Frat rush reform will benefit system

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April 9, 2010

2:22 AM

The process of recruitment is vital to any healthy Greek system. It is how new members are found and how organizations persist and traditions continue from year to year. Currently, the Council of Fraternity Affairs at the College of William and Mary is considering proposed changes to the process of fraternity recruitment that, although relatively minor, will enhance the process.

Recruitment for Greek organizations can be approached in many different ways. Comparing the different processes employed by sororities and fraternities, you get a feel for two opposite methodologies. Sorority recruitment is regulated and collective. The rules governing the process fill eight pages, compared to CFA’s two. The idea is that all women go through the same process, meet each chapter on equal terms and then make their choice. To ensure fairness and to diminish competition, which would result in a great deal of lost time and money, strict regulations are placed on sorority members regarding their interactions with potential recruits. They may only encourage women to go Greek in the general sense, and may not endorse any specific chapter. Orientation Aides, Resident Assistants and Inter-Sorority Council representatives may not even show their affiliation during the recruitment process. The regulations go so far as to limit the amount of decorations in sorority houses.

Fraternity recruitment — actually that’s too formal a word for it, so let’s call it rush — couldn’t be more different. Truthfully, the majority of rush is carried out on an informal chapter-by-chapter basis. The only regulation pertains to the times of open houses. These events are publicized by the CFA, and take place at set times in different locations. Beyond that, rush is conducted informally through personal contacts. OAs and RAs are particularly helpful to faternity recruitment as they are in the position to meet incoming freshmen, to get to know them and to invite them to visit.

Both systems have advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, the informal interactions between brothers and prospective members make socialization easier and give guys a better understanding of the groups’ identities. Prospective members probably come away from the process with a good idea of whether or not they want to join, and if so, which one. However there are also problems. The informal personal contacts that drive fraternity rush usually expose interested men to a limited number of chapters, which introduces an element of chance into the process. Rush classes tend to vary by semester, causing a high degree of fluctuation in chapter sizes. This is one of the contributing factors in the persistent housing troubles that fraternities have on campus.

These are the major concerns that the proposed changes in the recruitment process hope to address. First, a new all-fraternity event would be organized in order to give men another chance to meet different organizations. Second, chapter open houses would no longer occur simultaneously. This was less of a problem when the units housed most of the fraternities, and one could easily move from one open house to another.

Now, however, fraternities are scattered from the units, to the lodges, to the Ludwell apartments and off campus. Having simultaneous open houses under such conditions would mean that recruits would have to attend one event at the expense of others. Both of these changes will help fraternities reach out to those who do not know any of their members and give men more information and options.

The changes are not revolutionary, and of course problems will persist, but it is a clear signal that CFA understands the current nature of the fraternity system and how it can redress recruitment. That has to count for something.

E-mail Ed Innace at [email protected]

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