AUSTIN, Texas—The University of Texas at Austin should continue to support a traditional fall recruitment period for Greek fraternities and sororities that choose to conduct one, a review group working through the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs has recommended.
Dr. Larry R. Faulkner, president of the university, endorsed the report of the committee.
The recommendation, presented this week to Faulkner, is in response to a January 2004 recommendation by the university’s Task Force on Racial Respect and Fairness.
Vice President for Student Affairs James Vick said he appointed the review group last fall to analyze the proposal of the Task Force on Racial Respect and Fairness that the university encourage entering students to postpone pledging to Greek organizations until the end of their freshman year. The task force had reasoned that postponement would allow entering freshmen an opportunity to “develop a broader range of experiences and contacts that may otherwise be limited by their participation in these often closed societies.”
Vick said the review group, which met four times during the fall semester of 2004, also was asked to help him survey the practices at comparable institutions, consider the consequences of such a change and advise the president on a course of action.
He said the group consisted of five students (one from each of the five Greek councils), two faculty members, one alumnus, one staff member and himself.
“Our conclusion, in brief, is that we should not change our existing schedule for recruitment,” Vick said. “We do, however, believe that the Greek community can take initiatives to address the concerns expressed by the Task Force. The students and staff involved in our discussions are committed to taking action on these ideas in the coming year.”
The group’s report recommends that the university “continue to support a traditional fall recruitment period for those Greek organizations that choose to conduct one. Students should be encouraged to decide for themselves at what point in their academic career they will become involved, if at all.”
The report also noted that while the number of non-freshmen going through Panhellenic recruitment is growing, there remains a perception that sophomores and juniors are penalized in the current recruitment process. It said Panhellenic should build on its Continuous Open Bidding and other programs to encourage those who prefer to delay membership.
“We also recommend that the Greek Life and Education Office actively explore options that can improve the diversity of the student experience,” the report said. “The potential is great to bridge the cultural differences among our students. The Greek community should be taking the lead in bringing this potential to reality.”
The report notes that the group’s discussions “were open and active, exploring multiple points of view and raising key questions related to the basic issues.” It said that while no votes were taken and no formal proposal was adopted, the following observations represent the general opinion of those involved:
- There is little evidence that the deferral of Greek recruitment would accomplish the goal of the Task Force on Racial Respect and Fairness.
- There are other actions the Greek community could take that have the potential to improve cross-cultural respect and understanding.
- Students have the option of delaying their involvement in Greek activities if they choose to do so. Many elect to do this, and Greek Life and Education continues to find ways to support them.
- The traditional recruitment period is much more common at comparable institutions than a deferred approach.
- The deferral of recruitment would deny some students a valuable opportunity that helps them have a more successful and rewarding college experience.
- There are serious questions as to the fairness and legal status of requiring some but not all organizations to defer recruitment.
- While the student experience must have higher priority than the economic impact, it is clear that the deferral of recruitment would be a severe financial hardship for many of the student chapters.
The review group members said they heard from alumni and students, both men and women, that participation in Greek life during their first semester on campus was a very valuable part of their adjustment to the college experience. Their report said some also expressed the belief that being exposed early to older, involved students in their organizations allows new students to feel comfortable on campus and connects them to others who can lead the way.
“This could in fact result in more diverse exposures rather than to increased isolation,” the report said. “On the whole, it was felt that the positive effects of early involvement would lead to better adjustment to the college experience, greater comfort, and ultimately higher retention rates.”
The group reported that at the organizational level, they received documentation from a number of chapters that the lost revenue from deferred recruitment would be substantial. For some chapters this amount was estimated to be a $40,000 to $50,000 net loss each year. For large fraternities it was expected to be much higher because of fixed costs, such as mortgages, employee salaries and insurance, which do not change with membership size. Because the total time of membership would be shortened by one semester for many of the students, this loss would continue annually. Some smaller fraternities felt they might cease to exist because of the financial strain.
The group said the university does not dictate to other student organizations when they can recruit new members nor when they can participate in organizational activity, therefore it would be unfair to make such a policy only apply to certain student groups.
“Of perhaps even greater importance is the question of whether it is legal to single out certain student organizations and force them to delay recruitment of new members,” the report said. “While we were not able to develop a specific position on this question, we have serious concerns that making such a distinction would lead to legal problems.”
The review group had discussions on how the Greek system and the university can address the goal stated by the Task Force on Racial Fairness and Respect. The group suggested involving Greek organizations in more joint activities. These could be social, educational or service oriented.
The membership of the review group was as follows:
- Sarika Amin, student representing Texas Asian Pan-Hellenic Council
- Elizabeth Brummett, student representing Panhellenic Council
- Patrick Davis, faculty, College of Pharmacy
- Robert German, alumni adviser, Delta Tau Delta
- Frank Gonzalez, student representing United Greek Council
- Kara Kockelman, faculty, College of Engineering
- Tekisha Scott, student representing National Pan-Hellenic Council
- Joseph Scrofano, student representing Interfraternity Council
- Betty Jeanne Taylor, staff, Dean of Students Office
- James Vick, Vice President for Student Affairs
For more information contact: Robert D. Meckel, Office of Public Affairs, 512-475-7847.