Pacific University Greek Senate voted in a 6:2 decision to abolish fall pledging for the 2015-2016 year at a meeting Sept. 9 in response to a confrontation from student life administration.
Greek Senate, PUGS, were given the options to do away with pledging for the semester or fight the decision and risk consequences. With rush scheduled to start two days later, the decision resulted in an immediate uproar from Greek Life.
Assistant Director of Student Activities and Greek Life Advisor Pete Erschen said that while it was a building issue, alleged incidents that occurred on the weekend of Sept. 4 were the tipping point in the decision.
In a retrospective meeting with the larger Greek Life that followed the decision, Erschen said waiting till something really bad happened would be much worse than [the action] now.
“I was really hurt by the fact that we got dropped with this hard decision,” said vice president of intergreek relations and Alpha Zeta member Courtney Revada-Luz.
PUGS sent out an email directly following the meeting to the larger Greek System and received significant confused backlash.
Revada-Luz said he received 25 emails from members of various chapters outraged by the decision and blaming PUGS and other chapters.
“The chapters were really quick to turn on each other,” Revada Luz said. “It said a lot about the isolation between chapters.”
Erschen said the decision to confront PUGS was made earlier that week between himself and Director of Student Activities, Steve Klein. Because of the quick turnaround and the immediacy of the concern, they were unable to share the information with the Greek System earlier. He added that, given how busy the student body is, he doesn’t believe that there was a way to confront them and not have it feel like an interruption to people.
Still, the lack of communication and out-of-the-blue decision left many Greeks feeling uneasy and confused.
One fraternity member who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of giving his fraternity a bad reputation said it felt like the administration was twisting the greeks arms behind their backs to get what they wanted.
Delivery aside, Erschen said colleges across the country are taking action in regulation Greek Life and that some have chosen to abolish Greek Life altogether in response to the growing bad reputation of Greek Life in the media.
“I think that Pacific is exceptionally committed to letting its students have the experience that they want but we need to balance that with safety and security,” Erschen said. “If a student decides to engage in a sponsored co-curricular activity, they need to have a safe and positive experience.
Erschen said he doesn’t think the Greek System ready to pledge in the fall.
In a typical calendar year, Greek Life will host rush events for one week and then move right into pledging, which varies from one to four weeks.
With pledging not happening in the fall, rush events will be spread out to last the entire semester and pledging will be held only in the spring.
Erschen said this change will not only give fraternities and sororities more time to get to know potential pledges and make sure that both the chapter and the individuals pledging in feel right for each other, but will also give Greek life a chance to re-evaluate its pledging process and update it’s sometimes outdated traditions.
Rather than national fraternities and sororities that have to report to and adhere to changes and updates from
their national representatives, Pacific Greek life is only mandated by the actives and student life administration.
Erschen said this could result in traditions that are not in line with acceptable practices.
Greek senate vice president of recruitment and Alpha Zeta member Tyler Wiprud said there are some traditions in their handbook that date back to the 1980’s.
Phi Lambda Omicron member Tori Prawitz said that, while no one in her sorority is happy about the decision, they are making the most out of it and have the time to critically look at their constitution and practices in ways they couldn’t if they were doing pledging.
Revada-Luz said the stretched out rushing events will also serve to unify chapters and improve the Greek community as a whole.
“Intergreek relations right now is not well,” Revada-Luz said. “The Greek system is very separated and I’m
personally happy we get to work on that this semester.”
Wiprud compared the commitment of pledging into a chapter to a marriage in that it is a life-long bond that needs to be taken more seriously on both the chapter’s and individual’s ends.
Erschen and PUGS pushed the idea of quality over quantity concerning pledging and urged chapters to think of the kinds of people they want as pledges rather than being competitive over numbers.
Erschen said this extra time will hopefully result in a new Greek system that is better for all those involved.
In the Greek meeting following the announcement, Erschen said a buffer system will be put in place to accommodate chapters’ whose numbers may dip below that of an official funded club because of the decision.
As word spreads and members of different chapters are given more time
to process the decision, Wiprud said there is a range of how people feel about the decision but that the focus now should be on moving forward.
A greek member who asked to remain anonymous said they and their chapter are all too afraid to speak out against the decision out of fear of losing support for their events.
“If we are to be given the freedom to govern ourselves, we have to be able to do so without fear of having that autonomy taken away without having a conversation first,” they said.
They said the quick decision and the way it’s been handled make them feel like they are at administration’s mercy.
“I think all of the people who are opposed have very valid arguments as to why we should do pledging,” Wiprud said. “But whether or not you agree with the decision, all we can do is make the most good out of it as we can and make the Greek system better.”