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East and west campus residents duke it out with water balloons and water cannons at the East vs. West Water War in front of Kresge on Monday. The Water War is an annual REX tradition.
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For the second year in a row, the REX/Rush/Recruitment agreement between dorms, fraternities, sororities and living groups was not signed, leading to some confusion among rush and REX chairs.

Usually, representatives from the interfraternity council (IFC), the Dormitory Council (DormCon), the Panhellenic Council (Panhel), and the Living Group Council (LGC) sign the agreement to set out rules for how living groups engage with freshmen. This year, the process started in the spring, but the parties could not finalize the formal agreement before the beginning of Residence Exploration (REX) and rush.

“The purpose of the REX/Rush agreement is to foster a sense of mutual respect between all the living group associations,” said Christina R. Johnson ’11, president of DormCon. “We all had our separate rules, but we wanted something that we could show that we all agreed upon and that we adhere to.” Though a final agreement was not signed, Johnson said all the parties were still in close communication during REX to make sure that groups respected each other.

“We’re trying to create an environment that’s comfortable for the freshmen,” said Panhel president Arti V. Virkud ’11.

The presidents declined to comment on what conflicts delayed signing the document before REX began, but said there was not any single sticking point.

Why wasn’t the agreement signed?

Alex W. Dehnert ’12, speaker for the LGC, said that the LGC did not sign the agreement because they did not agree on two issues. “Some [LGC residents] objected to not being able to take home to dinner a frosh who approached them,” he said. “Another issue was the clause requiring no alcohol be present in the house — most ILGs have no house alcohol, alcohol at parties, etc. (though some members have private alcohol in their rooms), and that sort of regulation of alcohol would have been a large departure from standard practice.”

Dehnert said that the LGC requested that independent living groups be treated as dorms are: such that that alcohol can be in private rooms, as long as it is not visible to freshmen. The other committee members rejected the proposal.

Some believe that the agreement was not signed due to prior conflicts between IFC and DormCon. Christopher R. Reyes ’12, Rush Chair for Alpha Delta Phi (ADP) said, “It’s really difficult for IFC because rush happens after dorm REX so this agreement that we sign every year, we have no way of enforcing it on dorms. And in fact in the past it hasn’t really enforced some of the rules. If any of the fraternities break any of the rules that we’ve agreed to, there are immediate consequences if we do anything during orientation or whatever. We try to place restrictions on the dorms for things they can’t do during rush which for the past two years [they] haven’t kept.”

Reyes said that the biggest issue that comes up repeatedly is dorms scheduling mandatory events during rush. “...year after year, they schedule mandatory meetings for different floors, different dorms, house manager meetings, which freshman feel that they have to be a part of and so they can’t take part in some of the rush events that they’d want to do otherwise.”

The REX/Rush/Recruitment agreement would have covered the time period through fraternity rush, which ends on Friday, September 10. Now, the presidents still plan on hammering out an agreement, but it not in time for rush this year.

“At this point, REX is over, so anything that would be signed at this point would not make sense because it would be very one-sided, but we’re still working on revising it so we have something we can go back to,” said Ryan Schoen ’11, president of the IFC.

Currently, the four living group councils are continuing to draft an agreement. “[We’re] looking forward to Rush and looking to see if there’s anything that needs to be changed for CPW. That’s kind of where we’re at right now since the period has passed for anything to be really effective for right now,” said Johnson.

Johnson, Schoen, and Virkud declined to reveal the current draft of the agreement, though some earlier drafts have been circulated by other parties and are available on the internet. Johnson cautions that any language in those drafts is not final. “Any copy that you see online or out in the open is not a more recent version,” Johnson said.

Confusion among fraternities and dorms

Interviews with dorm REX chairs and fraternity Rush chairs revealed that there is some confusion about the state of the agreement, as well as what is and is not allowed.

It was not until Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. that Schoen sent out an e-mail to fraternity presidents and rush chairs to explain that the agreement had not been signed. Schoen asked the presidents and rush chairs to respect the “spirit of everyone’s recruitment periods.” He called on them to “respect the rights, privacy and decisions of the freshmen and to allow them to explore all of MIT’s opportunities while still having fun.”

Before Schoen’s e-mail, rumors had been circulating. “I’d been under the impression that the agreement had been signed, but I’d heard anecdotally that other fraternities were doing unprecedented things like taking out Facebook ads, and justifying it by noting that the agreement had not been signed,” said Keone D. Hon ’11, president and former rush chair for Phi Delta Theta.

“We finally got clarity on Thursday after REX had long passed,” Hon said. “I think one thing that would be fair to say is that there was a lot of uncertainty about the agreement, and the IFC should have clarified what was okay sooner.”

Schoen told The Tech that he did not want to show a draft to fraternity presidents until he could fully stand behind it so that he wouldn’t waste the time of fraternity presidents.

Several dormitory REX chairs were also confused whether or not the agreement was in effect. In particular, several mentioned that they did not recall any official document laying out guidelines for what they could or could not do during REX or Rush.

Last Monday during GRT orientation, the MIT Housing office presented the dorm GRTs with a draft copy of the REX agreement. According to one GRT, Donna M. Denoncourt, the associate dean for residential life, sent an e-mail the next morning (Tuesday) that said that there was a copy of the REX agreement online. Denoncourt has not yet responded to an inquiry to comment from The Tech sent at 6 p.m. on Thursday night.

A different draft of the agreement, which East Campus assumed to be the final version, was circulated through the dorm last week. EC President Robin L Deits ’11 received the draft of the agreement from the EC housemasters and sent it out to the dorm’s residents. The Tech failed to reach the housemasters for comment at 8 p.m. on Thursday.

Relaxed IFC rules

In part because the REX/Rush/Recruitment agreement was not signed, the IFC relaxed its recruitment rules for this fall’s REX/Rush/Recruitment period as a result of requests from fraternity presidents and rush chairs.

“This year, we did relax a lot of the rules and take it down into a little more abstract… the spirit of recruitment type of things.” said Schoen. “This is what our rush chairs and presidents were requesting. That’s what they’re looking for, and so they need to be careful that whatever they’re doing is respecting that spirit, mutual respect we’ve built up.”

Some fraternities have expressed concern at the ramifications of the vague language in the IFC recruitment rules. Hon said, “In general, I would say that the rules are less clear about what we can and can’t do. We’ve seen other fraternities do things, and we inquired with the IFC to see if it was okay because if it was, we’d maybe want to do it too. But we haven’t really heard anything and concluded that it must be the prevailing opinion, but it’s been a little harder to get clarity this year.”

For instance, affiliated students were forbidden from wearing their letters during REX. This year, the rule changed so that students can wear letters as long as it is in “good taste.” “You can wear them if you’re just walking around campus, that’s not a problem anymore, but if 10 brothers are all wearing their fraternity shirt at some EC event, then that’s looked at as interfering with REX,” said Dustin Katzin ’12, Rush Chair for Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEP).

The relaxation of the rules has increased uncertainty about what is and is not allowed during REX. ”Relaxing the rules does place more of a burden onto the rush chairs to be confident that what they’re doing is acceptable, because at the end of the day, the interpretation of these rules comes down to the judicial board,” Schoen said.