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October 16, 2013

Fraternities scuttle recruiting ban prompted by drinking deaths

(Continued)

Sigma Alpha Epsilon is committed to "providing a meaningful, beneficial and safe experience" for all members, the national fraternity said in a statement.

Cal Poly barred Sigma Alpha Epsilon from campus until 2033 and considered eliminating fraternities. Instead, it stepped up oversight and decided in 2010 to delay freshman recruiting until January, the school's second quarter.

Soon after the policy was announced, "there was a huge pushback" from the fraternity industry, said Stephan Lamb, then the university's associate director of student life.

Smithhisler and other Interfraternity Conference executives visited the school in 2010 to ask administrators to rescind deferred recruitment.

"The hand-wringing has started" among fraternity leaders about Cal Poly's limits on recruitment, Smithhisler wrote in a Jan. 12, 2011, email to Lamb obtained through a request to the university under California's open-records law.

The next month, the trade group sent industry experts to Cal Poly to conduct an in-depth assessment of the school's Greek system, according to university records. Typically, universities request such an evaluation and pay an $8,000 fee. In this instance, the conference covered the cost.

The report was hardly flattering. The assessment, prepared by fraternity executives, college administrators and a social worker, called Cal Poly's recruitment "dehumanizing and superficial" and said alcohol was "a, and perhaps THE, defining factor" of Greek life.

"Hazing occurs in the men's chapters, particularly physical/strength endurance, stealing and drinking," it said. "Alcohol plays a major role in the Cal Poly fraternity/sorority experience, especially within fraternity life."

Still, the report called for an end to deferred recruitment because it runs "counter to a student's right to choose." The policy unfairly required fraternities, but not sororities, to postpone rush, according to the assessment.

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