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Campus Preview Weekend Not Pre-Rush

Column by Douglas E. Heimburger
Associate News Editor

Last week, members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity expressed anger because they had not been assigned as many prefrosh as they had requested for Campus Preview Weekend.

I'm puzzled why a fraternity should be so concerned about receiving prefrosh. After all, these students haven't even accepted admission to MIT, let alone expressed even the slightest interest in the fraternity system.

So why should a specific fraternity be concerned about not getting "enough" prefrosh?It seems to me that there's only one explanation: The fraternities are specifically attempting to urge their prefrosh to rush their fraternity during the spring visits.

The Interfraternity Council itself says that fraternities shouldn't be working to influence prefrosh to rush their own fraternity. "The purpose of spring rush is to convince high school seniors to attend MIT," according to the IFC rush rules.

Yet consistently, fraternities seem to make it into much more. Two years ago, a prefrosh appeared to be missing for 12 hours because a fraternity had taken him to its house and failed to inform the Admissions Office, which was coordinating Campus Preview.

It is evident that fraternities have some great advantages in the recruitment process. For example, from looking at the sheets of prefrosh visits on the door of the Admissions Office, it's obvious that fraternities and other independent living groups host the vast majority of prefrosh that come to campus.

By hosting a student for a night, the fraternity gains some great advantages. First, oftentimes, the only image of MIT a prefrosh will take back is that of the living group that he stayed in. Thus, the prefrosh will have a natural inclination to visit that living group in the fall when rush comes - especially if they enjoyed their visit to MIT.

ILGs also gain the opportunity to ridicule the dormitory system while they host a prefrosh. When I visited MITabout a year ago, Iwas consistently told how much nicer the ILGs were compared to the dormitory system.

Indeed, many prefrosh won't even have contact with residents of the dormitory system during their visit. I remember members of the fraternity that Iprefroshed in offering to meet and accompany me to classes the following day. While this is an extremely nice gesture to provide a familiar face during and between classes, it can also succeed in isolating the prefrosh from any other members of the community during their visit.

Many will ask what the problems are with the current system.After all, prefrosh are being exposed to one of the living environments of the MIT campus, and they're getting to meet a good group of people.

The problem, though, is that these prefrosh are being encouraged not to come to MITbut instead to rush a specific fraternity. The prefrosh visit is just not the time for something like that to happen. Many prefrosh may even be turned off about the possibility of attending MITbecause of their campus visit.

Personally, when Iwas a prefrosh, I asked the Admissions Office to find me a host in a dormitory because I wanted to see what on-campus housing was like. After all, I had already pretty much decided not to rush a fraternity. I was slightly disturbed when the office ended up assigning me to a fraternity, and my visit there turned out to be nonproductive.

Because Ihad been assigned to a living group that I wasn't even interested in, I wasn't able to ask the serious questions that I needed to find out about. There is a big difference between housing, dining, and activities in the ILGs and in the dormitory system. It wasn't until the following evening - when I stayed in a dormitory with a friend - that I was finally able to ask the questions Ihad about life at MIT.

But not all prefrosh have the opportunity to stay with a friend in the dormitory system to get their questions answered. Many, then, may return home wondering if MITis truly the place for them. Only 20 percent of those coming to Campus Preview expressed an interest in staying in an ILG. I hope that those who didn't express an interest but were assigned there anyway didn't get disillusioned in the process.

The FSILGsystem already has a lot of advantages in the rush process - more money for programs and a monopoly on Killian Kick-Off among them. Housing prefrosh is not another advantage necessary for the survival of the fraternity system.

Fraternities should stop rushing prefrosh during their visits and instead convince them to come to MITin general.It's the best thing they can do for themselves and for the process. After all, prefrosh who are treated nicely - but not rushed - during their visit may just decide to come to MIT. And most of them may actually consider rushing a fraternity instead of being turned off on the whole process as I was when I arrived here nine months ago.