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Princeton freshmen who rush frats face suspension

May 1, 2012
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PRINCETON, N.J.—In keeping with a belief that fraternities and sororities promote social exclusiveness, Princeton University says any freshman who joins, rushes or pledges to a Greek organization starting this fall will face suspension.

The Ivy League school has a long-standing policy of not officially recognizing fraternities or sororities, and says any student who solicits the participation of freshmen in Greek organizations this fall will also face suspension.

The administration announced last year it would ban first-year students from Greek activities starting in the fall of 2012. School officials said they hoped that delaying rush would cut down on drinking and keep freshmen from limiting themselves socially to Greek organizations.

Other Ivy League schools have also been cracking down on fraternity and sorority culture.

In March, Yale announced that first-year students would not be allowed to rush starting this fall. Last year, Cornell told fraternities and sororities to find new ways to recruit and initiate members after a student died following an induction ritual involving coerced drinking. The university had banned hazing in 1980 but was finding it was still going on under the guise of pledging.

Princeton left it up to a committee to decide how to enforce compliance, and Princeton President Shirley Tilghman announced this week she had adopted the committee report. It includes a recommendation that leniency be considered for violators who are "extraordinarily forthcoming."

Freshmen who participate in other Greek-sponsored activities could face disciplinary probation -- a punishment less severe than suspension.

Princeton has no fraternity or sorority houses on campus. Under its official policy, the school believes that in general the organizations "do not add in positive ways" to the residential experience and "often place an excessive emphasis on alcohol."

But nearly 800 students, or about 15 percent of the student body, still belong to the 12 fraternities and four sororities that serve the school community.

Jake Nebel, a Princeton junior who belongs to Alpha Epsilon Phi and served on the committee that came up with enforcement recommendations, said he believes university officials underestimate the benefits of Greek life.

"Given that a lot of students aren't fully satisfied with social opportunities outside of Greek life, I think it will be bad for freshmen interested in fraternities and sororities not to have that option, not to have the opportunity to connect with upperclassmen," said Nebel, former president of his fraternity.

"I don't think Greek life has the negative effects attributed to it, and I'm not really sure why the ban on freshman rush would really help that. But that's something I think the president needs to assess next year, not only whether it's being complied with but whether it's achieving the goals they set."

Nebel said the university deserves credit for establishing clear rules on what constitutes a violation.

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