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Fall 2014 sorority recruitment made many Cal Poly women choose between going to recruitment or going to class.
The recruitment events on Thursday and Friday afternoons clashed with the class schedules of many women participating in recruitment. Because of this, many asked their professors for permission to be excused from class to attend the mandatory events.
College of Liberal Arts Associate Dean Debra Valencia-Laver was confronted by some of these professors. For them, the main question was whether students missing class for recruitment was permissible.
“These students are brand new to Cal Poly and they are already going to miss 10 percent of class,” Valencia-Laver said. “That’s what people are worried about: What are students’ priorities?”
Because the student population has increased over the years, Cal Poly has added more general education classes in the evening to accommodate more students. But when recruitment events were scheduled for evenings as well, they competed with many of those classes.
The women who chose recruitment risked being dropped from their classes because they would be absent during the Cal Poly add/drop week. If students miss class during this time, they can be dropped.
“It’s not supposed to be a competition,” Valencia-Laver said. “Classes presumably should be a higher priority than the sorority.”
Some potential new sorority members asked to be excused from a single class, whereas some asked for the entire week. Professors then needed to decide if recruitment was a viable reason to skip class, especially when they had a wait list of students trying to add.
“That puts the instructor in a difficult position as to whether they reserve a seat for someone who ‘has better things to do with her time’,” Valencia-Laver said.
On the other hand, students participating in recruitment faced possible rejection by their top-choice sorority if they did not attend recruitment events.
After each day of recruitment, women are asked to rank their top sorority choices and the sorority houses select their new classes. According to Valencia-Laver, some women participating in recruitment thought if they did not attend all the events, they would not get called back by their top choices.
History professor Roger Hall understood the situation the women were in.
“Though I think it is unwise for a student to skip any class at the university,” he said, “I see these students being placed in the proverbial rock and a hard place.”
Six of Hall’s students informed him they would be missing class for recruitment events to increase their chances of getting into the sorority of their choice.
Valencia-Laver also saw how important sororities were to these students.
“Through this process, (professors) all learned that there is priority for a sorority,” Valencia-Laver said. “Some of the correspondence back and forth was about the elitism of the fraternity/sorority system.”
According to Jason Mockford, assistant director of leadership and service for the Dean of Students Office, the university and greek life office sent a message to all women involved in recruitment saying they should go to class and not ask to be excused. Instead, they were asked to fill out a form indicating a class conflict and the names of the sororities of their choice.
It is unknown how many professors allowed their students to skip class, but according to Mockford, many girls filled out the form and attended class.
To prevent this from happening in the future, there will be more communication between the professors and greek life regarding absence policies.
“It seems to me the solution to this situation is that these types of mandatory greek events should not be held at any time when classes are in session, as it is unfair to everyone involved to knowingly create such conflicts,” Hall said.
Valencia-Laver understood fall recruitment may help freshmen create bonds, which could help students become more successful in the future. However, she also believed the main priority at the university should be to get an education.
“That’s what students are coming to Cal Poly for — for their education,” Valencia-Laver said.
Correction: An earlier version of the article named Debra Valencia-Laver as the College of Liberal Arts Dean. The story has been updated to state she is the College of Liberal Arts associate dean.