After suspension, Alpha Phi enjoys high rush turnout

Alpha Phi is back, and the sorority says it’s committed to doing things differently.

After spending more than a year suspended for hazing and alcohol policy violations, Alpha Phi is having no trouble bouncing back — at least not if this fall’s recruitment results were any indication.

“We’re working on restructuring the way we operate as a house, questioning our values and the way we present ourselves to the administration and the community,” Alpha Phi President Liza Tarr said.

The sorority faced an unexpected surge in interest during its first recruitment run since the suspension.

Thirty-eight women expressed interest in joining Alpha Phi during last month’s rush activities, and two weeks ago the sorority gave out bids to 21 new members, bringing Alpha Phi to maximum capacity.

“It far surpassed our expectations,” Tarr, a senior, said of the rush turnout. “We were only expecting about 15 women, so it gave us a great pool to choose from.”

Alpha Phi sisters had initially worried that the group’s public history of hazing could deter interest.

“Recruitment was a real test to see if we could meet and surpass our goal, and to see if people still had enough faith to be interested in and part of our organization,” Tarr said.

In spring 2008, the Fraternity and Sorority Life Judiciary suspended the sorority from participating in the recruitment process after revelations surfaced regarding violations that had occurred during its new member process. Details of the offenses were never made public.

Alpha Phi abstained last semester from recruiting with Chi Omega and Alpha Omicron Pi, the other two sororities on campus, as part of its sentence from the judiciary.

Tarr said the relatively large demand pool allowed Alpha Phi to be more targeted in its selection.

“The new women embody our values in terms of what we are trying to move towards as a house, what we look for in women, what we pride ourselves in and what we hope to achieve in the future,” she said. “We have a terrific new class of people, which fills us with a lot of hope and excitement for the future.”

Tarr said that of the women who expressed interest in Alpha Phi, few said they were deterred by the sorority’s history. “The sophomores we met did not seem to be concerned,” Tarr said. “We did find concerns in the freshmen we ran into, but those were more about hazing in general.”

She attributed this to Alpha Phi’s efforts to rehabilitate its image since the suspension. “We were confident going in because we had done a lot last semester to get our name out there and redeem ourselves,” Tarr said. “We did a lot of philanthropy, and stayed in touch with the surrounding community and potential new members.”

As part of ongoing efforts to restore its standing and affirm its commitment to tackling hazing, Alpha Phi approached the Panhellenic Council with the suggestion of observing National Hazing Prevention Week at Tufts, which the council did last week.

Senior Becca Weinstein, director of public relations for the Panhellenic Council, said the aim of the week’s programming was to draw attention to university-wide hazing practices.

“A lot of people assume that hazing is something that is traditionally associated with the Greek system, but it pervades other kinds of organizations,” said Weinstein, who is a member of Alpha Omicron Pi.

Representatives from the three sororities tabled at the campus center last week to teach students ways to address hazing issues. The Panhellenic Council will also be sponsoring a panel on Oct. 14 featuring representatives from different student groups like athletic teams and culture houses, who will discuss hazing experiences and demonstrate that it is a campus-wide phenomenon.

Senior Jillian Joseph, president of the Panhellenic Council, the governing board for all sororities on campus, hoped the week would also serve to debunk stereotypes concerning Greek life.

“Our vision is to use the opportunity to clear up facts concerning hazing and Greek life on campus,” she said. “Fraternity and sorority life is such a great experience and we don’t want people to be deterred by myths or rumors.”

Alpha Phi sees its support for National Hazing Prevention Week and the successful completion of its recruitment exercise as important milestones in moving beyond events of the past.

“It is a great way for us to show our values are in the right place,” Tarr said.

Joseph saw Alpha Phi’s high turnout as an indicator of an overall surge in interest in the Greek community, consistent with the increase in registration in sororities last semester.

“You would expect people to have been put off [by the violations],” said Joseph, a member of Chi Omega. “Instead, I think if anything [the surge] represents a demand for sororities and the Greek system as a whole.”