May 9, 2013
After months of discussion and deliberation, the Dean of Students Office released the final report of the Committee on Greek Recruitment this Monday, May 6. The Committee, of which Senior Associate Dean of Students for Strategic Initiatives Meredith Harper Bonham was the chair, comprised six students (four Greeks), one professor, an athletic coach and one trustee/alumnus, all of whom have a serious investment in the quality of student life on the Hill. In their report, the Committee details several proposed changes to the way Greek Life is run for the 2013-2014 calendar year: shifting rush season to first-year spring, rescheduling pledging to the fall of sophomore year and restricting pledging to a five-week period. Additionally, the Committee has suggested that all prospective pledges meet with the Dean of Students Office prior to beginning the pledging process.
We certainly agree with the Committee that the Greek system could use some adjustments. However, we are skeptical about whether delaying rushing and pledging will solve the problems that exist in Greek Life.
When first-years enter Hamilton, it is not unusual for them to spend first semester feeling slightly lost. So many people to meet, so many student organizations to join, so much pressure to achieve in classes and, moreover, be happy—it can all be incredibly overwhelming.
As a first-year, where you live on campus often determines who your friends are. Housing assignments, while often well matched, don’t always work out, and if students want to branch out of the social circles that exist in their dorms, they might have difficulty doing so. The invitation to attend a rush event satisfies the first-year’s desire to make new connections and opens the door for him or her to join a community outside of his or her first-year housing environment. Attending one of these events does not mean that a student has committed to joining a Greek organization. Rush events in and of themselves provide a springboard for friendships, and when students attend these events, they should be able to decide for themselves if they want to join these organizations or not.
When you enter Hamilton can also have a huge effect on how you engage with campus life. Because they join their fellow classmates a semester late, January admits face more of a struggle to assimilate into campus life. Rush events and, moreover, pledging provide Jans an easy way to find community at Hamilton.
Delaying pledging will not only directly affect the incoming first-years but those who are already enrolled here. Some societies are very small or have a very large senior class that will graduate this year. These organizations run the risk of disintegrating if they don’t have pledge classes for the 2013-2014 academic year. The legacy of many existing Greek organizations is at risk here.
One of our biggest concerns is that, even if the proposed changes go through, the new rules may not be followed. Societies might very well continue to hold rush and pledging procedures, but rather than making these happenings public, they will work underground. If this happens, there will be no way to monitor their activity and, thus, no way to ensure the safety of prospective Greeks.
Ultimately, we believe that the option to pledge should be available to those who want it and that their safety should be our biggest concern.