Inside Our Pages: Lessons in press power

I got a lesson in the power of print last week from the most unlikely of places. What started off as an innocent, informative spread on GW fraternities and sororities – sparked by current rush activities – turned into something much bigger.

The spread started out smoothly enough, with all fraternities happily providing information about the age of their fraternity, when they came to GW, whether they have a house and a 25-word summary on the focus of their chapter.

The snag came as our reporter contacted sorority presidents to elicit the same information. Sororities have a little different process for recruitment than fraternities. The Panhellenic Council, which makes rules for all campus sororities other than traditionally black groups, sets restrictions on sororities during recruitment to create a fair system for its members.

What results are rules saying members of sororities cannot talk to potential members outside official rush events and other restrictions.

While I did not plan to become involved in the politics of recruiting new members, I found myself right in the middle of it when Panhellenic Council President Nini Khozeimeh declined our request for information. She spoke with the presidents, she said, and they collectively decided it was not in the best interest of the GW community to have the size, age and traditions of each organization made public.

Uncertain about the reasoning behind this decision, I called Khozeimeh to find out what was the matter. Her response was basically as follows: sororities have a formal process with many controls; anything that disrupts that process could be harmful to the sororities; if rushees see information about each organization and start to compare them to each other, they might have second thoughts and decide they do not want to continue to rush.

As an editor, I make decisions affecting the groups and people we cover. In this case, I had two choices: respect the wishes of the Panhellenic Council and not run the spread, or get the data another way and print the pages as promised.

I decided on the latter. If GW sororities are relying on young recruits to make uninformed decision that will shape their college experience, the student paper should stamp out that ignorance and allow these young women to make educated choices.

Also, after doing a little research, I found the very material we sought included in a booklet the Panhellenic Council gives to every recruit. The only thing missing was the membership size – which is available on the web site of GW’s Office of Greek Affairs – and age – which is on each sorority’s national Web site.

I doubt the spread The Hatchet ran last Thursday negatively impacted sorority recruitment, and I hope it did not.

Most likely it helped. Students who are not involved in Greek life probably know more about the chapters at GW and may decide to join in the spring. And hopefully recruits who have not educated themselves about GW’s Greek system used the information to decide if they are doing the right thing. If they decided they are not, then they got a chance to drop out before they made a mistake.

I encourage any member of the GW community who has concerns about something already printed in The Hatchet or scheduled for print to seek out an editor to talk about the issue with them. Our phone number is listed on page four, and e-mail addresses are listed at the beginning of each section. We are reasonable people who respect reasonable requests as long as the good of the student body is at the heart of it.

-The writer, a senior majoring in journalism, is Hatchet editor in chief.

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