Greeks push for earlier rush

by Colin Barry | 10/15/03 5:00am

Greek leaders have begun a campaign to move rush to freshman spring or sophomore fall, overturning a delay imposed two years ago.

Dartmouth's Greek system -- once the inspiration for the movie "Animal House" -- currently prohibits students from rushing before sophomore winter, possibly the longest deferred recruitment policy of any college in America.

Greek Leadership Council officials and corporate advisers to fraternities said that in the coming weeks they will be drafting separate letters proposing rush alterations to Dean of the College James Larimore.

Larimore, who holds the final say on rush timing, said he would be "open to conversation" on amending Greek recruitment policy, but noted that any change would likely take time.

"This is an important enough discussion that I'd confer with a number of colleagues on campus and possibly discuss the issue with members of the Board of Trustees," Larimore said.

The class of 2008 would likely be the first to experience any new rush procedure, according to GLC officials.

In recent years, College officials and Trustees have often been criticized as anti-Greek and, more broadly, as out of touch with Dartmouth's undergraduates and alumni. Roughly half of eligible Dartmouth students are members of a Greek organization, according to a report issued by the Trustees.

"I think a change in policy would send a message to the alumni that the administration is supportive of Greek organizations and is working to make them as strong as possible," Jon Engelman '68 said. Engelman is the corporate advisor to the Alpha Delta fraternity.

GLC members cited a number of benefits to an earlier rush, including a longer undergraduate period as a member of a Greek house.

"People within the Greek system feel that it's a very positive aspect of their life at Dartmouth," said Andrew Kallman '05, the GLC public relations manager. "Many undergraduates think that two-and-a-half years in the system is not enough."

Kallman also said more time would also improve the quality of Greek leadership, affording undergraduates "a better understanding of the rules and what their house stands for."

Earlier rush would also improve the financial position of Greek organizations, particularly smaller fraternities and sororities.

"Now, in the fall, there's only two classes of students paying membership fees -- both regular house dues and rental dues," Kallman said.

Matt Meehan '04, president of the comparatively low-membership Alpha Chi Alpha fraternity, told The Dartmouth that advancing the rush process would "definitely" put his house on better fiscal ground.

Edelman said that holding rush sooner would "enhance the continuity of Greek organizations," helping to counteract the divisive effect of students' varying leave terms.

Freshmen are required to be on campus for Spring term, and most sophomores choose to spend their fall in residence at the College. In contrast, many undergraduates choose to take the Winter term off, departing frigid Hanover for more moderate climates.

"Under the current system, most rush takes place in the Winter term, when a large portion of the student body is away from campus. Having recruitment again in the Spring term is not great for house unity," Kallman said.

Rush proponents expressed doubt that there would be serious downsides to allowing rush to occur sooner.

"For most of the College's history, rush has been held in either fall of sophomore year or spring of freshman year," Edelman said. "There were no significant problems with scheduling rush then."

The most recent changes to Greek rush -- namely, the move to sophomore winter -- came two academic years ago, at the recommendation of the Trustees.

Larimore said the alteration was made so that upperclassmen, particularly undergraduate advisors, would be able to focus "time and energy [during the Fall term] on getting first-year students settled in."

Supporters of the proposed change argue that freshmen will be welcomed regardless of the timing of rush.

"Dartmouth students have been juggling different interests and different organizations for generations," Edelman said. "There's no reason they can't continue to do so."