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Dormcon Rush Rules Changes Were Fair

Guest column by Christopher H. Barron

My name is Christopher H. Barron '97, and I'm the Dormitory Council president for 1996. In Wednesday's issue of The Tech, the article "Fraternity Rush Goes Slowly; Results Decline This Year," gave a rather one-sided interpretation of fraternity, sorority, and independent living group rush results. The Dormcon officers and I hope this column will clarify some misconceptions about rush this year.

First, Dormcon didn't change any of its rush rules right before rush began. If our rules seemed new to FSILGs, they should be aware that we went out of our way to communicate new rules to the Interfraternity Council. It was their responsibility to inform their members - not ours. Dormcon released a memo last spring which listed its major rule changes since last rush. This memo was circulated to all Dormcon members, the IFC, and the Office of Residence and Campus Activities.

In addition, the final copy of Dormcon's rush rules for 1996 was sent to the previously mentioned parties before the end of the spring term. The Dormcon officers even attended the last regular IFC rush meeting of the spring term to explain these changes. I remember explaining our rules - and specifically answering questions about - our policies regarding trespassing on dorm property. I also explained our policies on not providing information about freshmen and not taking messages for them at dorm desks.

One change that we did implement at the last minute was the messaging system. This change was made because the IFC would not agree on or take action on a message system all summer. If Dormcon didn't put together the message system at the last minute, FSILGs wouldn't have had any way to send messages to freshmen at all. When we informed the IFC and RCA that Dormcon was abandoning the Clearinghouse system and that we would be much stricter about trespassing, we said that these policies also meant that FSILG members would not be able to deliver messages for freshmen at dorm desks.

We put forth proposals for alternative messaging systems in the spring and also during the summer. We initially proposed a more centralized system which would largely eliminate dorm desk involvement and minimize trespassing and loitering. RCA declined the proposal. The IFC never got back to us. Realizing that this should have been a major concern to the IFC, we repeatedly tried to contact the IFC rush chair over the summer to discuss a messaging system. Again, we never got a reply.

Finally, at Dormcon's last regular rush meeting, the Wednesday before rush, we invited the IFC officers. At that meeting, the IFC rush chair informed us that he had never heard before that meeting that we would not allow FSILGs to deliver messages at dorm desks and that this would hurt FSILGs during rush. Later that evening, RCA's advisor to FSILGs called me to say that he wasn't aware of that change either. All summer, we couldn't understand why the IFC would not remedy a problem that would affect their rush so directly. This is not a shot at the IFC; we later found out that many of the parties involved were simply hard to contact over the summer.

We also acknowledge that all parties were operating in good faith, and we, of course, share any fault for miscommunications. This account is simply meant to show what point of view we operated from during rush.

Dormcon doesn't have a grudge against the IFC or FSILGs. In fact, we value a good rush for FSILGs greatly - if FSILGs don't fill up, we get crowded dorms. After that Wednesday rush meeting, we, the Dormcon officers, spent the next two days with hardly any sleep as we tried to formulate a message system to help FSILG rush.

At about 1 a.m. on Thursday morning, we formulated a system which would centralize message collection, deliver messages to dorm desks, and still uphold Dormcon's rush policies. By 2 a.m., we had informed the IFC rush chair and IFC Judicial Committee chair and received their approval. The system required less effort by FSILGs to send messages to freshmen than before - they could simply send e-mail from their house or make a single stop in the Student Center to drop off all their messages.

Prior to this, we had asked the IFC to work with us to come up with a solution. However, the IFC was reluctant to adopt a last-minute solution. Even after we convinced them to accept our proposed system, we had to provide all the manpower (the IFC rush chair informed us that FSILGs wouldn't be able to spare any human resources at the last minute, which is understandable), and I personally assured them that Dormcon would get all the dorms to cooperate - even Bexley Hall, which doesn't participate in Dormcon.

We committed to running the message system 13 hours a day from Saturday to Monday, attempting to deliver messages at hourly intervals. Our Dormcon officers staffed the system all three days from open to close. We had even initially offered to personally deliver a written copy of the instructions for the system to every FSILG before Killian Kick-Off, but the RCA advisor to FSILGs offered to contact the FSILGs instead. All in all, some FSILGs used the message center a lot more than others. But if some FSILGs weren't aware of the system, they should verify with their rush chair that they were contacted by RCA.

It's unfortunate that FSILGs feel a need to blame Dormcon for a rush that did not meet all their expectations. The numbers printed in The Tech show that 11 out of the 20 FSILGs which supplied a target number had actually met or exceeded their target. Dormcon implemented policies affecting all FSILGs equally, so if we really had set out to hurt FSILGs, as some would claim, then they all would have suffered, not just a few.

Also, it's unfortunate that FSILGs felt the message system was deficient. We provided the system when the IFC had no other contingency plan. Still, we had FSILGs tell us that we were being malicious and that they had decided the system was inadequate because not all freshmen were returning their messages. Even in the old system, dorm desks got a lot of harassing phone calls from FSILG members who accused them of not delivering messages and sometimes berated them profanely. It's important to point out that because freshmen are busy, tired, and sometimes fed-up with people rushing them, they simply do not return all messages. We could staple messages to their foreheads and they still wouldn't return all messages. Blaming the people who are voluntarily providing the message service is quite ungrateful.

Dormcon has no grudge against the IFC or FSILGs. On the contrary, we tried our hardest to help FSILG rush within the boundaries of our own policies. If FSILGs do not support the policies set forth by Dormcon last spring, they should contact their IFC representatives and encourage them to work closer with Dormcon in the future. If FSILGs think we are being unreasonable for enforcing trespassing rules, talk to me sometime and I'll give you accounts of FSILG members threatening to assault dorm residents, abusing dorm property, outright lying to dorm desks, and sometimes just being plain-old jerks.

If FSILGs think we're being unreasonable for not taking messages at dorm desks, our reasons are straightforward. Dorm desks are staffed by student employees of the Department of Housing and Food Services. They are not dormitory rush workers. Their primary job is to maintain dorm security and check residents in and out of their rooms. In the past, dorm desks were overrun by FSILG members trying to leave messages, both in person and over the phone, and hence could not fulfill their primary functions as desk workers. Dorm desks also have only one phone, and the constant barrage of calls posed a security concern since emergency calls could have difficulty getting through. In general, Dormcon received complaints from dorm desks that they were verbally abused by FSILG members in the past and that they were no longer willing to accommodate such an enormous workload.

I am completely aware that these acts were committed by a few "bad apples." I am happy to say that the vast majority of FSILG members have been really cooperative and generally easy-going toward dorm rush workers. However, we can not ignore the gross abuses that have happened. It may not seem fair to some that we implement policies affecting all FSILGs instead of those specifically we have had problems with, but we don't exist to police FSILGs - that's the IFC's job.

Ideally, though, IFC and Dormcon have different views on rush. We should be able to negotiate competitively and agree upon fair policies that we will both respect. If this cannot take place, we will continue to take a conservative stance during rush to protect dorm interests - that's our job. FSILG members who want to take issue with this past rush should do so with their IFC representative and should urge them to open negotiations with Dormcon far in advance for next year's rush.