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Chi Phi Case Still Open, Still Unclear

Last week, the Interfraternity Council Executive Committee shut down rush desk for the Chi Phi fraternity, citing repeated violations of rush rules. Allegations included entering incorrect wake up times into the Clearinghouse computer system and illegally jaunting freshmen. The sanctions adopted by the IFC act as appropriate sanctions of Chi Phi. However, the council faulted organizationally in its handling of the case.

Chi Phi’s rule violations severely affected the rushes of other fraternities. Because of the inaccurate wake-up times, other fraternities send campers to Chi Phi at non-optimal times. The freshmen had long been awake giving Chi Phi an unfair advantage. Entering later wake-up times also allowed the fraternity to extend bids to rushees while they were registered as asleep and not officially involved in rush at the time. Chi Phi also kept rushees out on extended and illegal jaunts, most notably a Boston Harbor cruise which returned some freshmen nearly two hours behind schedule. Jaunting freshmen to the activities midway is suspect as well; these freshmen should have been “checked out to the street.” When a freshman is on a jaunt with one fraternity or independent living group, members of another FSILG can not communicate with him, even if they should run into each other. (While checked out to the street, other houses are free to engage the freshman in conversation and invite him to their house.) Extending the length of a jaunt -- or going on one illegally -- thus takes away time a rushee could be spending with another FSILG. Thus, closing down Chi Phi’s rush was an appropriate response.

Closing Chi Phi’s rush amounted to little more than a ceremonial action. Without their two outstanding bids, Chi Phi had already reached its target number of pledges. Shutting down the rush desk was hardly punitive. The IFC is correct in reserving the right to further discipline Chi Phi.

Regardless of the IFC’s decision to continue with sentencing, the disciplinary process of the council has left holes in this case that must be filled. The council must list the charges it considered against Chi Phi, noting the cases in which the fraternity was found guilty of violating rules. If the IFC does not clearly list the mistakes made by Chi Phi, their punishment of the house will not be as constructive as it should be. In its current form, the IFC’s overall punishment appears more like a decree than a just decision reached by a fair judicial process.

Stiff rulings work to deter future rules violations. However, without clear verdicts, rulings and sentences will seem arbitrary. Rules inherently become ambiguous when verdicts are unclear.

Questions still remain about the Chi Phi case. Is the fraternity being punished for returning freshmen extremely late from a jaunt, or for being late at all? Is the council levying this punishment for inadvertently harming the rush of other houses or because the it believes that Chi Phi purposely advantaged its rush efforts ny illegal means? The IFC must formally answer these questions, or it risks trouble with rules in the future. Subsequent rushes will be new ground for everyone, creating inherent confusion. The IFC needs to establish itself as a group that can, through judicial decisions, clarify its own rules.

The entire incident is unfortunate; Chi Phi should have acted more carefully with regards to the rush rules. The incurring episode exposed a weakness within the IFC. It is not too late for the IFC to amend their mistake and clarify their decision. They have left the case open and must not close the case until their verdict is clear to the campus community.