From the Daily: Changing the subject

Published December 13, 2004

The Interfraternity Council wrapped up its round of social policy changes last week with what have been considered a series of radical changes to the fraternity party scene. These changes, though no doubt well-intentioned, fail to address the more serious issues that plague the Greek system. In particular, not one of the policy reforms recently passed by IFC pays heed to the system’s most pressing problem: hazing. This set of reforms may itself be worthy and might help improve the Greek’s public image, but it ultimately does little to actually solve serious problems facing the Greek system.

The amendments passed by IFC include limiting the number of guests at parties, registering parties in advance, adopting a “bring your own beverage” policy and having sober monitors inside and outside the party. The IFC has also encouraged fraternities to offer party-goers the opportunity to sign liability waivers upon entering a party.

It is not wild parties that have kept the Greeks in the headlines over the past months, and a cynic might be concerned these new rules were enacted to shift the focus away from October’s hazing controversy. It remains questionable whether IFC would have passed these amendments had it not been under intense administrative pressure.

If the IFC hopes to be taken seriously as a self-regulating and autonomous organization, it cannot continue to ignore hazing. Instead of encouraging fraternity houses to offer waivers, it needs to push for sweeping changes in the pledging process. Alternative bonding exercises need to be proposed to replace the unnecessary and sometimes dangerous hazing tactics often employed on campus. Incentives should be given for fraternities willing to explore new strategies, and harsher punishment should be threatened for those refusing to comply.

In addition to hazing, the Greek system has faced pressure from administrators to push back Rush to winter term. A later Rush date will give students the ample time they deserve when deciding whether or not to join Greek life. The later Rush date should coincide with an extension of time for students to sign off-campus leases. A delay in the hurried timetable for large decisions like these would take an enormous weight off of the shoulders of the student body.

If the Greeks want to make a good name for themselves, they should start by bringing an end to dangerous hazing practices. However important the social policy reforms were, they should not, and most likely will not take the negative spotlight off the Greeks. Addressing the hazing problem is in their own interest, as continued allegations will only cost the system more members — if not more chapters.

Though these new rules may function to allay safety concerns at fraternity parties, they do not address the more urgent concerns of the student body and administration in the wake of the recent hazing allegations. However relieving it is to see internal reforms within the Greek system, these changes should not detract from the larger problems afflicting the system.