Starting next fall, new USC undergrads will no longer be able to rush fraternities and sororities, the university announced over the weekend. They can join Greek-letter organizations after completing their first semester at the University Park institution.
The new policy was revealed by USC student affairs vice president Ainsley Carry in a letter addressed to the "USC community." It was first reported by university publication The Daily Trojan. The change was made as part of an effort to find "the most effective ways to support students in their first year of enrollment," according to the letter.
"This is the toughest year of the transition to college life as students experience the most social and academic challenges," Carry wrote. The change will "allow them to acclimate to the university's academic and social climate before participating in Greek-letter organizations."
The policy essentially prohibits incoming freshman and transfer students from rushing fraternities and sororities — organizations that are part of USC's Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council. It requires would-be Greek participants to have a 2.5 GPA and 12 units — about one semester — under their belts.
"The idea is to just put a pause on this mad rush to affiliate with Greek organizations," says Lisa Wade, an Occidental College sociology professor who authored the 2017 book American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus. "It could give students some breathing room."
Although USC is a so-called "dry rush" school, the rule change could reduce the extreme imbibing that often accompanies a teen's first months on campus, she said. " A lot of rush events are technically supposed to be dry, but we know that's not always the case," Wade says.
"We know it's really those first couple weeks when college students are at the highest risk of hurting themselves" via over-drinking, she says. "Not adding extra pressure to the already intense pressure to hit the ground running with the partying is a good thing."
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Wade made waves earlier this year when she called on campuses to do away with fraternities and sororities altogether. She argued that fraternity parties, in particular, are dangerous places for teen women, who often are plied with alcohol. She described the organizations as "single-sex organizations that are designed to horde power and influence specifically for wealthy white men."
USC has joined a number of universities in recent years that are prohibiting new students from going Greek, Carry noted in her letter. Wade says it's a positive step so long as it eventually leads to the closure of fraternities and sororities. "It's preferable to allowing first-semester students to rush," she says.
Carry says he worked with Greek organizations for weeks in coming up with the new rules. USC's Interfraternity Council, however, was not happy with the result. In a statement the organization argued that the school was limiting companionship and social life at a time when new students, who are often new adults, need it the most.
"We believe the proposed changes will have a detrimental effect on the well-being of many first-year students," according to the statement.