Greek life postpones recruiting
Greek organizations have decided to postpone their official recruitment events-otherwise known as "rush"- until the second week of September this semester in order to meet and collectively design policies aimed at ensuring safety at all future rush events, according to Greek Awareness Council president Avi Feldan '14.
The decision to postpone rush was made in April at the traditional Greek-wide end-of-semester meeting intended for Greek organization officials to set dates and rules for the upcoming semester. Every organization was represented at that meeting, and the decision to postpone rush was made "as a group," according to Feldan. But while potential changes are still being discussed, a recent change in GAC policy will allow Greek members to recruit students before the first official day of recruitment events.
The decision to postpone rush was made about two months following the alleged sexual assault of a Brandeis student, which reportedly occurred at the off-campus Zeta Beta Tau fraternity house during the spring 2013 semester.
When the Justice reached out to Greek leaders to find out if they were planning to hold any special events in response to the alleged assault, Feldan sent an email to the Justice on behalf of the Greek community and disclosed the plan to postpone rush.
"We take the safety and security of all the students at our rush events extremely seriously. We actually pushed rush back a week next semester so we would have time to discuss that very issue. I feel, as do the presidents of the individual organizations, that Greek-wide measures are more effective and reliable than relying on each organization to set its own policies," wrote Feldan. Feldan said he "could not" comment on whether the decision to postpone rush was made as a direct response to the alleged assault.
According to Feldan, rush events usually begin the weekend following the first day of classes. But this semester, the "Meet and Greek" event, which traditionally signifies the start of rush, is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 12, a full two weeks after the first day of classes.
Although official events have been pushed to a later date, a new GAC rule will allow Greek members to begin recruitment before the date the GAC provided for the Justice.
In previous semesters, even mentioning the name of a Greek organization to prospective members before the first official day of rush events was not allowed, and would have been considered "dirty rushing." This semester, Greeks can begin recruitment immediately, even though the first official day of rush is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 12. In an email to the fraternity's members, Phi Kappa Psi President Colin Gibbons '14 wrote, "The GAC rules have been revised and the moment [first-years] step on campus we may begin unofficially rushing them. This is different from past semesters and essentially eliminates the idea of 'dirty rushing.'" Gibbons declined do comment on the email.
When asked to comment on the information about "dirty rushing," Feldan said that the GAC has "decided to allow limited activities before the official start of recruitment." He explained that Greek members can engage in a range of activities with prospective members-from speaking about their organization to inviting them over to their off-campus houses to, for example, play video games-but cannot hold official recruitment parties. Feldan explained "limited" activities are now allowed because the GAC felt that it could not realistically prohibit individual fraternity and sorority members from recruiting students during the two-week hiatus. Instead, explained Feldan, the GAC threw out the "dirty rushing" rule altogether
In addition to the anticipated policy changes, some organizations say they are taking further steps to ensure safety at future events. In an email to the Justice, officers of the sorority Sigma Delta Tau wrote, "This upcoming recruitment is just as important as any other semester, but all sorority presidents have met and planned new initiatives to keep all attendees and potential recruits safe during this upcoming recruitment."
According to this email and an email sent by Kappa Beta Gamma officers to the Justice, all three sororities with Brandeis chapters-KBG, SDT and Delta Phi Epsilon-have joined forces to plan a brochure which will include basic facts about each organization and information regarding safety, as well as an event that is designed to inform students who wish to attend recruitment events about responsible drinking.
The Justice reached out to all five fraternities with Brandeis chapters. With the exception of Alpha Delta Phi, none disclosed any specific plans to hold events in response to the incident.
In an email to the Justice, ADPhi officials wrote the fraternity has scheduled a session with the campus group Students Talking About Relationships before the rush season kicks off. In addition, the fraternity will be working with the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance to plan a workshop for brothers.
Fraternity officials say they have also reassessed their policies in order to increase security at their events. For example, during future events, brothers will be checking Brandeis IDs before allowing entrance, and will be utilizing marked security shirts to provide better security service to guests.
In an interview with the Justice last semester, the victim of the alleged Jan. 2013 rape said she believes it is crucial to educate students on the definitions of consent and rape. This topic was discussed during Brandeis' first-ever Sexual Violence Awareness Week last semester. One of the events was specifically focused on empowered consent. During this event, a Brandeis faculty member gave a presentation about consent-what consent is, and what it is not.
FMLA's Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Representative and SDT member Victoria Jonas '15 organized the event, and said there was a large turnout from the Greek community, as well as participation in the discussion that directly followed the event. But according to a Greek member who was in attendance and wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, fraternity members were not receptive to that education.
"They seemed to be missing the point of the assembly, which was trying to teach what sexual assault is and what it means to sexually assault someone," said the student in an interview with the Justice. "For example, during the discussion someone brought up a scenario that was like, 'So what if I actually didn't rape a girl but she accuses me of doing it, what do I do?'... It seemed like they just didn't understand the definition of sexual assault."
A senior at Brandeis who has been involved with Greek life in the past said he shares the same opinion. In an interview with the Justice, this student said he was in the process of becoming a member of the original chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi during his first semester at Brandeis, but dropped out because he was horrified by the activities encouraged by Greek organizations.
According to this student, during the pledging process, he and other pledges were pushed to drink excessively. For one event, pledges were told to break into another fraternity's house and steal some of their most valuable belongings. During a "scavenger hunt," they were assigned the tasks of bringing back a female's underwear and snapping pictures of women's breasts, among other projects. He said that he dropped out during the pledging process, but has experienced other pledging events first-hand then. For example, during this past semester, he claims that KBG officials repeatedly brought their pledges to his and his friends' all-male Charles River apartments to clean.
He said it is undeniable that Greek organizations serve as a valuable social outlet for many students, and provide a means for members to give back to their communities through philanthropy and charity work.
However, he said that he also believes Greek organizations are perpetuating a problematic culture.
Jonas said that she agrees with that sentiment, but is optimistic about the future.
"I think the culture is changing and during this semester ... [T]here will be a greater consciousness of the risks of perpetuating this problematic culture. But I do think it's something that comes with baby steps, and it's something that comes with time," said Jonas.
She said she believes that the first step is one that Greek organizations have yet to make. "All participants in a problematic moral culture have a responsibility to change that culture," said Jonas. "Once Greek organizations recognize that this culture ... is one that is perpetuated by Greek organizations at large, that's the only way that change can happen."