Greek students oppose University ban
Over the years, the start of rush has become an underground staple of freshman week; an unofficial, unrecognized and decentralized counterpart to the Pre-Rade or “Sex on a Saturday Night.” The series of parties, dinners and other gatherings collectively known as “rush,” held by over a dozen Greek organizations currently operating on campus without University recognition, has continued this fall, though perhaps for the last time.
Three weeks after the University’s Aug. 23 announcement that it would prohibit freshmen from rushing fraternities or sororities beginning in the fall of 2012, the University’s Greek organizations are still taking in the news and deciding how to alter their internal proceedings to accommodate the ban as well as how to continue conversations and negotiations with the administration.
“Everyone is really, really, really worried about next fall, and not looking forward to the prospects of what these organizations will look like when we lose a whole class of students,” Kappa Alpha Theta president Kara Dreher ’12 said.
But Dreher and other leaders in the Greek community are unsure of how to make their voices heard to an administration that many feel hasn’t considered their concerns — and unsure of what its ultimate objectives are in enacting the ban.
The ban comes after the Working Group on Campus Social and Residential Life issued a report last May that included a recommendation that the University ban rush during freshman year. Greek organizations came out in immediate and nearly unanimous opposition, attending meetings and open forums in full force to voice their concerns.
Alpha Epsilon Pi member Jake Nebel ’13 then wrote an open letter to President Shirley Tilghman highlighting inaccuracies that he perceived in the Working Group’s report. The letter gathered well over 700 online signatures. Nebel then formed the Princeton Greek Council, an organization comprised of representatives from all of Princeton’s fraternities and sororities intended to communicate their opposition to the administration.
Nevertheless, after discussing the issue with the Board of Trustees during their meeting over the summer, Tilghman decided to go through with the ban as recommended by the Working Group.
“The decision to prohibit freshman year affiliation and recruitment is driven primarily by a conviction that social and residential life at Princeton should continue to revolve around the residential colleges, the eating clubs, and the shared experience of essentially all undergraduates living and dining on campus,” Tilghman wrote in her Aug. 24 email to sophomores, juniors and seniors.
In the letter, Tilghman wrote that she decided to defer implementation of the ban for a year to have enough time to develop the specific description of the new policy and its methods of enforcement. Tilghman will appoint a committee of students, faculty and staff chaired by Dean of Undergraduate Students Kathleen Deignan to generate ideas for administering the prohibition, she wrote.
Though she is not at all happy with the ban, Dreher said she is pleased that it will at least be deferred for a year to work out the logistics.
“I hope that we are able to at least cooperate with the administration still and show them that there are things that they need to fix,” Dreher said. “One of the most important things is that we get the administration to clearly articulate what they’re banning.”
Nebel expressed a similar sentiment, calling his initial reaction upon hearing about the ban “bittersweet.”
“It’s good that we have a full year to adjust, but bad that the ban will be implemented,” Nebel said in an email.
While they hope to make their voices heard in the decision-making process over what exactly will or will not be defined as a rush activity, Greek leaders are not optimistic that they can successfully lobby the administration this year to abandon their commitment to implement the ban.
“I am not overly optimistic at this point that we have any room to change the decision,” Dreher said. “President Tilghman has met with the board, she’s presented her recommendation and the decision was made.”
Dreher said she hopes that the administration will work on creating an alternative for the support system that she feels Greek organizations provide if it intends to implement the ban. Tilghman suggested in her letter that this would be one of the committee’s goals, noting that it would spend the year working on ways to create more connections between freshmen and upperclassmen.
Though it may be too early to say for sure, the announcement of the ban does not seem to have significantly dampened freshman interest in joining fraternities and sororities.
“AEPi has had great turnout at our rush events,” Nebel said. “I don’t think freshmen have been intimidated by the University’s decision.”
Dreher said that her sorority had prepared for a potential decrease in the number of freshman girls rushing this fall but noted that interest could also increase much as it did after Tilghman began sending out a letter recommending that students do not join Greek organizations. She added that there is an air of nostalgia hanging over this year’s freshman rush, with members aware of the fact that this year could mark the end of an era.
“On the positive side, this has everyone really excited and positive about this year’s recruitment,” Dreher said. “We’re excited to have a good batch of freshmen and sophomores. It has this bittersweet sense that it might be the last time we’re allowed to do it at the start of the year for new students.”