The Office of Student Life has shortened the social club pledging process to a three-week period and prohibited the use of physical activity to initiate pledges.
Chris Riley, vice president for Student Life, informed social club presidents of the changes during a Sunday-night meeting at his house. Riley said the changes are the result of a self-study of the ACU pledging process conducted by Tom Craig, director of student activities and productions, and Mark Jackson, associate director of student organizations and programs. Dr. Allison Garrett, executive vice president of the university, asked Craig and Jackson to evaluate ACU pledging because of concerns she had after last fall’s pledging season.
“Tom and Mark had very comprehensive conversations with both sister schools and also cohort schools,” Riley said. “Not only looking at their policies but also calling them and, in some instances, going and visiting with them about what they’re doing and what their expectations are of clubs, fraternities or sororities.”
While pledging rules are altered every year, this year’s changes were received by students with more disappointment and frustration than usual.
“It was kind of surprising,” said Mason Smith, president of Sub T-16. “I didn’t realize that five weeks was unusual or that other schools were doing it so differently.”
Smith, senior management major from Midland, said he thinks the men’s clubs will be more affected by not being able to do physical activity than the shortened time period.
“I know that initially people were bummed by the decision but what they don’t really understand, maybe because they haven’t talked to sponsors or alumni who pledged many years ago, is that pledging hasn’t always been that way,” Smith said.
He said it was only about ten years ago when hazing laws began to grow, forcing pledging to turn away from physical abuse and transition to calisthenics or physical activity as punishment.
“You hear stories from old guys talking about getting paddled out on the lawn after Chapel. When people realized they couldn’t do that anymore, then the boot camp style of pledging took off,” he said.
Riley said other universities do not allow calisthenic activities and are concerned with any physical activity that causes fatigue.
“In the past we have tried to draw the line incrementally and create some vague expectations, but students are very imaginative when it comes to pushing the boundaries of what those things are,” Riley said.
Some of the changes are not based on legal decisions or other schools but are a result of changes in the type of students ACU attracts.
“We want to think of ways for clubs to be more successful for the types of students that we have that don’t necessarily know what clubs are and don’t have families that have been in clubs,” Riley said. “We want to try to provide opportunities for as much participation as we can.”
Sarah Hendrix, president of Sigma Theta Chi, said she thinks her club could still uphold their traditions despite the changes.
“We may have to change the way that we go about the traditions, but the traditions are going to be able to stay within the realm of what our club has been about all these years,” said Hendrix, senior psychology major from Abilene. “We’re just going to have to be creative in how we present it.”
Riley said Student Life is creating a mindset that clubs will continue to thrive and still have a goal for the pledging process but wants to learn how clubs can do the same things with these limitations in place.
“It is really going to take partnership with the sponsors and the leaders and helping them think outside the box in what those new things could be,” he said.
Smith said his club will try to make the best of the changes.
“It’s easy to get fired up about, but if you do your best to adapt and prove to the members that we can make it just as good or better without that stuff then it’s going to be a heck of a lot more fun.”