Harper says University to consider delayed Greek rush process

Friday, September 11, 2015 - 6:34pm

E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life, speaks to students at a town hall in March, 2015.

E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life, speaks to students at a town hall in March, 2015. Buy this photo
File Photo/Daily

 

A day after ​Thursday’s meeting​ with all chapters of University Greek life, E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life, elaborated on potential forthcoming policies to better monitor the Greek community.

These could include delaying Greek rush and paying greater attention to “rogue houses,” or disbanded former Greek organizations that continue to assemble off campus.

Harper said the event was meant to voice genuine concern for students’ health and wellness, not punitively admonish them.

Subsequently, she expressed surprise and disappointment in how both students and administrators handled the meeting.

“I think what I ended up feeling was… Let your behavior reflect your values in this setting, as opposed to sort of reinforcing the stereotypical perception,” she said. “Together, we can turn this. This party can’t continue this way, and we all know it. But we could decide, together, to do something different about it.”

This collaborative goal for improvement, Harper said, is representative of the fact that students are as much a part of affecting campus policy as are administrators — and it takes the entire village to catalyze culture shift.

Harper was quick to acknowledge that partying can be a part of students’ college experience. And it’s not partying, explicitly, that she has a problem with. It’s the excess. 

“All we’re trying to say is, ‘Look, we’re putting up some guard rails,’ ” she said. “ ‘We want you to have as much fun as you want within the bounds of this guard rail … there are boundaries. We need to agree on what they are and stay within them.’ ”

In this vein, the University recently unveiled a new policy to call the parents of students who have broken the school’s alcohol guidelines more than once, or those of students who have gone to the hospital for overconsumption of alcohol or drugs.

The University is also offering its Change it Up program — which promotes bystander intervention and inclusive language — to student cohorts in individual schools, as opposed to solely freshmen students living in the dorms.

However, following on the heels of a University survey that indicated a higher prevalence of sexual assault in the Greek life community — and other data showing the strong link between sexual assault and alcohol — University officials say there is more work to be done.

One measure being considered, Harper said, is delaying rush.

“Does it make sense to have students come, and in a week, by the whole pledging process, we have thrown them into a whole environment that we’re worried about?” Harper asked. “Should we stay on this path we have, where we’ve been so committed to self-governance, that we allow rush to happen sometimes less than a week after students get here? So we’re certainly going to take a look at that.”

Another measure, she said, will involve putting rogue Greek houses under greater scrutiny.

Harper said she understands some students may perceive these new policies to be punitive.

“That's not what you do with people you respect,” she noted, adding that she is a supporter of all the good the Greek life community contributes. “I think what we were trying to do (Thursday) night is have an authentic conversation.

“I think that was a little bit of what we were trying to say (Thursday): We can’t collude with you to be unsafe,” Harper said. “So I think what we’re likely to see is, many more strategies that are designed to say, there are boundaries, and yeah, you’re going to live within them. And if that’s not possible, perhaps we need to rethink who’s coming to Michigan. Because we are not going to become the party school … that’s not this place.”