The National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) recently passed a regulation restricting sorority women from participating in fraternity Rush events. This especially restricts sorority members from being “Rush girls,” friends of the house that help out with events during Rush.
Some fraternities’ members believed the policy changed the atmosphere of Rush compared to previous years. Nathan M. Robert ’13, a brother of Phi Sigma Kappa, appealed to the NPC, stating that many of the sorority sisters are close friends to the fraternity. He added that preventing the sisters from participating in Rush events “presents an incorrect view of [the] house for potential members.”
The NPC took a hard stance against Robert’s complaint, citing the Unanimous Agreement X (UA X), a new restriction intended to protect sororities’ single-sex status. The UA X forbids the participation of Panhellenic women “in auxiliary groups to men’s fraternities” and especially participation in men’s formal Rush events. The UA X exists to divide men’s and women’s activities in order to maintain the single-sex status of sororities. MIT adopted the policy as a recommendation from the NPC, which came into effect during this Rush period.
This policy received full support from each sorority and was voted into effect in November 2011 by 26 national delegates representing each of the sororities of the NPC, six of which are represented at MIT. These 26 delegates are voted into the national committee by different processes based on the sorority.
In a correspondence between Robert and two NPC representatives Emily Ruch and Nicki Meneley, the NPC stated that sororities and fraternities would lose their single-sex status, and potentially their spot on campus, if sororities did not adopt the UA X. In their email response to Robert, the NPC executives cited the Supreme Court case, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, as one of the many that could potentially remove sororities from campus life if they did not strictly adhere to single-sex status rules.
A number of brothers who went through Rush in previous years believe that this policy change had a significant impact on the Rush process. According to Robert, usually half of his fraternity’s events involve just the brothers and prospectives, while others include a large number of Rush girls. Because of the new policy, Phi Sigma Kappa had to redesign their Rush structure. “We lost about 65 percent of our Rush girls,” said Robert. “It made Rush more difficult because we had to work around the [lack of] sorority girls.”
At the same time, a number of freshmen didn’t feel negatively impacted by the newly instituted UA X. “I had way too much fun at all the Rush events,” said Alex X. Chen ’16, who recently pledged to Pi Lambda Phi.
During formal Rush events, the sorority sisters are not allowed to be at fraternity houses. According to Robert, many of the brothers feel strongly about the new policy. To challenge the policy, Robert, some brothers from Phi Sigma Kappa, and some affiliated and unaffiliated women are designing a survey that will poll MIT students’ opinions on the matter. However, they wish to make clear that this is not a battle of MIT fraternities against MIT sororities. It is “us against a rule without purpose, never against anyone at MIT,” clarified Robert.
“Personally, I don’t think them helping out with our Rush is going to threaten their sorority’s single-sex status,” he continued.
Lauren M. Allen ’13 — vice president of Recruitment for the MIT Panhellenic Association (Panhel) and a member of Kappa Alpha Theta — defended the UA X: “If a men’s organization cannot select their members based on their own interactions, why should women have to fill that role? The NPC has said that the controversy at hand is not an issue at many other schools.”
Both Thomas A. Anderson ’13, MIT’s Interfraternity Council president, and Sikka claim that no concerns, other than Robert’s, have been voiced to their respective committees.
No formal statistics have been released regarding the potential effect on the yield between this year and last year’s Rush periods. But only time will tell whether the UA X will continue to stir controversy or if it will become the norm as freshmen enter Rush with no knowledge of the change.