Committee: Suspend freshman pledges
In addition to explicitly enumerating the details on how the ban will be implemented, the report — which was released by the University at 2 p.m. today — threatens to ban fraternities and sororities altogether if there is not widespread compliance with the policy.
“When President [Shirley] Tilghman met with our Committee in December, she suggested that in the future, violations of the prohibition on freshman affiliation can be expected to further reduce the University’s tolerance of sophomore, junior and senior affiliation,” the report reads.
In October, Tilghman charged the Committee with describing exactly what types of activities should be prohibited under the ban, which was announced in August, as well as recommending appropriate penalties and devising a strategy to effectively communicate the terms of the ban to the student body. Tilghman will make a final decision on the policies recommended by the Committee later this spring.
The Committee is chaired by Dean of Undergraduate Students Kathleen Deignan and includes Associate Deans of Undergraduate Students Thomas Dunne and Victoria Jueds, English professor William Gleason and psychology professor Deborah Prentice. In addition, the Committee includes three undergraduates who are involved in Greek life — Jake Nebel ’13, Jamie Joseph ’13 and Shreya Murthy ’13 — and three who are not — Kees Thompson ’13, Thomas Hellstern ’12 and Arda Bozyigit ’12.
The report recommends that both freshmen found to have knowingly violated the policy by “joining, pledging or rushing” a Greek organization and older students who organize such events for freshmen should be suspended.
According to the report, students and community members provided feedback in support of a lesser penalty such as disciplinary probation, noting that rushing a fraternity or sorority is not as serious as other infractions that warrant suspension, such as sexual misconduct or illegal drug distribution.
However, the report argues that giving the same penalty for this less severe infraction is justified given that “institutional values” are at stake. In defense of this argument, the report notes that plagiarism, which by some accounts is not as severe as a violent or dangerous activity, also warrants a suspension because it is against the University’s core value of academic honesty.
The committee acknowledged that some freshmen might accept invitations to a fraternity or sorority event mistakenly if they are not told that the event is affiliated with a Greek organization, a case in which students would not be punished, according to the report.
“Students should only be held responsible for actions which a reasonable person in that student’s position would know were violations,” the report reads. In order to ensure that freshmen are as aware of the policy as possible, the report recommends that residential college advisers discuss the ban with their advisees and that an explanation of the policy be included in the annual letter incoming students and their families, which discourages incoming students from joining fraternities and sororities.
Furthermore, freshmen who attend a fraternity or sorority event that does not involve joining, rushing or pledging a Greek organization would face the lesser penalty of disciplinary probation. One of the Committee’s main purposes was to determine how far-reaching the rush ban should be and to define which exact types of events should be prohibited. Ultimately the report recommends barring freshman attendance at nearly all events associated with a Greek organization.
Though the report clearly states that rushing, joining or pledging are clearly prohibited for freshmen while casual conversations with members of Greek organizations are not, it notes that the group focused most of its attention on activities that “fall in the middle of the spectrum.”
The committee proposed an addition to “Rights, Rules, Responsibilities” that specifically delineates what would qualify as an activity “sponsored” by a Greek organization. Signals of Greek sponsorship include invitations to events sent on behalf of a fraternity or sorority, financing the event with fraternity or sorority funds and other “explicit identification” of a Greek organization’s involvement.
Freshmen would be prohibited from attending formal or semiformal dances sponsored by fraternities or sororities. Though the committee considered the possibility of allowing freshman males to attend sorority events and vice versa, the report notes that it would not make exceptions based on gender as that would discriminate based on sexual orientation.
Former Kappa Alpha Theta president Kara Dreher ’12 said she was somewhat surprised by the prohibition on attendance at these events, though she noted that many of the other provisions of the policy were more or less what she was expecting.
Dreher said the ban on freshman attendance at formal or semiformal dances was not explicitly suggested at the meeting between Greek leaders and the Committee, though the Committee did ask which other activities besides formal rush should be considered.
“We had been trying to gear the discussion more toward just formal rush and formal recruitment,” Dreher explained.
The report defends the decision to prohibit freshmen from attending any event sponsored by a Greek organization by noting that the administration disapproves of fraternities and sororities in general and discourages joining them and participating in their activities.
“We agreed that the intention of the policy is to allow freshmen a full year of exposure to the social and residential aspects of University life without the distraction of fraternity and sorority activity,” the report reads.
Though the report makes no mention of parties or events held in dorm rooms of fraternity or sorority members, the committee clearly stated that simple social interactions between freshmen and members of Greek organizations are not prohibited. However, Deignan said in an email to The Daily Princetonian that she hopes students “would observe not only the letter of the policy but the spirit of the policy.”
“Although the presence of sorority or fraternity members would not by itself constitute a violation, we want to discourage students from looking for indirect means of violating the policy,” Deignan said. “We certainly don't want to prevent or inhibit small groups of students, including those who may be affiliated with Greek organizations, from socializing with other students. On the other hand, the more an event or other activity begins to look like a fraternity or sorority event, the more likely it is to trigger an inquiry.”
According to Dreher, it may be difficult to identify events held by Greek organizations besides formal and semiformal events.
“There aren’t advertised events of fraternities and sororities beyond formal rush,” Dreher said. “The actual events held by the organizations tend to be a bit more amorphous.”
While other institutions that recognize fraternities and sororities have more direct ways of monitoring rush to ensure compliance with administrative policies, Princeton lacks this capacity for regulatory oversight due to its policy of non-recognition of Greek organizations.
Deignan said she anticipates the administration would learn of potential violations through direct reports from students, incident reports filed by Public Safety and calls from concerned parents. Once a report is received, the administration would set up an inquiry investigating the students who allegedly violated the policy. The report states that these students would be punished less severely if they are cooperative in the inquiry and are forthcoming with information.
One of the major challenges the committee faced was defining what precisely qualifies as a fraternity or sorority. The report notes that most fraternities and sororities are identifiable by their Greek letters and ties to a national organization.
The recommendations took into account the possibility that fraternities or sororities may seek to exploit loopholes at the organizational level, possibly by dropping their Greek letters or renouncing their affiliation with a national group. However, these organizations would still be considered fraternities and sororities under the policy provided their membership was exclusive and their purpose was primarily social.
“While the policy cannot possibly articulate every plausible ruse, it provides clear guidance about what is not permitted so that those who choose to proceed in good faith can easily abide by University rules without fear that casual conversation, socializing or friendships between freshmen and members of Greek organizations will result in a violation,” Deignan said.
The report specifically excludes eating clubs from this description and is careful to prevent existing student organizations from being “inadvertently included” in the policy. The report explains that organizations that are recognized by the USG and registered with Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students will not be affected by the ban on freshman participation. In the email, Deignan noted that in order to be recognized by the USG, a group must be open to all students except for those that select based on merit or talent.
The report was on the whole consistent with the University’s current policy of nonrecognition of Greek organizations. In 2010, before the Working Group on Campus Social and Residential Life issued its recommendation to ban freshman rush, Tilghman told the ‘Prince’ that she would be open to discussing the possibility of recognizing fraternities and sororities that postponed rush until sophomore year.
However, Tilghman’s suggestion in the report that violations of this policy would reduce University tolerance of affiliation in general challenges the possibility of recognition.
"I do think that’s worrisome,” Dreher said of the suggestion. “I think there’s a threat that the next step would be a full ban."
An open student forum to discuss the specifics of the rush ban will be held in Frist Campus Center on April 2.