Thanks for following along with us! The meeting has ended, and so our liveblog closes here too. We hope you enjoyed our coverage.
Sorority member on committee, closing out the meeting: The way that the report is written, “I don’t feel uncomfortable talking to freshmen… I don’t feel that my ability to interact with freshmen, in a friendship context, is inhibited in any way.”
Audience question on liability: If a Greek organization is found to have committed a violation, who gets in trouble? Just the people who were there?
Deignan: We would look to see what the evidence shows about who was responsible for organizing the event or attending/participating in the event.
Response: But does knowledge of the event constitute a violation.
Deignan: I think we would stop short of saying knowledge of the event but I certainly hope that those of you who come by knowledge of the event would do your best to persuade others not to do what they’re about to do. We would hope those who played a part accountable.
Committee: You can have casual, informal conversations with individual freshmen about rushing. But you can’t solicit–you can’t hold information sessions, etc.
Audience: How can freshmen make a more informed decision about joining an organization if they can’t go to any events?
Deignan: I don’t think they’d have any less information than they do under the current system–we’re not necessarily saying they know more than they do now. But this wasn’t the charge of our committee.
Audience: Is there a statute of limitations on the policy? Can we be charged for things that happened long ago?
Deignan: There is no statute of limitations on any of the violations in RR&R. “I would say, however, that the further away people get from an actual event, the more difficult it becomes to investigate–people’s memories aren’t as good, information isn’t as accessible.”
Audience: Is there anyone that we can call to clarify the policy or ask specific questions?
Deignan: We’re all happy to answer questions. We’re going to make sure that the Directors of Student Life know the policy very well.
Response: Will there be some sort of assurance given?
Deignan: Absolutely, as long as you follow through with the event you described as you described it.
Breakthrough: apparently Greek members can encourage freshmen to join their organizations as sophomores (e.g. “You should totally think about rushing next year” is appropriate). Many ‘ooooooh’s from the audience.
Student asks about promoting a non-Greek event to his/her fellow Greeks via Listserv (e.g. inviting fraternity members to a non-Greek charity event). If freshmen are also at this open, public event, is that okay?
EDIT–Deignan thinks it’s okay.
Question: A student reports that an organization is primarily social I know so because of X, Y, and Z. A host of other students say that that isn’t true. Does one student’s experience of that being primarily social count as clear and persuasive evidence?
Answer: Not at all.
Committee member on groups: There needs to be some officership or financial structure. It needs to have a sustained identity over time. “61 Patton does not count as group because when we leave the room we’re not the 61 Patton Crew.”
Audience member: sororities and fraternities could completely undermine this policy by sending a hundred calls or emails to Public Safety–a culture of suspicion could turn against the school.
Committee member, in jest: “I did that once to protect my drug trafficking and it didn’t work.” — to raucous laughter.
Question: There are organizations that have social events but don’t have exclusive membership or whatnot, e.g. a capella groups, dance groups. How is it determined that an organization is primarily social or not?
Deignan: No organization recognized by the school is covered by this policy.
Response: Could I reform as an a capella group (“say, Shere Flan”) and fill it up with my fraternity members?
Deignan: Well, you would have to go through the USG’s process for becoming an official student group.
Response: Suppose I did that.
Deignan: You would have to convince them that you were taking members solely based on talent.
Deignan: “We don’t believe that if there’s an inadvertent violation–an accidental encounter… we said that, not only do we think that that should result in a lesser penalty, that shouldn’t result in any penalty.”
Committee member: You’re being paranoid if you’re afraid of letting freshmen into your room for non-Greek interactions.
Committee member explains that they’re still okay with interaction between freshmen and upperclassmen–but they need to “Make it about the freshmen. Make it about you.”
Audience member: There’s an undercurrent that the university is “out to get” Greek members–even if they’re not looking to use the presence of Greek members as evidence, they might use it as reason for suspicion. Brings up that he hasn’t felt like he’s had any opportunity to give feedback.
Committee member explains that, during the construction of their recommendation, they couldn’t reveal their thinking process then solicit comments then go back to improve the report because they couldn’t let President Tilghman know before their recommendation–needed to reveal all at once.
Hearing Dean Deignan say “Theta” brings some laughter to the room.
Audience member brings up that, if there are deficiencies in the policy, it should be revised before further action is taken against Greek organizations.
Good quote from Deignan regarding grey space: “There are a million different permutations of any violations of Rights, Rules and Responsibilities. We’re simply trying to give you some examples.”
Deignan again on the email point: “I do not know where that rumor came from… The university does not look at emails.” She explains that it is technically university domain but that is not their policy
Committee brings up email evidence a few times. Audience member: So we’re being asked to hand over our inboxes now? Committee: absolutely not; we’re just describing situations in which others send in emails.
Audience: we’re worried about the grey space in the policy. Committee (again): there needs to be clear and persuasive evidence.
People are very concerned about being charged and found guilty in the face of very little evidence. Committee member: “This policy is not going to get anyone innocent caught.” Another explains that students seem to be scared that they will be punished simply for being members of Greek organizations–but this policy doesn’t aim to do that; things shouldn’t be different than they are now for current members.
Just about a thousand questions fired in from the audience, mostly regarding what defines sponsorship by a Greek organization. General committee response: if there isn’t clear and persuasive evidence, you won’t be charged as guilty.
Great quote from an audience member in regards to how parties will be identified as Greek: “How do you know I’m not just popular?” Committee response: you won’t get charged because you look like you’re in a sorority–there needs to be clear and persuasive evidence (e.g. Greek letters on the door).
Committee member points out: You can have the same parties (“informal gatherings”) that you’ve been having during Frosh week, but you can’t make it about your fraternity or sorority.
Things are getting testy in here. Jumping between questions–everyone wants to make a few points.
A sorority member points out that most Greek events are casual and informal, while the policy generally looks at formal and explicit events. “Can their not be informal gatherings in the same way?”
Deignan: “If you have an event in your room, you have a level of control over that.” If a few Greeks are gathered, they need to ask themselves if this is a casual gathering or is this an event that the sorority is hosting? If it’s a sorority event, they need to figure out how to exclude freshmen.
A Greek member asks about how a freshman would be punished if they stumbled into a booth or table at a public philanthropic event, sponsored by a Greek organization. The committee generally agrees that this would not be a violation (as “no reasonable person would see this as a violation”).
Professor William A. Gleason explains, roughly: We were thinking about how to separate out freshmen from attending rush events and the easiest way was to ban them from all events–we didn’t want to get into the issue of carving out specific exceptions, because it’s much simpler and cleaner this way.
Another follow-up: ‘But if a girl can’t join a fraternity anyway, why should she be prohibited from attending as a date?’ The committee’s response revolves around the unfairness of banning gay dates from attending.
The meeting has opened up for questions. The first (paraphrased): ‘Why did you decide to ban all freshmen from all events? Greek Organizations are gendered by nature–why not let females attend fraternity events and vice versa?’
Response: ‘Gender neutrality was a significant issue for us. We thought that the purpose of events might change from year-to-year: could be a rush event one year and something different the next.’
Dean Kathleen Deignan opens up the meeting by asking for a show of hands of whoever has read the committee’s report–looks like just about everyone. She then makes a few remarks about the committee’s task and objective: define terms (solicitation of freshmen, rush, etc.) and outline appropriate punishments.
One major goal: to be as clear as they can be in defining the parameters of prohibited activity.
Rough estimate: 40-50 students in attendance.
Welcome to our liveblog! The room is starting to fill up. No sign of administrators yet. A bright-yellow flag of Thetarade tank-top opposition sits in the front row. Just a few more minutes now–stay tuned!
Last Monday, Dean Deignan laid out the details and the rationale of the new freshman rush policy. Today, the committee will invite students to an open forum where they can offer feedback and ask questions. We imagine it’ll be fairly active. So if you’re unable to make your way to Frist 302 at 4:30, fear not — we’ll be liveblogging all the lurid details in this here blog post. See you in a few hours …. keep your trigger finger on the refresh button.