Halfway through the first year of the ban forbidding freshmen from joining Greek organizations on campus, not one violation of the ban has been reported. Both students and administrators attribute the success of the ban to the severity of the punishment violators would face, a one-year suspension.
The ban, which University President Shirley Tilghman announced in August 2011, prohibits freshmen from participating in Greek life altogether and forbids students from other classes who participate in Greek life from inviting freshmen to join fraternities or sororities. The ban was widely criticized by students and members of Greek organizations, which are not officially recognized by the University.
“I’ve been surprised, and happily surprised, that it has been accepted and people have moved on,” Tilghman said. “I think there was a recognition that this might actually lead to a better outcome for the majority of students — not everybody, I get that — but for the majority.”
Students involved in Greek life said they were quick to follow the dictum of the new policy mostly out of fear of what would happen if they didn’t.
“They said any student caught will be immediately suspended for a year,” Kappa Alpha Order president William Hicks ’15 said. “That’s a very drastic consequence.”
Hicks added that the fraternity might have been more “lax” about talking to freshmen had the consequence been lighter, but suspension “was pretty much the deciding factor” and has led KA to make conscious efforts to avoid having freshmen at its events.
Establishing the consequence of a one-year suspension was an “important element” while crafting the language of the policy, said Kathleen Deignan, the Dean of Undergraduate Students and chair of the Committee on Freshmen Rush Policy.
“The recommendation was that the penalty be stiff and that it be a deterrent,” she said. “Having a very serious consequence for violations provided a very important incentive to comply.”
Deignan said the committee tried to be as clear as possible about what was and was not permitted in order to avoid a situation in which a student inadvertently went against the ban.
“I was very pleased with [the language of the policy], and I continue to believe we did a pretty good job,” Deignan said.
Deignan said she received a few inquiries this fall from Greek life officers in order to clarify what their responsibilities are. She said she appreciates that they “are making a good face effort to try to abide by the policy and do their very best to ... structure their events in a way that abides by the ban.”
In accordance with the policy, the fraternities and sororities that held rush this year have not recruited freshmen. To ensure that no uninvited freshmen appear at Greek-sponsored events, some organizations have checked the identification of guests attending their events throughout the semester.
Sigma Chi president Cuauhtemoc Ocampo ’14 reported that, by requiring students to present identification at the door, his fraternity has turned away three or four freshmen from events this fall.
“They never fight it; they understand,” he said, adding that freshmen seemed especially curious about Greek life this year.
“I think [the ban] has created a curiosity within the freshman class,” Ocampo said. This curiosity, he says, will likely increase the number of current freshmen who will rush next year.
But Hicks said he worries freshmen are missing out on a crucial experience he had when he joined KA as a freshman last year: meeting upperclassmen.
“I haven’t had a problem meeting freshmen, but I think it would be cool to meet upperclassmen who could show me the ropes,” Joseph Bush ’16 said.
Bush said he is interested in Greek life but didn’t get involved this year because of the severity of the punishment for going against the policy.
“No one wants to be suspended their freshman year,” he said.
News Editor Teddy Schleifer contributed reporting.