Starting next semester, freshmen will have the opportunity to pledge a social club for the first time in the university’s history.
Mark Jackson, associate director of student organizations and programs, Chris Riley, vice president of Student Life, and Tom Craig, director of student activities and productions, implemented the decision in hopes of providing freshman more flexibility and a chance at becoming a part of the club community.
“When I was an undergrad here, most situations were the same,” Jackson said. “Most students were here for four to four and a half years, but with so many dual credit classes and other things, that’s not always the case anymore. Students can come in and they might have 30 college credits already knocked out and they’re going to graduate in three years. We’re trying to look at every person’s situation and realize every situation when they come in here is quite different, and that’s OK.”
Jackson worked with other members of the Office of Student Life to reach the decision to allow freshmen to pledge during the spring semester.
“We just really felt that this would be the time to try it out and see if this was going to be something that we’d like to continue,” Jackson said. “We feel like it will be good for retention.”
For now, only clubs that have 50 or fewer active members will be allowed to accept freshmen during the spring semester.
Jackson and those in the Office of Student Life have discussed offering freshmen the opportunity to pledge for the past several years.
“We feel like it’s going to create an option for freshmen, whether they’re struggling to get connected, or maybe they would like to do study abroad the fall semester of their sophomore year, or maybe they’re graduating early,” Jackson said. “The opportunity for them to be in club as long as most of their peers may not be an option.”
Like sophomores, freshmen who want to pledge must meet certain criteria. To be eligible, students must have completed at least 12 hours of credit, be enrolled full-time, be in good standing with the university and have a 3.0 GPA- as opposed to the 2.5 required of sophomores.
The heightened GPA requirement was a result of conversations between members in the Office of Student Life and various club sponsors.
“We feel like it’s a privilege to be able to pledge,” Jackson said. “We want every student that’s in club to do well academically, and we definitely want freshmen to do well academically.”
He presented the change to the social club presidents last week, and the news was received well.
Kyle Bowen, president of Frater Sodalis, and Joel Childers, brat dad, said they were looking forward to expanding the pool of potential pledges.
“I think it’s really exciting to think that they’ll get an extra semester in club and an extra semester to get to know us and the guys they pledge with,” said Childers, junior history major from Abilene. “It’ll help the club because we think about people who are seniors now who pledged fall of sophomore year, and now people have almost a full year earlier in club so they’ll know more about club tradition, and they’ll know more about history and kind of how to run club and how it works.”
Bowen, senior Bible, missions and ministry major from Abilene, echoed Childers and said the addition of freshmen to the pledging process will add a “renewal of excitement and joy” to the pledging process.
“It’s such a wild card,” he said. “I’m excited to see what freshmen come out, and what freshmen who want to pledge this early in college are like. We can meet new people at a different point in life that we normally get to meet.”
Marc Gutierrez, president of Pi Kappa, said he’s looking forward to the chance to welcome more members as his club was not able to participate in spring pledging for the last two years.
“This fall we had 10 great guys pledge our club,” said Gutierrez, senior vocal music education major from Cedar Park. “That is something I do love about our club – it is very intimate and we all appreciate each other. We are a club of 17 now, but we like to refer to our club size as ’17 small, 17 strong.'”
But Gutierrez said he and his club are ready to welcome more members with open arms.
So far, Frater Sodalis, Pi Kappa and Zeta Rho will be able to accept freshman pledges, but Jackson said that list could include more after he determines how many active members are in each club.
“We’re trying to allow ACU to be the best place it can be for each student to get involved in whatever they want to, whether that’s study abroad, Sing Song, intramurals, social clubs or an organization on campus,” Jackson said. “We’re trying to create enough avenues for them to do so.”