The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday October 27th

Freshmen assimilation at center of rush issue for UNC Greek system

Big changes are in store for the Greek system.

But members of the Board of Trustees committee responsible for making a recommendation to the University are still unsure about the best method to carry out that change.

And while many agree that recruitment is at the root of the issue, some board members and University officials are at odds with Greek leaders over whether moving rush to the spring would most effectively link the Greek and campus communities and avoid pigeonholing new members in their organizations.

“The biggest concern that has been put forward to us by members of board and community is that forcing freshman to make a decision in the first 10 days that affects their next four years is not fair to them,” said committee chairman
and board member Alston Gardner in an interview Tuesday.

He said the committee will continue its review of the system by looking inward at the experience of freshmen who consider but elect not to join the Greek system. But that’s all that seems to be certain of the board’s next steps.

At a meeting Wednesday of the board’s University affairs committee, speakers debated whether deferring rush to the spring was beneficial to the system and students.

Several local and national Greek leaders spoke in support of keeping fall rush, citing the immediate social and academic support it provides new members.

The direction of the discussion changed when Chuck Lovelace, executive director of the Morehead-Cain Foundation, said moving rush to the spring is a necessary change to improve both the freedom of incoming freshmen as well as Greek life.

“I don’t think you can really make a substantive change to the culture unless you change the platform it launches off of,” Lovelace said.

The committee is examining how best to improve the freshman experience and not the Greek system as a whole — a sentiment echoed by Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp.

“What I’m about and what I’ve always been about is how we improve our students’ success across the board,” Crisp said.

The process began when committee and board member Roger Perry told fellow board members that he believed deferring rush would be a beneficial change to the Greek system.

The suggestion prompted the creation of the committee, which pledged to look both at other universities’ Greek systems and more closely at UNC’s.

The committee found that similar public universities’ systems put greater emphasis on a large network of alumni for support.

Gardner said the University of Indiana, with its roughly 400 alumni advisers, provides an intriguing model for the future of the system.

Indiana University, along with the Big Ten Conference as a whole, could serve as a good model, said Pete Smithhisler, president and CEO of the North-American Interfraternity Conference.

Lovelace said the decision to join a fraternity or sorority is too important to make in the brief rush period. He cited the University’s 1994 accreditation report, the 1997 intellectual climate report and the 2003 Academic Plan, all of which recommended reconsidering the rush schedule.

But Lovelace said there is a great deal of inertia to overcome.

“Most of the alumni I’ve talked to about the Greek system really think it’s stuck in time,” he said. “Some people want to keep it that way.”

“I really think fall rush is an obstacle to positive change,” he added.

Jim Tatum, a member of the Fraternity Alumni Association, argued that a board-mandated deferred rush would be paternalistic, noting that UNC doesn’t regulate the recruitment for other groups.

Like Interfraternity Council President Tucker Piner, Tatum argued that the University should address not the timing of rush but rather the type of students involved.

“We can’t be better than the people we recruit — just like the football team,” Tatum said in the meeting.

Gardner and others said the decision to go Greek is much more significant than any other organization, financially and socially.

Perry, who was formerly the board’s chairman, said giving freshmen a semester to get used to the academic climate could only help to improve their experience.

“Logic certainly suggests it can’t hurt,” he said.

Since 1999, a deferred rush process has allowed students at the University of Virginia to become immersed in the freshman experience, said Michael Citro, the university’s assistant dean of students and director of fraternity and sorority life. As a peer institution of UNC with a comparably-sized Greek system, Citro said UVa. was surveyed as part of the University affairs committee’s external research.

He said deferring rush to the spring has its merits, though it is by no means a silver bullet.

“I would suggest that it is a component of a larger conversation about making cultural change,” Citro said.

Board member Barbara Hyde said the committee found that peer institutions — such as UVa. — that switched from fall to spring rush originally faced opposition from the Greek community, but all parties were eventually satisfied.

Contact the University Editor at udesk@unc.edu.

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