It seems like every year at this time the Daily feels compelled to publish an article critical of the recruitment efforts of fraternities and sororities. The articles raise a number of legitimate issues, but the central theme is that recruitment should be held later in the year. The editorial Monday continued this tradition (Feeling less rushed, 09/15/2008). I believe the Daily’s articles display a lack of faith and trust in our students.
Michigan students are asked to make many choices. They’ve chosen the University, a major course of study and a class schedule. Much of welcome week and Orientation is designed to help them choose among the many options available at the University to get involved. Whether it is Dance Marathon, Best Buddies, Relay for Life, Hispanic and Latino Business Students Organization, K-Grams, Students Against Cancer or the Indian American Student Association, our students are encouraged to engage in student life and activities and become part of our community.
Why should the decision about whether to join a sorority or fraternity be restricted or limited? Are students unable to decide for themselves whether the benefits of Greek life are right for them? Why is this decision different from choosing to join other student organizations? Must we shelter or protect students from certain decisions? No one is forced to go through recruitment or join a chapter. About 15 percent of students join a fraternity or sorority, so clearly, many students choose other options. Some choose to join a fraternity or sorority after their first semester. Deferring recruitment to the winter semester only means one new member class per year, limiting students’ options. The goal is to create more options, not less.
The editorial cited the stress and anxiety of rushing during the first few weeks of the fall semester while freshmen are settling in as one of the main reasons to delay recruitment. What is overlooked is that delaying recruitment simply prolongs the “informal” recruitment process, adding to stress and anxiety. Such a delay in recruitment could negatively impact academic performance, one of the concerns expressed in the editorial. According to a study of University of Michigan students, conducted by the Gamma Sigma Alpha National Greek Academic Honor Society, students who join a fraternity or sorority during their first semester actually performed better academically than students who didn’t join. One explanation for this could be the support and encouragement that is provided by chapters to its members, especially new members.
The Daily also seemed concerned that some students will make a decision they will later regret. While unfortunate, why is that a reason to restrict all students from making their own choice? We all make decisions that we regret (choice of university; choice of partner; choice of major or career; choice of what to eat, what to wear, where to go, etc.). Hopefully, we learn from that experience and become a little wiser. There is no way to predict whether our choices will be good or bad. Timing does not guarantee success.
But what about those students who feel ready to choose Greek Life? Why should we limit their ability to make a good decision for themselves? Fraternities and sororities help new members get acclimated and feel comfortable at our large, de-centralized university. Most members of sororities and fraternities feel their decision to join was one of the best decisions of their lives. Several recent studies have found that students who join a fraternity or sorority are more likely to stay in school, be more involved in co-curricular activities, graduate and have a closer connection with their university than those who don’t. That is precisely the goal the University has for all its students — engagement with their community.
Greek Life isn’t perfect, and it isn’t for everyone. But it is right for some, and the decision, including the timing, should be left up to each student. The Daily should have more faith and trust in our students.
Chris Haughee is the assistant director of the Office of Greek Life.