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Anti-Greek propaganda litters Grounds as rush kicks off

While sorority and fraternity members have been busy recruiting pledges this past week, an anonymous source has been working against them. A wide-scale poster campaign around Grounds, including the Bryan Hall columns, first-year housing areas and a spray-painted message on Beta Bridge, decried the negative aspects of Greek life at the University, where nearly one-third of undergraduates are fraternity or sorority members.

Messages such as "Afraid of free speech? Afraid of a new perspective? Afraid they won't rush? Then tear this flyer down" littered Grounds the first week of classes, which coincided with the start of sorority rush. Beta Bridge boasted a white spray-painted circle with a diagonal line running through the word "rush." Other posters showed popular celebrities sporting anti-rush signs on their shirts and hard-hitting photos of students (none from the University) who the posters claimed had died as a result of fraternity-related activities.

Asst. Dean of Students Aaron Laushway, who works closely with the University's fraternities and sororities, was first alerted about the signs Monday. Someone spent an awful lot of time and money producing and posting the signs, Laushway said. They were printed on heavy paper and were duct-taped illegally in places not designated by Facilities Management as legitimate posting areas.

But what he found most striking about the signs was their anonymity.

"At a university, freedom of expression and freedom of thought are of enormous importance. People should feel free to express their opinions. But this strikes me as quite a blitz," he added.

The signs were clearly directed at the University sororities and fraternities, Laushway said, although he believes they targeted fraternities more than sororities.

Inter-Sorority Council President Allison White contacted Laushway when she discovered the signs.

"My initial reaction to the posters was that of surprise," White said. "Later my reaction turned more into one of sadness that someone could have that much bitterness."

Despite not agreeing with the campaign's message, White gives the operation's organizers credit for a "well-executed and creative campaign." She said, however, that by illegally posting the fliers, the perpetrators displayed "a lack of respect for our school."

A second wave of postering came Wednesday to coincide with the start of classes. White contacted Laushway again to see who could help take down the signs. But tearing down illegally posted signs is "not part of anyone's job description," White said.

If Facilities Management receives complaints about offensive fliers, workers immediately take them down. But in the case of the anti-rush posters, Assoc. Dir. for Work Management Mark Webb said no one called.

The task of removing the signs was instead directed to Laushway. Along with a few helpers, Laushway took it upon himself to tackle the cleanup.

Yesterday, a stack of over 400 anti-Greek signs sat in the corner of the ISC office in Newcomb Hall and over 100 were stacked in Laushway's office.

Even though Laushway supports student freedom of expression, he is disappointed the students who posted the signs did so anonymously and not in a legitimate forum.

"These are cheap pot shots. The reason these are cheap is that there's no accountability or responsibility involved," Laushway said.

"I think it would have been better to address these concerns with the respective Greek leaders in public hearings or forums of some kind," he said.

The anti-rush postings have come smack in the middle of rush. Bid day is scheduled for January 29 to round off two weeks of activity. Fourth-year College student and ISC Rush Chair Nikole McDaniel said she has not noticed any impact on rush as a result of the fliers.

"I don't think the signs have had a very big effect on rush," McDaniel said. "What we are most concerned about is knowing who is behind all of this."

White said simply comparing rush statistics between this year and past years shows "no more people have withdrawn from rush than usual, and our rush numbers for the year are actually up."

What effect, if any, this anti-Greek campaign will have on fraternity rush will be determined within the next couple of weeks as fraternity rush kicks off tonight with open houses.

Third-year College student and vice president of Theta Chi fraternity Russ Jenkins said he thinks the anti-Greek sentiment will actually encourage more students to rush.

Regardless of the impact, Jenkins and fellow Theta Chi member third-year Engineering student Tyler Perkins were most disturbed by one flyer displaying several men drinking beer under a Confederate flag. Beneath the picture, were the words "Celebrate tolerance and free thought. Join a frat." Jenkins said such an image creates a negative blanket image for a system too broad to generalize.

"There are good people everywhere. Trying to create a stigma about people in the Greek system is just as ridiculous as stereotyping people based on their religion or sexual orientation," Perkins said.

Despite being upset by the campaign, White admits the ISC's options are somewhat limited.

"Our hands are kind of tied," White said. "The people behind this are exercising their right to free speech, and as long as they do that appropriately, there is nothing we can do."

(Cavalier Daily Associate Editor Josie Roberts contributed to this story.)