Some Greek student leaders said they were shut out of the decision-making process after the University announced last week that freshmen will soon not be able to join Greek life during their first semester on campus.
Officials announced last Wednesday that starting in 2017, freshmen will have to wait until the spring to go through Greek recruitment. Greek student leaders are divided over the plan – some said it will hurt GW’s Greek life community by unfairly targeting fraternities and sororities over other student organizations, while others say it will be beneficial, allowing freshmen to establish themselves on campus before joining a Greek chapter.
The new plan, the most significant change to GW’s recruitment structure in recent years, would make fraternities and sororities the only student groups on campus that freshmen wouldn’t be able to join in their first semester on campus.
By 2018, all formal Greek recruitment will take place during the spring semester, though sophomores, juniors and seniors who have completed 12 credits can rush chapters informally in the fall, similar to how spring recruitment works now.
Christina Witkowicki, the director of student involvement and Greek life, said the new policy would give incoming freshmen a chance to adjust to college life before making a commitment to a fraternity or sorority.
“Students should have time to become acclimated to campus both socially and academically and make an educated and informed decision about the lifetime commitment that is joining fraternity and sorority life,” she said in an email. “This lifetime commitment is different than the commitment to general student organizations on campus.”
Thirteen chapter presidents did not return requests for comment.
‘A problem that somehow needs to be fixed’
Former IFC President Keaton White said deferred recruitment is not the right way to fix problems officials may have with the Greek community.
“When your house has leaky pipes, you call in the plumber, not an arsonist. GW called in an arsonist,” he said.
White said the IFC is opposed to deferred recruitment because it singles out Greek life.
“The reason I’m against it, and the reason the IFC is against it, is not so much because it’s a bad idea, but I think it sends a strong statement that Greek life is a problem that somehow needs to be fixed on the campus,” he said.
In February 2015, the Center for Student Engagement created a task force of Greek and non-Greek students, parents, faculty and administrators to discuss issues within Greek life, including hazing, sexual assault and the possibility of deferred recruitment.
The announcement of the task force came about a month after seven Greek organizations were sanctioned for violations like hazing and hosting unregistered events with alcohol. Two fraternities were shut down on campus between 2014 and 2015, and Delta Gamma’s national organization closed its GW chapter in October.
White said many Greek students at the time were opposed to the task force.
“It always seemed like there was some secondary motivation behind this task force. You don’t establish a task force because everything is good,” he said.
That task force started a second committee to specifically examine the merits of deferred recruitment by distributing a student survey, reviewing literature and studying GW’s peer schools, according to a University release last week.
Heather Kirk, the chief communication officer of the North-American Interfraternity Conference, said GW may be seeking to create “cultural challenges” in its Greek community with this new policy.
Yet, she said, her organization, which represents 70 national chapters according to its website, does not “believe deferred recruitment creates such behavioral or cultural change.”
“For many students, joining a fraternity creates a sense of community in the first semester of college,” Kirk said. “It is where they find their place in the campus community, outside of the classroom.”
Leaving Greek life members in the dark
The recruitment evaluation committee, which met for three months, did not provide a specific recommendation about whether to adopt deferred recruitment, but issued a report in March analyzing the pros and cons, Interfraternity Council President Brandon Capece said.
Capece said administrators in the CSE decided to implement deferred recruitment and told the IFC and its advisers of the decision during a meeting, led by Witkowicki, on April 1. He said the IFC was allowed to “express our opinions” about deferred recruitment but was then told that the CSE would be implementing the new policy.
Three days later, Capece said the rest of the Greek community was informed of the change at the IFC President’s council meeting.
“It is representative of a ‘top-down’ approach to culture change that neglects the importance of student input,” he said in an email. “Greek leadership, specifically council leadership, was not given adequate opportunity to weigh in.”
Capece said some members of the Greek community feel that the new policy “suggests that Greek Life is detrimental to the undergraduate student experience.”
Potential benefits of the change
Panhellenic Association President Rebecca Connolly said she supports the policy change because it will allow freshmen time to decide whether or not they want to join Greek life.
“When the University makes these decisions, they are making decisions that they believe are going to make us stronger,” Connolly said.
The delayed recruitment will allow freshmen to make friends outside of their potential sorority before rushing, which could lead to what Connolly described as a “more inclusive and active” rush process.
At least six of GW’s 14 peer schools already mandate deferred recruitment for Greek organizations.
John Foubert, a professor of higher education and student affairs at Oklahoma State University, said deferred recruitment can benefit freshman academically because they aren’t distracted by recruitment and pledge events while they adjust to college.
“Greek life is deferred over other organizations because pledging can be extremely time consuming and impede academic progress,” he said in an email. “Being a member of other organizations tends not to have the same impact.”
Multicultural Greek Council President Clare Lewis said she does not think the change will affect their chapters, some of which already don’t accept first-semester freshmen.
Lewis said her “greatest concern” is that chapters will be kept from accepting any new members during fall semesters starting in 2018. If the new recruitment negatively affects their already small recruiting classes, Lewis said officials may need to alter the policy for multicultural chapters.