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New rules seek to preserve tradition of greek mixers

Published: Thursday, February 16, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 22:02


Tom Henning didn't expect the first woman he approached at a sorority Flower-In to break his ankle.

But when he bent down to hand her a flower, the freshman sorority member lunged, tackling him to the ground and fracturing his foot.

Henning, now a sophomore and member in Sigma Chi fraternity, spent weeks in a cast and on crutches, but he says he still supports Flower-Ins and even regrets some of the rule changes implemented this year.

Those new rules emerged in response to a growing concern over similar incidents of tackling, hazing, disrespectful behavior and alcohol use.

Last fall, senior and former Panhellenic Council Vice President of Risk Management Erin O'Donnell established a committee to address the current state of the fraternity and sorority meet-and-greets.

The group included members of the Panhellenic and Interfraternity Council executive boards, greek life coordinators and other greek students.

The resulting rules went into effect this year, the first time such a comprehensive list of prescriptions on Flower-Ins has been used.

"In the past, the quote, unquote ‘rules' that were broken were never written down and were unclear," O'Donnell said. "We couldn't tell people not to do something, because we didn't have a rule base to tell them not to do it in the first place."

Previously, Flower-Ins were treated as another registered sorority event. Rules and restrictions existed, but O'Donnell said sororities were mostly left to follow the limitations imposed by their various insurance policies.

That meant no alcohol for all sororities and for some, restrictions on where guests were allowed and how long they could stay.

O'Donnell said sororities still have the freedom to follow their own risk management policies, but the new guidelines provide a framework for equal enforcement.

Kathryn Drew, a sophomore and Panhel's new vice president of risk management, said the most important change in the new rules was increased accountability.

Responsibility to remove any individual causing problems now rests on the sorority hosting the Flower-In as well as the visiting fraternity. Drew said a failure to comply could result in the cancellation of future Flower-Ins.


Addie McDonnell has attended as many as 16 Flower-Ins since pledging Alpha Phi sorority freshman year.

Now a junior, McDonnell said she didn't "really see a big difference" from past Flower-Ins when her boyfriend, sophomore Bradley White, and other members of Sigma Chi visited Alpha Phi Wednesday night for their first Flower-In of the year.

"I feel like they're really similar to how they've been in years past," McDonnell said.

Still, others feel the rules have brought misguided oversight to a longstanding tradition.

In an article posted Wednesday on the HerCampus DePauw website, junior Natalie Swiler wrote that the university "blew it" with the new restrictions on timing.

"The university thinks that this is the way to get us to not drink before the event," Swiler wrote. "Instead of not drinking, people now just have to start the shots before 7 p.m."

The new rules require a 30-minute pre-Flower-In period starting at 7:30 p.m. wherein all sorority members attending the event must be in the chapter house. Two sober representatives from the visiting fraternity then meet with the sorority's risk managers at 7:40 p.m. The Flower-In begins at 8 p.m. and must be completed by 9 p.m.

Sorority women must also remain in the chapter house for at least 30 minutes after the end of the Flower-In.

"The new rules haven't completely tainted the tradition," Swiler wrote. "As if we're going to let our party school name go to waste just because we have to start a little earlier."

Yet even though some say the new Flower-In rules are less fun, Tom Henning said the change is for the better.

"This is probably how it should be run," he said. "You can have fun afterwards."

Incidents like Henning's have yet to occur under the new rules, although greek life coordinator PJ Mitchell said there have only been about four Flower-Ins so far this year.

"We're hoping that everyone continues to respect the guidelines," he said. "Hopefully, it'll take off in a positive direction."

Still, Henning's ankle wasn't the only thing broken last year.

In one incident, fraternity men left alcohol containers on a sorority's lawn after a Flower-In, a violation of all chapters' insurance policies.

The new rules seek to address these and other issues that have arisen over the last several years.

In a section labeled "strict and mandatory," new regulations disallow tackling, "anything that would make a member uncomfortable," and "forceful behavior or pressure."

The list also prohibits "all unwelcome items," specifically mentioning paddles, blow horns, flasks and alcohol.

"I think that (reports of hazing with paddles at Flower-Ins) sparked some discussion of what have these become and has this become a problem, and what can we do to make sure that we're getting back to the initial roots of a Flower-In," Mitchell said.

Mitchell and Erin O'Donnell both said those roots are planted in the opportunity for new members to get to know each other in a social setting.

And while Kathryn Drew said some men have been "iffy" about the ban on paddles, sorority women especially appreciate that particular change.

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