Thursday, October 15, 2009

Deferred Madness

Clearly, some colleges/universities just get it, and others don’t. The enlightened institutions among us have realized that the choice to join a fraternity is so profound, so complicated (and possibly so hazardous), that young and impressionable freshmen students should not be rushed into that decision. In fact, the smartest colleges/universities also realize that freshmen students are incapable of critical thinking and decision making, and thus need to be told when they can join a fraternity or sorority. I’m sure these institutions have conducted studies that confirm that a young man or woman’s decision-making skills are only effective and useful starting in the second semester. However, there must be some debate to this question – since some institutions do not allow this decision to be made until the sophomore year. The students they enroll must struggle to even know what kind of cereal to have in the morning!

The smartest of the enlightened institutions of higher education often realize that not only should freshmen wait to join a fraternity or sorority, they should be prevented from even having contact with a fraternity or sorority member until told otherwise. This is obviously because their students have the thinking skills of a gnat who allows itself to be drawn into the scorching death of a bug zapper.

It is most noble of these colleges/universities to look after their young neophytes with care and compassion. They’ve obviously discovered a truth that has been elusive for so many of us – first-semester college freshmen are pretty dumb. They need to be protected from their own stupidity. They cannot make a wise decision, especially when allowed to move at their own pace. So instead, let’s help them by adding structure. Yes – help them – that sounds nice! Let’s give them two weeks of quick meetings, funny slide shows, and fancy brochures. That will clearly allow for more controlled - er - I mean better decision-making.

By the way, this doesn’t apply to other student organizations. Students are free to join them at any time, since they are the kinds of decisions students can make quickly and without any thought.

I’m sure that there is research that proves that deferred recruitment results in greater recruitment numbers, fewer incidents of alcohol and hazing, greater alumni engagement, better academics for the members, and a greater commitment to founding values and principles. Just because I couldn’t find this research anywhere doesn’t mean it’s not there.

I want to thank these enlightened institutions for challenging all of our intuitive ideas and notions of common sense by proving that deferred recruitment is the way to go. Because of the inspiration of their example, I want to challenge them in kind. Since these colleges and universities have the best interests of students in mind, I’m sure they wouldn’t care if we prevented them from making contact with or actively recruiting high school students until the second semester of their senior years. In fact, we’ll just give them two weeks in August to make their case. After all, it’s such a big decision.



  1. ha ha ha ha ha. When CU boulder tried to make the fraternities do deferred recruitment, they broke away from the school over it. It turns out that the "rubber stamp" from the university is not a big deal. In fact, we've grown about 10% per year every year since it happened.

  2. My "Strengthsfinder" assessment says I'm a strong "Context" person, so I have to ask “how did we get here in the first place” when looking at a question or problem.

    From my own informal study of the history of the fraternity movement, it seems that the whole concept of “pledging” may have came out of the early efforts to restrict fraternities from accepting new members as incoming freshmen. A man couldn’t join right away but he could “pledge” to join. As you might recall, John & Tony, in Theta Chi’s history Freemen & Chase approved Williston & Potter on the night of the founding—and initiated them the next night. It was decades after the founding before there were “pledges.” This seems to be the experience of many fraternities in the 1800’s. Perhaps someone will do a formal study of this some day.

    “Formal rush” places artificial constrains on fraternities and sororities. The time constrains on when members can be accepted seem particularly cumbersome and detrimental. In my opinion, it there were no rules about when and how many invitations could be offered I think the way our organizations would recruit new members in a radically different way. Some organizations might choose to “rush” incoming early freshmen and then “pledge” them for long periods. Other organizations might choose to take a longer time to get to know potential member and then opt for short or even no pledge period—they would already know the men they wanted and vice-versa. Perhaps neither method is “better” but eventually the “market” would decide what worked best for any particular group. (Don’t misunderstand—there is a place for rules governing prohibition of the use of alcohol and other behaviors in recruitment but these are also bigger “risk management” issues.)

    Let’s go back to the theory that “pledging” may be a result of differed recruitment and carry out in a thought exercise. Suppose a campus creates a rule that freshman can not “rush” or otherwise join a Greek organization. What happens then when a fraternity or sorority changes its bylaws to allow people to become initiated members before the enter college? Would that student be refused admission because he was a member of a lawful group?

    Both the Freemasons and the Knights of Columbus admit members who are 18 or older. Both of these organizations are “fraternities” by their own definition. What restrictions are there on these groups on college campuses?

    The United States Constitution give us all the right to peaceably assemble—this can and should be extrapolated to the right to join any lawful group we so choose—when we so choose. If our government gives us this right, what message do our colleges and universities send when they restrict this right?

  3. At least fraternities (usually) have a couple weeks or more of formal rush. Contrast that with NPC, which generally limits women to four "parties", some of which are as short as 15 minutes, and none that I know of are over 90 minutes. It certainly does not allow time for discovering relevant information on which to base decisions. Some even thrive on sleep deprivation during the process - endorsed by the campus panhellenic organization.

    The strict silence says "we can't trust the active members of the greek organizations nor can we trust the newcomers". Do you really want to join a system like that?