Presidents of national and international sorority organizations have distributed letters to presidents of University sorority chapters requesting they not participate in this year’s Boys' Bid Night. Safety issues were at the forefront of the decision.
Boys’ Bid Night can be a particularly high-risk activity because of the amount of binge-drinking. Two years ago, boys’ rush activities were restricted because an unusually high number of male and female rush and pledging participants ended up in the hospital for alcohol overconsumption. Sexual violence is also a concern, given that alcohol is often used as a method of incapacitation to make a potential victim more vulnerable.
All of these factors have been in consideration as part of an extensive discussion on safety at the University over the past several months, with both the administration and student groups working on new improvements. Though it is not illegitimate for national sorority organizations to worry about safety — and Boys’ Bid Night may be of particular concern — a national organization adding more restrictions on top of safety regulations already established will not improve safety within the community.
Initiatives to make Greek social events safer have already been put in place, in the form of new FOA addenda signed by all University fraternity chapters, which IFC President Ben Gorman says will be followed on Bid Night. These rules will hopefully make all parties, including those on Bid Night, safer, but we have acknowledged there is still high potential for violation, and operation within loopholes. Assuming, as the national chapters are, that Bid Night remains a more high-risk environment, additional safety precautions are necessary.
But forbidding participation as a Greek-affiliated group is not an effective safety measure. As we argued in our editorial about Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s national end to pledging, orders from distant national Greek organizations cannot overpower the larger cultural atmosphere in a closer, more tight-knit community at a university. New pledges will want to have the same experience their brothers or their sisters had. Sorority members will likely still celebrate on Bid Night. But the national organizations’ restrictions will likely decrease the level of safety. Sororities often organize pre-bid night talks about safety plans and assign older members to look out for younger ones. Such organized preparation is less likely to occur when national leadership expects no formal participation at all.
Barring participation in a deeply-rooted tradition is more likely to cause resentment and divisiveness during a time when collective cooperation and positive thinking are necessary. Chapters should have the opportunity to discuss their approaches to safe celebration on Boys’ Bid Night and other outings in order to improve overall safety in the Greek community. National Greek leadership may have opinions to offer in such discussions, but they do not have an understanding of the general climate of the University. So even though they may have a high degree of formal authority, their potential to produce effective policies that actually influence behavior is low. There is no doubt the Greek system has room for improvement when it comes to safety, but blanket bans like this one are not helpful.