Few students will deny that the off-campus housing situation needs to change dramatically. Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje has provided one solution: an ordinance to delay lease signing until December. If a modified version of this ordinance pushes lease signing to winter semester, it would not only make lease signings coincide with on-campus renewal early winter term, but also enable the Greeks to push back rush to winter semester. Because passing this ordinance will require strong support from students, it is crucial that students mobilize behind it. The Greek community, which stands to reap the benefits of delayed rush, should recognize its stake in this proposal, mobilize its thousands of members to lobby Hieftje and make this change happen.
The Greek community at the University has long held rush shortly after school begins. When pressed to delay rush, the community has responded that early rush allows it to fill its houses; if rush were delayed until winter term, prospective Greeks would sign off-campus housing contracts in the fall, leaving fraternity and sorority houses empty. However, if Hieftje were able to pass an ordinance to push lease signing back, the Greeks would still be able to fill their houses in the winter.
Having winter rush instead of fall rush would unambiguously improve the Greek community. By having a later rush period, prospective recruits would have more time to learn about the Greek system and college life before deciding whether or not to pledge. Greeks could have recruitment events during fall semester that would give prospects several genuine opportunities to figure out if Greek life is right for them. Students interested in rushing yet scared to make commitments so early in the school year would have extra time to evaluate the system, while those students who pledge immediately without knowing what the process entails would have more time to think through the decision. The Greek system would benefit from a group of recruits far more prepared to make a commitment. Consequently, there would be fewer instances of de-pledging and de-activation, creating a better environment in each of the Greek chapters, as well as within the community at large.
From a public relations standpoint, the Greeks should actively pursue this legislation because its passage would aid many non-Greeks and improve the system’s reputation. Most students – even Greeks who choose not to live in the community’s houses – must face the annual pressure of house hunting and lease signing. If the Greeks managed to push lease signing back until winter semester, the majority of students, Greek and non-Greek, would be grateful. The system, which is always seeking positive publicity, should view Hieftje’s proposal as a chance to score points with the campus community.
In the past, when faced with allegations of hazing and abuse, the Greek system has drawn attention to its record of community service and social awareness. Pressuring the City Council to enact Hieftje’s legislation, while not analogous to raising money for the fight against hunger and disease, would be a similar act of service – this one for the University community. The system, which has both the numbers and organizational structure to wage a successful lobbying campaign, should focus its efforts on improving student life and redefining the landlord-tenant relationship.