Waves of first-year students stepped into fraternities for the first time in their lives over the last week, kicking off what has become a crucial introduction period both for students interested in campus night life as well as fraternities hoping to welcome their new guests.
As fraternities like Alpha Epsilon Pi, Sigma Chi, Leo and others opened their doors to a class of over 1,500 new students, many have come to recognize that they play an influential role for each new cohort of first years. As this awareness spreads, fraternities are doubling down on methods of keeping parties safe and welcoming for people of all genders.
“Most freshmen come to Yale knowing very few people, if any, so the first parties they attend are open fraternity parties,” said Francisco Torres Rojo ’17, the president of AEPi. “I think Yale is unique to other universities in that most Greek organizations [at Yale] throw open parties regularly, which creates a much less exclusive, oppressive space for everyone.”
Opinions of this year’s Camp Yale fraternity parties from first years were mixed, although all 12 of the first years interviewed noted that the appeal of Greek life is a largely subjective issue that differs from person to person.
Anna McNeil ’20, director of university affairs for Engender — a student group that assesses the role fraternities play in perpetuating an unsafe and sexually harmful social culture at Yale — noted that while fraternity parties are theoretically open to all, they often remain unsafe and hostile spaces for many attendees,“especially young women first years,” who are lured in by prominent houses, name recognition and the promise of free alcohol.
McNeil told the News that fraternities “definitely have a monopoly over social spaces” in the first weeks of the year.
That does not mean, however, that fraternities exist within vacuums. In the last several years, a host of organizations have begun to work with the organizations, including the Community and Consent Educators and Unite Against Sexual Assault at Yale. Torres Rojo said that his organization appreciates the work of Yale’s first year counselors, CCEs, and Community Health Educators and only wants to make sure that “everyone can have fun at our parties while respecting themselves as well as others.”
While he said that Yale does a good job integrating first years into campus life, Torres Rojo said he understands that confronting a foreign social space can remain a daunting task and that the openness of fraternity parties “goes a long way to make first years feel like they belong here.” AEPi, he noted, makes risk management a top priority during camp Yale by keeping track of how much alcohol is being served and making sure students don’t drink too much. According to Torres Rojo, members of his frat’s executive board remain sober at their parties to better ensure safety.
Scott Patton ’19, the president of Zeta Psi, told the News that even though his fraternity is known as a “football frat,” he tries to offer all first years at their parties a good time so Zeta can extend its appeal to students not just on the football team.
Other members of Yale’s Greek scene who are also active during Camp Yale echoed Torres Rojo’s sentiment of good will towards first years. Max Mao ’20, a member of Sigma Chi, said that he hopes his fraternity offers a compelling example of brotherhood to first years interested in Greek life. He acknowledged, however, that he never actually ventured to a Sig Chi party during his first Camp Yale last year. Simiarly, John McKissack ’20, a member of Chi Psi, noted that the idea of rushing a fraternity never occurred to him during his first camp Yale and that he consciously avoided fraternities for a while until he felt socially settled.
Still, other fraternities consciously decide to stay out of the Camp Yale festivities: Nicholas Hardy ’18, president of Delta Kappa Epsilon, told the News that its members’ participation on fall sports teams keeps them too busy to throw parties this time of year.
Elyse VanderWoude ’21, a first year in Berkeley, noted that students make fraternity parties out to be a bigger deal than they actually are.
On the other hand, two other first years recalled that they had not expected fraternities to be so popular and stuck to social events on Old Campus as well as the amenities at Global Grounds. Conor Downey ’21 said he ultimately found frat parties to be too “ravey” for him, while others had their experimentation cut short: Sophie Pollack ’21 explained that she lost interest in frat parties entirely after the one she went to was abruptly shut down.
First years who have enjoyed their time in fraternities this fall said they are looking forward to when the crowd levels dissipate later in the year. Bartolomeo Rondelli ’21 said that while the fraternities have been hectic, he understands their value and how their parties are an easy place to hang out with friends.
Residences first opened to upperclassmen on August 23.
Britton O’Daly | firstname.lastname@example.org