Greeks face pressure to update policies for first-year students

By Fleming Smith

Executive Staff

As fall returns to the Mountain, Greek organizations encounter increasing restrictions on how to handle rush and first-year students, some new, but most included in bylaws and policies often ignored and not usually enforced. After the car accident on September 29 that injured 10 female students, previously covered by The Sewanee Purple, Greek members face more pressure to include first-year students in a safe, careful manner. Current restrictions may become the norm, perhaps leading to changes in Shake Day next semester.

During Fall Break, Dean of Students Marichal Gentry sent an e-mail to the student body updating them on restrictions for Greek houses and first-year students. While first-year students would again be allowed to visit registered events at Greek houses, they would still be prohibited in cars of Greek upperclassmen if transportation was connected to rush events.

Regarding the limitations on Greek members driving first-year students, Coordinator of Fraternity and Sorority Life Forbes Mann (C’10) explained, “That came up in a review of the most recent Interfraternity (IFC) and Intersorority (ISC) bylaws, so that’s been a lasting policy, one that perhaps inadequate education may have happened about. But it identifies a behavior that has some risks.”

The bylaw in question, under Article III: Recruitment and Pledgeship, specifically states that “rushees may not leave the Domain with fraternity/sorority members during formal rush.” The new interpretation of the bylaw widens “formal rush” to include any events specifically treated as rush events by a Greek organization.

“The reality is, if these are being called rush events, if students are treating it as if it’s during rush, then it’s rush,” said Mann. However, he admits that there has been “no education, no compliance” regarding this rule. The bylaws were last revised in May 2010.

Intersorority Council President Yin Agbontaen (C’18) commented that bylaws have not been reviewed for a couple of years, and “this year, a goal of ours is to get things up to date.” She clarified that this included both following the rules more closely and possibly updating the bylaws as needed. Revision of the bylaws requires collaboration between IFC/ISC and the University and Dean of Students’ Office.

I think we are doing great and on the right track to instilling positive change on campus,” Agbontaen said regarding IFC/ISC’s efforts. “The Greek leaders are amazing and are all on board with this initiative. I’m just excited to see how things unfold and how our efforts this year will lay a foundation for years to come.”

Gentry’s e-mail also specifically mentioned the prohibition of “drive-arounds,” but his e-mail did not clarify his exact meaning of the phrase, which is often connected with alcohol and marijuana use. When asked, Mann declined to comment about this prohibition as a reference to the September 29 car accident.

This semester sparked several discussions and updates on how Greek organizations should behave, especially in regard to including first-year students in their activities. Documents such as the IFC/ISC bylaws and the Social Host policy, usually seldom followed or even read, are now strongly encouraged by the University. Previous practices followed by a majority of Greek organizations, such as providing alcohol during rush events, are now condemned, changing the way that fraternities and sororities can recruit members.

Such former practices include the encouragement to drink beer on Shake Day as an alternative to hard liquor, which many students were told during their meetings about formal rush during freshmen year by former Dean of Greek Life Hagi Bradley.

“That may have been practiced, but that is certainly not the policy of the University of the South to encourage or condone underage drinking,” said Mann on the subject of Shake Day. “It should not be encouraged.” However, he would not speak to whether Greek organizations would face harsher enforcement come January.

“On a college campus, the reality is that students will choose to drink. I believe that what we hope to do is to provide the safest possible atmosphere among those students. But students do need to recognize that if they are breaking the law, if they’re drawing attention to themselves, it is likely that they may face consequences for those choices,” Mann commented.

In an effort to educate first-year students on “what rush entails,” according to Mann, the meeting for students interested in rush will take place at the end of November, rather than its usual time at the beginning of second semester.

“I think there’s some lack of clarity with our first-year students in terms of how recruitment and rush are going,” Mann explained.

Regarding the inquiry into the car accident on September 29, no conclusions have yet been made public by the Office of Risk Management, which is conducting the inquiry. As of now, the Theta Pi sorority remains suspended. Mann said that he believes the inquiry will likely conclude by the end of this semester. The Office of Risk Management is led by Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness and Risk Management Eric Hartman.