This article has been updated to include a statement from the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Association, as well as a statement from the North-American Interfraternity Conference.
Beginning in January 2020, all University of Michigan Greek life organizations will transition to a winter semester rush process, according to a University press release.
The move comes a semester after the Interfraternity Council suspended all social activities for two months after reports of hazing and sexual assault. Allegations included hazing that placed fraternity recruits in near-death situations, drugging members in undisclosed fraternity chapters and a number of claims of sexual misconduct involving fraternity brothers. At a closed IFC meeting in November, members urged each other to vote for the ban so as to avoid sanctions from national bodies.
Starting in the 2019-2020 school year, students will need to have completed at least 12 academic credits at the University and be in good behavioral and academic standing to be permitted to rush. This policy is already in place at many other universities, including Indiana University.
“We have studied the impact of recruitment practices on first-year students in the first semester on campus and determined that adjusting the timeline to winter semester supports first-year student success by providing the opportunity to fully engage in curriculum and communities,” Harper said.
In a statement released Thursday, the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Association denounced the change, citing the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities and Standard of Conduct for Recognized Student Organizations. The organizations felt the new policy violates “the right of students to freely associated and freely express themselves without coercion or undue influence from the University.”
They also said this could prevent first-year students from having open access to all the opportunities available to them on this campus.
“This decision not only undermines this unique feature that the University takes pride in, but sets a dangerous precedent for the University to interfere with internal decision making processes of Recognized Student Organizations,” the statement reads.
IFC and the Panhellenic Association wrote they hope the administration will rethink this policy.
“We urge the administration to reconsider and work collaboratively with student leaders to best align positive first-year experiences with continued student and Recognized Student Organization efforts. We are optimistic about potential solutions that collaboration between the University and students will foster,” they wrote.
Neither IFC nor Panhellenic representatives responded to requests for comment. However, in a statement emailed to The Daily Wednesday morning, the North-American Interfraternity Conference expressed their concern with the plan and urged the University to reconsider their decision.
“The University of Michigan’s unilateral decision to defer recruitment places unnecessary restrictions on student choice and harms first-semester freshman seeking a special community to make a college of 30,000 students feel like home,” the statement reads. “Studies show how students who join fraternities in their first semester show greater gains in growth, learning and development, as well as how the loneliness freshmen commonly feel can be combatted through the connection and support found in fraternities. We urge the UM administration to work in partnership with key stakeholders toward an alternative that respects the right of students to choose which student organization best meets their needs.”
Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones and a team representing the Greek life community will monitor the transition.
“In partnership with our Greek Life community student leaders, we are committed to working together to develop an implementation plan that ensures this recruitment timeline adjustment strengthens our entire community,” Jones said.
IFC reinstated social activities this January, but also mandated the removal of hard alcohol from all events. Twenty-seven chapters received specific action plans drafted by IFC executives and the Office of Greek Life. Since November, administrators from University President Mark Schlissel to E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life, to the Board of Regents repeatedly emphasized the council’s self-regulated efforts.
“I want to applaud you for all the work that you’re doing along with other students to provide a safer environment in our fraternities and sororities,” Regent Denise Ilitch, D, told IFC president Sam Finn, a Public Policy junior, at a February board meeting. “I can’t tell you how many of the headlines that we read across the country where students are harmed and unfortunately, it’s tragic. Some students have died over hazing and drinking. It’s a real issue on campus.”
According to the press release, this change is part of a larger five-year plan in coordination with the University’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts for first-year students. The Division of Student Life already hosts a wide range of workshops and community-building activities focused on improving academic and relationship success, but the new initiative will focus on increasing engagement in these programs.
Harper told the Record it’s the University’s responsibility to help incoming students transition into college.
Aside from delaying the Greek life rush process, the University plans on expanding Michigan Learning Communities throughout more schools and colleges and developing additional theme communities in residence halls. They will also increase the scope of the seven-week goal-setting course titled Making the Most of Michigan, which is taught in the residence halls, and prioritize University Career Center programs that focus on first-year students. Additional programming is also planned, such as expanding the Intercultural Development Inventory program, geared toward helping students build intercultural competence, to the College of Engineering, Rackham Graduate School, School of Education and the School of Kinesiology.