By Kelsi Peace, Features Editor
After meeting for more than a year, the Social Club Task Force presented its changes and recommendations to the rushing and pledging processes to social clubs last week, leaving some worried about new rules and others thankful for them.
The Task Force’s recommendations and revised pledging guidelines received unanimous approval from the President’s Cabinet on April 10 and the Provost’s Cabinet on April 11.
Mauri Westbrook, ex-oficio of the Task Force and coordinator of Student Activities and Organizations, said the changes and recommendations will be formally presented to the Board of Trustees in August, although the Board has approved the plans at several points throughout the past year.
The Task Force formed at the recommendation of the Board of Trustees’ Student Development Committee to ensure clubs were not violating hazing laws or harming students.
According to the Task Force’s report on April 17, clubs were commended for their involvement in service, character formation, student retention, sense of community, spiritual activities and participation in major campus events.
The recommendations, Westbrook said, came mainly from students on the committee.
“The best way to improve a student system is with student input,” Westbrook said.
Each social club president sat on the Task Force with three students who are not club members. Ashlea Allred, Alpha Kai Omega president and junior psychology major from Bedford, felt student voices were heard.
“Most of the new changes that were suggested were conceptualized by students,” Allred said.
Changes the Task Force recommended include: pledges must have a 2.5 cumulative GPA or higher to be eligible, social club members must maintain a 2.5 cumulative GPA, social clubs are required to annually reaffirm the focus and reason for their club and officers, and advisors must develop and review a disciplinary process.
For women’s social clubs, the changes begin with the rushing process. In the fall, an all-women’s-club rush will seek to promote social clubs as a whole, as club members are not allowed to wear club clothing or colors. Allred said the rush could help break down stereotypes associated with specific clubs.
“It’s getting to know the girl versus getting to know what club she is,” Allred said.
Women are also required to attend one rush for every club. Westbrook said they have not developed the system to monitor the rule but are considering requiring women to fill a punch card in addition to signing in.
Large clubs and small clubs are paired for one rush in the spring, a change that went into effect this semester. A cap will also be set on large clubs’ pledge classes, and women’s club will have a lottery system where a portion of pledges are selected by a pool.
Top choices by members will still be made, and no distinction will be made between member-chosen pledges and randomly selected pledges.
Men’s clubs saw less change to the rushing process, although sending invitations to rushes was deemed unnecessary for men’s clubs because numbers are smaller. Men will also be required to attend three rushes of the five social clubs, and men who are not matched with at least one club will be placed in a club at a forum.
This fall, pledging will last five and a half weeks, and the process will be divided into two phases. Phase one lasts two weeks and emphasizes initiation activities – pledge names, club traditions, pledge activities and separation from club members.
Brady Hilton, former Frater Sodalis president and senior journalism major from Abilene, said one possible result of the condensed activity period is that clubs will force too many activities into the two weeks. However, Hilton said, he thinks most will use judgment, and the shortened period will not be a problem.
“It all goes back to [the fact that] the pledges and the members all have a personal responsibility to take care of things,” Hilton said.
While details are still being worked out, the Task Force recommended a curfew on Bid Night, where pledges must be at the final destination by a determined time. The Task Force also recommended prohibiting the practice of having pledges sit together at Chapel because of concerns over distraction during worship.
During the three and a half weeks of phase two, pledges will be considered provisional members and will serve at club events, visit with older members and participate in the Homecoming float.
Westbrook said the Social Club Handbook will be updated this summer, and changes will be finalized. Clubs that violate the new rules will face disciplinary action, Westbrook said.
Compliance may not be a problem. Allred said while some decisions were surprising, she thinks all the changes can become positive.
“I’m really excited about the two phases,” Allred said. “I think it’ll give club more of an opportunity to get to know the pledges… I think that will be great for a lot of reasons.”
The men’s socials clubs, Hilton said, did not support giving pledges all privileges of the members during the second phase.
However, Hilton said, they did not vote over granting provisional membership in the second phase.
However, Elliot Wood, former Galaxy president and senior psychology major from Nashville, Tenn., said the process is still being worked on, and he said he is confident it will work out in the end.
While some worry the new changes will hurt social clubs, both Hilton and Wood said students should remember the pledging process has evolved since social clubs first started.
“The ones that are still here are the ones that have adapted in the past,” Hilton said.
“I think in one way, it’s going to be easier for everybody,” Wood said. “It’ll be a lot easier to juggle your time a pledge.”