Early Fraternity Rush Aims to Curb Informal Parties

Fall fraternity rush was over early this year in a calculated twist on the traditional rush calendar.

Student fraternity leaders moved fall rush to the beginning of the year in part to end what has been a period of underground drinking and partying before formal rush begins.

>With rush starting closer to Labor Day in past years, fraternity leaders said the first experiences new students had with fraternities were more likely to involve alcohol.

Davis Willingham, a senior from Raleigh and president of Delta Kappa Epsilon, said that in previous years “the first two weeks were informal. They weren’t being monitored and weren’t being policed.”

Interfraternity Council President Tucker Piner, a Winston-Salem junior, said the partying contributed to stereotypes because new students associated drinking with fraternities.

“Fraternities were getting taken advantage of and put in uncomfortable positions,” Piner said.

This year, rush began Aug. 20 and ended Sept. 2. Last year’s rush spanned from Sept. 2 to Sept. 11. Piner said the change is not necessarily permanent, and leaders are evaluating it.

During the recruitment period, chapter events and activities are to be alcohol-free, according to UNC’s Fraternity and Sorority Alcohol Policy, which was last revised in 2006. Alcohol never has been allowed during rush, said Kayte Sexton Fry, who advises the IFC and is the coordinator of fraternity and sorority life in the Office of Dean of Students.

“The two weeks before was sort of that underground period,” Fry said. “Chapters have been recruiting with those types of parties.” She said the changes were designed to end that partying, at least for this year.

Willingham said the IFC’s leadership help him enforce alcohol policies at DKE.

“When you have a legitimate IFC that’s out every single night patrolling, it’s a lot easier for me as a president to say, ‘Hey, they’re out. My hands are tied,’ ” he said.

“I feel like all the fraternity presidents are keeping each other in check a lot more than they have in past years. We’re all looking out for the good of the system. In doing that, we’ve got to call people out.”

Rush changes come amid increased scrutiny of the Greek system following last fall, when DKE President Courtland Smith left a fraternity party and later told a 911 dispatcher he had been drinking and had a gun. A police officer shot Smith to death after Smith was stopped on I-85 near Archdale. The Greek Judicial Board later sanctioned DKE for violating alcohol policies. Also, Chapel Hill police arrested four students, who had ties to fraternities or sororities, on cocaine charges in September 2009.

Piner said the IFC leaders hope they will show the University and the Board of Trustees that the student-led system works.

“That’s definitely half the reason,” he said. “We are proud to be self-governing. We’re prepared to report on chapters that are in violation and work with them. We’d really like to see this culture change take hold.”

Earlier this year, trustees’ Chair Robert Winston III ’84 tapped D. Jordan Whichard III ’79 to review Greek life at the school after the trying fall 2009 semester. Whichard said his report did not address moving rush closer to the beginning of the year, but he hopes the student leaders will feel this experiment has a positive outcome.

“I think they understand that the administration and the board have a limited degree of patience with respect to the kinds of underground, informal, wet-rush kinds of activities that have gone on in the past,” Whichard said.

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