This represents the opinion of the Mustang News editorial board, which includes J.J. Jenkins, Carly Rickards, Sean McMinn and Olivia DeGennaro. DeGennaro excused herself from the writing of this editorial because of her involvement in Alpha Chi Omega.
Mustang News Editorial Board
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Ending deferred recruitment for fraternities at Cal Poly this fall was a win for gender equality — but that doesn’t mean it was the right decision.
Given both the stresses that come with rushing a fraternity or sorority and the Cal Poly greek community’s history of rule-breaking, deferred rush is right for the university. It protects first-quarter students from the problems that run deep in the fraternity and sorority systems.
In these past three years, we’ve seen women come back to freshman residence halls crying because they didn’t get a bid from the sorority they had their heart set on, despite the fact they only had one week to determine who their sisters would be for the next four years. Some women kick off their freshman year with a rejection, contradicting all the positive things they expect to experience at Cal Poly.
Right now, the first-quarter recruitment process adds stress to the already-tumultuous experience of moving away to college. Requiring greek life to give students the chance to wait a quarter before making a decision that could define their college experience allows these new students to find their niche at Cal Poly first.
Cal Poly is now touting its decision to backpedal on deferred rush as a compromise with the greek community that could bring a new era of responsibility for both administrators and the students involved. Fraternities and sororities, a population Vice President for Student Affairs Keith Humphrey said is “high-risk,” only conceded what should have already been mandatory: stricter risk management policies, health and wellness education for new members and rules for party registration and alcohol management.
Humphrey said he only felt comfortable ending deferred rush because of the new responsibilities placed on the greek community that came with the change. Until those policy shifts were put in place, he said, letting men rush during their first quarter at Cal Poly would have been a poor decision.
There’s little reason to believe, however, that typical greek members will embraces these policies. Both Humphrey and Associated Students, Inc. President Jason Colombini, who brokered the deal between administrators and the greek community in his former role as Interfraternity Council president, said there’s been some discomfort among greek members about their new responsibilities. And we’ve already seen evidence to believe it will be a struggle to implement the changes: The Interfraternity Council missed its deadline during move-in week to form a new risk management policy, and Cal Poly suspended the entire system until a new policy was approved on Tuesday.
But it’s not just men that face a problem with first-quarter recruitment.
While the atmosphere of a sorority recruitment is more structured than its fraternity counterpart, it still resulted in the hospitalization of one Alpha Phi sorority recruit for alcohol poisoning in 2011, less than three years after the hazing-related death of freshman Carson Starkey.
The parallels between that incident and Starkey’s death are clear, and they’re frightening for the prospects of full-out greek recruitment during fall quarter.
In both instances, a first-time freshman was encouraged to drink by older students, and both showed symptoms of alcohol poisoning. Both were left unsupervised by older greek members.
Fraternity and sorority members haven’t displayed a change in behavior since these incidents, either. In an early February 2011 report — after Starkey died, but before the Alpha Phi suspension — the North-American Interfraternity Conference labeled alcohol at Cal Poly as “a, and perhaps THE, defining factor of the fraternity/sorority experience.” Later that year, Sigma Phi Epsilon lost its affiliation with Cal Poly following several alcohol violations. And in April 2012, the university temporarily suspended Delta Sigma Phi after a 300-person Playboy-themed party led to two arrests and an investigation by Cal Poly Student Life and Leadership.
This new compromise between administrators and greek life relies on a level of trust the latter has not yet earned.
Since the beginning of his term in 2011, Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong has talked about his concern for the drinking culture at Cal Poly. He’s sent multiple emails to students, one as recent as Sept. 23, highlighting the importance of the Mustang Way: helping one another and taking responsibility in the Cal Poly community.
But by giving young men and women the chance immediately after high school to enamor themselves in the high-pressure and party-driven environments greek life can foster, Cal Poly is opening the door for more trouble.
Everyone hopes the grand compromise will make greek life a safe place for first-quarter students. Unfortunately, it will take maturity from greek members, not policies drafted by their leaders, to do that.
We encourage both concurring and opposing signed letters to the editor. Please send responses to firstname.lastname@example.org from your Cal Poly email address with your name, year and major included. Responses may be published online and in print.