UNC-CH reviews Greek rush

Death in 2009 led to inquiry

Staff WriterJune 24, 2010 

— The death of a fraternity president last year has spurred UNC-Chapel Hill to consider changes in how Greek organizations recruit members.

A campus trustee committee Wednesday began to analyze the fraternity and sorority system, hoping to determine whether changes to recruitment and the eight-week pledge period for new members are necessary.

This is the second time the administration has analyzed the system since the death last summer of Delta Kappa Epsilon president Courtland Smith, who was shot by an Archdale police officer after an encounter along Interstate 85. The shooting, later deemed justifiable, came hours after Smith left a fraternity party.

Last month, UNC trustees reviewed a report recommending that alumni play more of an advisory role for fraternities.

The new review will look at recruitment and pledging at other universities of similar size and culture. Fraternities and sororities at UNC now have three-week recruitment periods at the start of the fall semester, followed by eight-week pledge periods that some say are far too long.

Possible options include pushing recruitment from fall to spring, allowing "rolling" recruitment in which organizations can always add new members and using a performance-based recruitment that gives more leeway to organizations that follow university rules.

Trustee Roger Perry favors moving recruitment and pledging from fall to spring to allow freshmen to get accustomed to college before getting involved in a fraternity or sorority. About 70 percent of students who join Greek organizations do so as freshmen.

"Being forced to go through rush at the beginning of their first semester impedes their ability to assimilate to university life," Perry said.

Effect of pledge period

Greek organizations at most public universities recruit new members in the fall, while private institutions tend to do so in the spring, said Jenny Levering, UNC's assistant dean of students for fraternity and sorority life.

Data suggest freshmen who pledge immediately don't suffer much in the classroom, Levering said. Freshmen who pledged fraternities last fall averaged a 3.097 grade point average, while freshmen sorority members averaged 3.19 GPAs. Each grade point average is just slightly less than the overall average for all fraternity and sorority members, respectively.

Trustee Alston Gardner, who heads the committee undertaking the examination, said the university should reward organizations that follow guidelines and punish those that don't.

That would happen if UNC changed to performance-based recruitment, under which the university would yank an organization's official recognition if it didn't follow university guidelines for Greek organizations or violated hazing or alcohol policies.

Hogan Medlin, UNC's student body president, said changes will work best if they're embraced by Greek organizations and not thrust upon them.

"We can be so much more successful if Greek students buy into it," he explained. "Top-down does not work here."

The trustee committee will discuss the issue at a meeting in September.

eric.ferreri@newsobserver.com or 919-932-2008

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