Panhellenic puts prohibitions on Facebook
Published: Wednesday, October 4, 2006
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
The SMU Panhellenic Council has streamlined its sanctions for sorority women who make friends with first-year women on the Facebook Web site. Communicating in online forums such as the Facebook is prohibited because it constitutes outside contact.
"It is an infraction to be friends with or write on someone's Facebook wall," said Shannon Sumerlin, Multicultural Greek and Panhellenic Councils advisor. Sorority women who are caught posting messages on first-year's Facebook walls or being a member of one another's friends list will be asked to deactivate their account until formal recruitment bid day, Jan. 15.The rule has been in effect for some time, but when the recruitment rules were modified last March, online communities were specifically targeted.
"Sorority women shall not contact Potential New Members by outside devices. This includes, but is not limited to, phones, text messages, e-mail, instant message, written communication or online communities such as Facebook of My Space," according to the revised Panhellenic Recruitment Guidelines.What is new is how violations of the rule are handled.
Previously, if sorority women were caught breaking the online contact rule, they were reported to the Panhellenic Judicial Board, who mediated the violation and different punishments were assessed on a case-by-case basis. Now, complaints go to the violator's chapter president, who will instruct the sorority woman to deactivate her account until after spring recruitment.
The new procedure was devised at a Panhellenic president's roundtable two weeks ago that included Panhellenic President Brittany Lucas and the president or her representative from each of the eight chapters.
Lucas wanted the chapter presidents to agree on a standardized way to handle the complaints. She said the group brainstormed and unanimously approved the new sanction.
The previous procedure was causing a jam in the judicial system and the judicial board could not handle the number of complaints.Myra Arthur, Panhellenic vice president of development and judicial board chairman said there were too many Facebook infractions to deal with and the president's roundtable devised a faster way to deal with the violations.Arthur could not give an estimate on how many complaints the Judicial Board received to cause the backlog, but Lucas said since Facebook violations were specifically outlined in the Recruitment Guidelines, she estimated the council received 25 to 30 complaints.
Sumerlin said the chapters want to limit communication between first-years and sorority women to create a level playing field for all potential sorority recruits.
"The women of the eight chapters feel its important for first-years to go in with as much of an even ground in the recruitment process," Sumerlin said. "With the many ways people can communicate on Facebook, if someone who has the means or the time, they can abuse this opportunity to contact first-years." Sumerlin said if sorority women use the Facebook to contact first-years, "it can be overwhelming when over 800 women are using it for a recruitment tool." She added first-years could be distressed trying to make enough friends in enough houses to be able to join a specific sorority.
While the sanction for communicating with first-years on Facebook is consistent for all sorority women, it is contingent upon violators deactivating their accounts."I can't physically make someone get off Facebook," Lucas said.
Arthur agreed, but added chapter presidents and the judicial board will monitor Facebook accounts to ensure violators have deactivated their accounts, and if they refuse, could face a judicial hearing with Panhellenic.
Lucas said Panhellenic has been working hard to improve relations with first-year women. Rules have been relaxed to allow first-years to eat on campus with sorority women as well as travel in cars to university-sponsored events together. Lucas said these "baby steps" should help to improve relations between the two groups and make recruitment more enjoyable for everyone.
Lucas said while changes are being made, it is a slow process, and the sororities and their members are wary of changing too much too fast. "I don't know if the chapters are afraid of change of what goes on behind the closed doors on Facebook, but the chapters are the ones who vote to make the changes," Lucas said, adding if sorority women have a problem with the new rule, they should "take it up with their chapter president."While Lucas and Arthur agree that the new guidelines for punishing sorority women who break the rules will lighten the load on the judicial board and hold violators accountable, they also question the need for the Facebook rule.Lucas called small infractions like breaking the Facebook rule trivial."I completely think our rules should be laxed, but the chapter presidents voted to make it this way," Arthur said. "We're enforcing what they have the right to decide. There has to be some level of discretion among the leaders of the houses. We're just helping them do that."