There are 156 institutions of higher learning that currently defer fall Greek recruitment for freshmen, according to a presentation compiled by the vice president for Student Affairs.
In the 2008-09 academic there will be one more: the University of Miami.
Patricia A. Whitely, who has been the VPSA since 1997, told The Miami Hurricane she has been contemplating such a move for years and said now is the time to do so because of the strength of the Greek community.
Meeting with the heads of the Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Conference, National Pan-Hellenic Council and Latino Greek Council on Feb. 5, Whitely informed them of her plans. She then went on a “road show” on Feb. 13, speaking with all of the alumni advisers and presidents of the Panhellenic and IFC organizations. The following Monday, Feb. 19, she met with the SG Executive Board.
Soon after announcing the decision, Whitely formed a committee comprised of twelve students and two Greek alumni advisers to study the issue and come up with recommendations on how to adjust and transition to the new policy in the 18 months before it is to be implemented.
Dan Lazaro, the president of IFC and a member of Phi Delta Theta, and Brittan Etzenhouser, the Panhellenic president and a member of Delta Delta Delta, chair the committee.
Lazaro told The Hurricane he did not think deferred recruitment is a good idea, but said that he and the committee are going to make it work.
Etzenhouser said, although she had heard talk of deferring recruitment last semester, she did not expect the decision to be made but agreed with Lazaro that they must do they best they can now it is final.
“After talking to her [Whitely], you can tell she’s not trying to hurt us, she’s an alumna,” Etzenhouser said, referring to Whitely’s induction as an alumni member of Zeta Tau Alpha in 1991.
Richard Walker, an assistant vice president for Student Affairs, said this is not the first time the university has discussed deferred recruitment.
Walker, who is a member Sigma Alpha Epsilon, said he rushed first semester freshman year when he was an undergraduate and understands both sides of the issue, but said that this is the right move considering what the university wishes to accomplish.
As part of the decision, which Whitely said coincides with the university’s outlook for improving the first-year experience, Greek organizations will not be permitted to recruit freshman in the fall, but will be able to in the spring. She added that they still may recruit transfer students and upperclassmen in the fall.
“It is my thought that the idea of the Greek community moving to deferred rush is one that will be positive for the university, for students, for new students and for the Greek system,” she said, emphasizing that she is in favor of a strong Greek community.
Whitely said that having to make a commitment in the first few weeks of school is not beneficial and that students need more time to adjust and look at a variety of ways to get involved.
But not everyone believes the move will be so positive.
Brandon Gross, speaker pro tempore of the SG Senate and a member of Sigma Chi, said the move will not only impact the membership of Greek organizations, but also their financial well-being, noting that there will be a loss of revenue for the first semester the plan is implemented.
He also does not believe the university’s Greek community, 14 percent of the total undergraduate population, is as strong a number as Whitely characterized it to be. Similarly, he expressed disapproval that some of the schools she benchmarked UM against have significantly larger Greek populations, such as Vanderbilt (45 percent) and Duke (37 percent).
Students have also criticized the reasons why the decision was made.
Gross said that Whitely’s concerns about making such a commitment early on are not valid because freshmen may get involved in other ways during their first semester.
Gross and Michael Bookman, the sophomore senator and member of Kappa Sigma, co-authored a recommendation against the decision to defer recruitment two weeks before Whitely visited Senate on Feb. 28. It passed with 17 in favor, eight against and four abstentions.
In addition, Whitely has taken heat for not consulting with students before making the decision, something she has openly admitted.
“My primary concern with this goes beyond the issue of Greek recruitment to the fact that students were not involved with the decision making for this,” SG President Annette Ponnock, who is a ZTA member, told Whitely at the Senate meeting. “I feel it discredits the student body and makes Student Government as an organization seem irrelevant.”
Greg Linch may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Hurricane will continue to follow the issue of deferred recruitment. Check back in the near future for a follow-up article on the committee formed by the VPSA to study the issue.