the community. Or to the Greek community in general for largely being the driving force behind Relay for Life fundraising each year. The social aspect is a huge part of frat life, no doubt, but it certainly isn’t the only part.

    In her brief time as Dean Mary Miller has done much to destroy many of the freedoms that used to make Yale great. I seriously hope some form of resistance is mounted to this policy before she can spread her hate any further.

    • elijah

      “Exclusively” and “primarily” are not synonyms.

      Side note: I think fraternities are problematic for all sorts of reasons, but I agree that the administration is being dishonest when it claims that their disproportionate focus on socializing is a reason for greater scrutiny. Most campus groups, whether they admit it or not, exist primarily for social reasons.

    • eli1

      I agree with you. One other thing…what exactly is so wrong with social groups? I’d love to hear this from Mary Miller. The majority of my best friends at Yale were people I met through fraternity rush my freshman year many years ago. These are people that I would have not been friends with were it not for my fraternity experience. Why should I be denied the experience of making friends early in my Yale career. Another newsflash to Fuhrer Miller: having a few beers while socializing with friends has been a way to make freinds since the beginning of time, and you are doing freshman a great disservice by trying to stop this.

      I, for one, am also looking forward to the banning of a capella rush. During this event I see a lot of drinking (ie. socializing) and not very much singing. For some weird reason I’m sure this tradition will go unchecked.

    • Branford73

      > In her brief time as Dean Mary Miller
      > has done much to destroy many of the
      > freedoms that used to make Yale great.
      > I seriously hope some form of
      > resistance is mounted to this policy
      > before she can spread her hate any
      > further.

      Get a grip. Yale was pretty great (it’s always a mixed bag) in the early 70’s and the only fraternity there was DKE, a very minor presence then. Spring rush makes a lot of sense to me, having seen my own kids at ACC schools do it in the Spring and everyone seemed happy with it. A ban on freshman party attendance is too far, but if the Greeks commit to not creating a secret rush season in the Fall that could likely be bargained away.

      • HighStreet2010

        Why should the Greeks give up anything to the administration? There is no good faith on their part, just threats. Why turn to appeasement?

        What is the administration going to do? Ban freshman from stepping foot inside certain buildings around New Haven? Punish officers if they talk to freshman? Will fraternity pledge manuals be contraband on old campus, punished more harshly than illegal drugs and alcohol?

        How does that reconcile with the University’s values? The administration is free to levy punishment against participating in perfectly legal organizations? Cool precedent.

        How do you define “primarily social”, which seems to be the administration’s method of distinction?

        • Branford73

          I don’t know and don’t care how time consuming rush season is at Yale or when you have it, or even if a Greek system exists at Yale. If Fall rush is so important to you, then argue for it, of course.

          But language like “destroy many of the freedoms that used to make Yale great” and “spread her hate” seems quite an overreaction.

  • River_Tam

    Looking forward to banning acappella rush during 1st semester.

    • hippiemc12

      Actually MUCH better to ban A Cappella rush than Greek rush. A Cappella groups are stealth frats and sororities. Many freshmen don’t know what they’re getting into before committing to a group and must subsequently sacrifice most evenings and break. Frats at least have truth in advertising.

  • anon

    This is really ridiculous. In the report on Greek life that was issued last spring, Miller cited to schools like UPenn as examples where schools regulated Greek life unhindered. She and the rest of the administration utterly fail to recognize that in nearly every school where such regulation exists, it is coupled with SUPPORT FROM THE ADMINISTRATION. If Yale wants to treat fraternities differently from any other organization, it needs to give them a reason to want to be treated differently. Mr. Arfin’s decision highlights how poorly designed this policy is. Admin: Hey you have greek letters in your name, you have to listen to me now. Frat: Not anymore, we now have mayan symbols in our name, but we’re going to keep doing the same thing. Admin: oh, that’s cool, we didn’t really think at all about what these organizations are doing on an individual basis anyway. We sure as hell don’t care to ask.

  • RM80s

    Branford73 is right. In the early 1980s, at least before the 1984 strike, the situation was much as Branford73 described. Yale was pretty great (though, as Branford73 put it so well, “it’s always a mixed bag.”) DKE was the only fraternity most Yale students I knew had any inkling existed and it seemed indeed a very minor presence (at least, for most non-members.) At any rate what sort of “rush” “freedoms” there were on campus then for fraternities, I have no idea. But even though struggling along in our blissful ignorance, I and the rest of my classmates seemed to make friends — perhaps because back then, we were not facing that oh-so-dire pestilence of Dean Mary Miller “spreading her hate.” And to be fair, I’ll admit there were then a number of other things that were making Yale the great place — fantastically talented students, many incredible faculty members, etc. So I must concede — and particularly if the tenor of the present discussion is an indication — that perhaps the relative contributions of those other factors to Yale’s greatness have diminished at present and that the “freedom” of “freshman attendence [sic] at fraternity parties” really has become the key to present Yale greatness.
    And perhaps I’m biased. After all, given the opportunity, I would likely have supported a ban by the then Yale College Dean, of SAC parties, parties at which, even in the face of dismal kegs of truly awful beer (Black Label?) and vats of vile-looking, grain alcohol “punch”, some freshmen were reportedly meeting each other. There were perhaps, even rumors of freshmen making friends at these events! So, in fairness, I must admit that I may indeed at one time have supported the brutal crushing of a precious “freedom,” under the jackboots of an authoritarian and uncaring Yale Administration, a “freedom” that even then was keeping Yale the (mixed bag of a) great place it then was. Thank heaven the then Dean never gave me the opportunity to give voice to such thoughts.
    So keep fighting the “good fight” for Yale greatness…. I guess…

    • HighStreet2010

      Well you see, Yale kicked all the fraternities off campus and stole their houses in the years before this time, which is why there wasn’t much Greek presence on campus while you were there. Now the fraternities are back and the administration wants to do the same thing again. Luckily now the fraternities are completely independent so we’ll see what happens.

      I’m glad that you had fun at Yale and that Greek life wasn’t a part of it. It still isn’t for the majority of the population, though numbers are rising. Nobody thinks of Yale greatness in terms of parties and that isn’t our reputation nor should it be.

      However, you’re dodging the point. Though overstated by eli1, the fact is that the dean is singling out fraternities for no apparent reason (hence the perceived hatred) and removing the freedom for freshmen to join whatever organization they want to join.

      If the dean came out and said that she thinks fraternity parties (or SAC parties or whatever) are the worst thing ever, are drunken and disorderly, a health hazard, reflect poorly on the community etc that would be just fine, the offending fraternities would change things around and fix that perception if they knew the administration (or the YPD) was going to come down with the hammer.

      This is not that, however. This is the administration telling an organization that they cannot recruit, with no reason as to why their recruitment is negative, why the organization is negative, or how it differs from anything else that’s going on around campus. Which is what lead to the (slighly hyperbolic) statements that the dean hates fraternities and is destroying the freedom of student organizations in her crusade.

  • RM80s

    I’ll do this in 2 parts, because, as an old guy, I love a podium.
    Part I
    A question — does the Dean really have to come out and say something is “the worst thing ever” in order to take some action? That standard does again sound — how did you put it — oh, yes, “slightly hyperbolic,” for there are always, of course, any number of things one might call “worse.” But I must beg your indulgence — in the admittedly peculiar world in which I now reside, that of statutes and case law, Judges and Juries, discovery and trials, we often are faced with — bother of unholy bothers — a balancing of benefits versus costs. To one accustomed (by habit, perhaps) to such an admittedly burdensome decision making process, a metric like the one you so boldly propose might seem to to elide — or as you might put it — “dodge” the issue of a balancing of cost and benefit in its promotion of a “the worst thing ever” test. Oh well. But perhaps that’s the “point” — at least to my jaded and as I admitted, old age narrowed and nostalgia-tinged view — I was trying to make, while “dodging” whatever the original poster’s point may have been — perspective rather than absolutes. A weighing rather than an absolute “worst thing” standard.

    So forgive me, in my ignorance of the life “Greek” (that term still sounds so odd…) and my suspicion that Yale will still be a great (sort of) place even if Mary Dean of Yale slams that hateful iron fist of hers down on poor innocent freshman frat freedoms. For in my dotage, one thing– of what friends often say is quite apparently very, very few — that I learned at Yale is just how incredibly inventive and resilient Yale students are and so, forgive my suspicion that … they will survive and prosper even in the face of all this Dean Mary Miller action. (I even must admit, that this resilience may even win out in the case of the issue that I, again in my ignorance, find perhaps more troubling, the expansion of the residential college system without, apparently, a concomitant increase in the size of grad programs… but anyway, I suspect this tedious topic, devoid as it is of talk of “freedoms” likely bores.)

  • RM80s

    Part II.
    A note of admittedly limited relevance. There’s an old adage from my twisted world — “saying it doesn’t make it so.” I thought of this, for some odd reason, when I read that some of the original statements were “slightly” hyperbolic and that the story (such a wonderful word that) is somehow that “Yale kicked all the fraternities off campus and stole their houses in the years before this time, which is why there wasn’t much Greek presence on campus while you were there…” Now, as one who lived through that time (are you really, btw a 2010?), who am I to dispute that story, but I’ll give you what my age enfeebled memory has to offer for giggles if for nothing else — the frats weren’t much of a presence then because Yale students of my (and Branford73’s) time — at least the ones I knew — just weren’t that interested. There was DKE, of course, but otherwise, many of us were quite (sort of) content in our blissful ignorance of the “freedoms” we were missing. (BTW, we did have many wonderful and mostly legal alternatives to SAC parties, and there are, in fact, reports of other “fun”, for example, that some members of a college that will go unnamed were rusticated for food fight in the dining hall and having a bonfire in the Courtyard, so it wasn’t as if our ignorance of “freedoms” made us (completely) cloistered.) Anyway, in my bizarro world, it was particularly the increase in the drinking age and a bit, perhaps, the catalyst of the 1984 strike, that led to a resurgence. And the totalitarian overlords that form the Yale administration — surprisingly, you might think — didn’t really stand in the way if this frat Renaissance. But, again, don’t let the meanderings of a doddering old guy get in the way of a good story.

    Yes, young Yalies, the Dark Ages of my time may once again be upon you as the forces of Lux are encircled by the dark lords of Administration, but fight your good fight and even if you lose (valiantly, of course) be comforted that once you graduate, you are beyond those dark clutches (though you have substituted being subject to a lifelong bounty hunt by that eagle-eyed posse, the AYA.)