The InterFraternity Council's crusade against "pseudo-Greek societies" -- specifically Theos and The Owls -- continues to occupy the organization's leader's list of tasks to complete during this year.
The crusade against these non-Greek "secret" societies began last spring and has maintained the central position in the council's agenda ever since.
"'We're concerned that members of the student body don't think this issue is as pressing anymore, but it's in the forefront of what we're doing," said IFC President Conor Daly, a College senior.
During the summer, the IFC, in partnership with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs office, attempted to further its agenda through the distribution of a Greek newsletter to parents of both incoming freshmen and students already involved in the system.
Within the newsletter was information regarding the roles that these "pseudo-Greek" groups play on campus and the dangers University officials feel they pose to the Penn social scene, officials explained.
The mailings specifically "point[ed] out that these groups are functioning as renegade underground groups" and stressed not only the IFC's worries, but also OFSA's "concerns over the issue," OFSA Director Scott Reikofski said.
Reikofski went on to explain that OFSA hopes that "with education, people can make more informed decisions on where they stand in terms of these groups."
In addition to this widespread mail distribution, the IFC plans to conduct information sessions this fall to educate students on "what it means to be Greek."
In these sessions, the IFC intends to further define the boundaries between Greek and non-Greek social organizations.
The sessions, targeting freshmen, aim not only to educate students on the subject of Greek and non-Greek organizations, but also to reduce the large numbers of underclassmen traditionally recruited by such underground groups in the fall.
Daly claimed that the "very active fall rush" conducted "mainly by Theos" does exist, and that the success of the fall recruitment results in significantly fewer underclassmen who are then free to rush with the Greek system in the spring.
Members of Theos declined to comment on the subject, and The Daily Pennsylvanian was unable to locate any members of the Owl Society for comment.
Competing against non-Greek groups to maintain high rush numbers is not the only challenge faced by the IFC, however. Lack of past administrative action and the consistently neutral stance taken with regard to these "pseudo-Greek" groups has made the task of reducing the power and appeal of such organizations more difficult, according to Daly.
Now, though, Daly said he believes that the administration may be "coming around."
"They have seen that this is going to have implications on a larger Penn social scene than just Greek life," Daly explained, adding that "they could do something now and make sure that this unsafe society doesn't balloon."
He noted that "at the present time, the IFC is working with middle-level administrators" to increase its level of University backing.
Although this quest to diminish the influence -- and even the existence -- of these groups on campus is the IFC's primary goal, the organization is not limiting itself to just this endeavor.
During the semester, Daly said, the IFC, in partnership with the office of the Vice Provost for University Life, is also creating a pilot program in which fraternities will receive rewards for throwing parties registered through the University and OFSA, rather than unregistered off-campus events.
When throwing registered parties, "the University prefers that University-approved bartenders, bouncers and security be used," explained Stephanie Ives, director of alcohol policy initiatives at VPUL.
While these precautions may increase student safety at such events, they also greatly heighten costs to those sponsoring the parties.
Through this program, however, the IFC and VPUL hope to establish incentives to throw registered on-campus events through Risk Reduction Awards -- a measure which would reimburse fraternities for these University-stressed securities.
"The concern that the fraternities have brought us was that it was expensive to throw on-campus registered parties," Ives said.
She explained that the program "is not a reimbursement for alcohol," but for "things like University bartenders and risk-reduction security."
Daly noted that expenses from such precautions generally range between $300 and $400 per event.
As a result, the number of registered parties has dropped significantly over the years.
According to officials, in 1998-1999 there were 159 registered events. Last year, there were 46.
"This program is important to us because we know that registered, on-campus events are among the safest, and so we would like to see an increase in these safer events," Ives explained.
Reikofski also noted that all students -- from both in and outside of the Greek system -- will benefit from the increased safety in Penn's social scene.
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