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FSILGs Expect Slower Rush in 1998, Few Freshmen Return Interest Cards

By Aileen Tang
Staff ReporteR

As a revamped 14-day Orientation program is set to launch on August 26, an unprecedented degree of uncertainty and speculation loom over the prospect of this year's rush for fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups.

A recent Newsweek article about the death of Scott S. Krueger '01 has brought the incident back under public scrutiny. The negative media attention is believed to heighten concerns among some parents and incoming students about Greek life at MIT.

"The number of pledges will go down this year just because of Newsweek and other stuff going on in the media,"said Kip V. Hodges PhD '82, dean for undergraduate curriculum. "A lot of factors have to do with events of last year. The messages that many rush chairs are getting back is that the Newsweek article has been pretty devastating to them."

Many rush chairs also believe that the new policy of withholding freshmen contacts from the FSILG's has hurt rush prospects, Hodges said. This year, houses may only contact students that specifically expressed an interest in them by returning a special reply card to the Institute.

According to the Office of the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education, roughly half of the 1,050 incoming freshmen have returned the forms to date.

Hodges, who helped rewrite the residential guide, said he was "troubled" by the response rate and "not happy at all."

The administration "expected that there was going to be a high response rate," said Sean M. Brennan '00, the rush chair of Lambda Chi Alpha. "These kids just graduated and have their senior summer ahead of them."

"If I were in their situation, MIT living options would be far from my mind," Brennan said. "I don't know if the way it was handled this year by MIT is the best way to do it."

The summer rush parties planned by some houses suffered from the low response rate. "In the past we knew right away where people are coming from so we can plan parties," said Amy B. Laverdiere '99, assistant rush chair for Sigma Kappa. "The number of [replies] has been a little low, but it's the same for everybody."

"Attendance at rush parties has dropped significantly from the past year. Parties scheduled early on either got moved or cancelled," said Tony Chao '99, the summer rush chair for Phi Beta Epsilon.

FSILGs feel reply cards unclear

Chao felt that although the intention was good, the purpose of the reply cards were not clearly explained in the residence guide. The failure to communicate the importance of these cards has caused some freshmen to not return them.

Some FSILGs have taken the unacceptable step of contacting students who did not wish to hear from them, Hodges said.

Since he had only heard complaints from parents, Hodges said he did not know which living groups were involved. "Those FSILG's had better hope that I don't find out who they are," he said.

"All they're hurting is the FSILG system," Hodges said. "The students they contacted were annoyed by it."

In response to the dissatisfaction with the reply card system, Hodges explained that the new system was not "an irreversible experiment" and that he was "very happy to make changes."

"I sympathizes with the position of the rush chairs," he said. "Ultimately, they feel it's their responsibility to keep the numbers up."

It is important that "we don't destroy the FSILG system that a lot of people value at the Institute because of the events of one year," he said. "The worst case would be something we do this year to result in the extinction of any FSILG."

Two fraternities on suspension

Phi Gamma Delta is not participating in rush. Fiji's dormitory license is under suspension, and the alumni group recently decided not to ask the Boston Licensing Board for renewal. "They are not in position to plan for rush this fall," and they have been aware of that fact since April, she said.

Until a criminal investigation into Krueger's death is concluded, MIT is holding off on conducting its own investigations, said Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams. Until MIT's investigation is complete, Fiji is prohibited from rush.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon also remains suspended from rush this fall for serving alcohol to an prospective freshman during Campus Preview Weekend. Bates said the Office of the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education is having conversation with both SAE's alumni corporation and members of the house about that group's status for rush.

Rush chairs hope for the best

Despite uncertainty over rush prospects, many rush chairs recognize the uniqueness of last year's incident. "This year's rush will be more difficult because there are simply fewer guys joining houses" said Michael R. Dynok '99, the summer rush chair for Delta Epsilon Kappa.

The rush chairs are working on making the best of the circumstances. "Despite a lot of drawbacks and a lower response level, it's going to be a fairly good year," Brennan said. "Maybe not as good as last year or the year before, [but] the kids that have responded seem interested," said Brennan, who said his house received close to 200 replies.

Chao expressed confidence that freshmen will become interested "once they come by and see the character of our house." He was more concerned about the parents, whom he planned to persuade by "getting parents of brothers and alumni to contact perspective parents, because my parents were convinced."

Orientation adjusts focus

This year Orientation will be "more focused on orientation to the Institute and less on rush per se," Bates said. Notable changes include elimination of Thursday night dinners and Project Move Off Your Assumptions and a shifted rush schedule.

Efforts have gone into designing a program that includes "a lot more interaction between faculty and students" and "more intellectually stimulating activities and programming like alcohol awareness," said Hodges.

The Orientation schedule has been lengthened to "give students better objective information early on, so they can make better informed choices," he said.

Freshmen are scheduled to arrive a day earlier, Dorow said. Beginning with Killian Kickoff at noon on Saturday, rush is shifted back one day.

The idea is to give freshmen "more opportunity to absorb information, get acclimated, and talk to people," Dorow said. "As opposed to 24 hours on campus before rush starts, people have been here for three to four days."

Much effort has gone into putting equal emphasis on dormitories and FSILGs. The Residence Midway, to be held in DuPont Athletic Center on Friday night, is designed to expose freshmen to all possible living options in a setting that is analogous to the Activities Midway.

Each living group will occupy a table at the event. Interfraternity Council President Duane H. Dreger '99 said the Residence Midway came out of "the idea of having everyone on a level playing field."

Dormitories fear overcrowding

The freshmen may see less aggressive recruiting from the dormitories, said East Campus rush chair Jennifer A. Frank '00. "The FSILG's have more at stake for this rush," she said.

"The dorms, in fear of over-crowding, have the opposite problem," Frank said. East Campus plans to do what it has done in past rushes, although Frank felt that communication between the dormitories and the administration about Orientation "seems a little lacking."

All in all, everyone is waiting to see how Orientation will play out in the wake of last year's tragedy. "In a big way that's going to be one of those wait and see's'," Brennan said.

"Keep our fingers crossed," Hodges said. "I know I am."