Stop Spying on Freshmen

The Inter-Fraternity Council recruitment rules this year include mandatory use of the Clearinghouse system.

Clearinghouse is an online system that fraternities use to track freshmen through Rush week. Whenever a freshman goes to a fraternity event his name is entered into a Web site. Other fraternities can go to the Web site and search for freshmen; they can see what event any particular freshmen is attending and view what events that person has been to that week.

Fraternities collude to keep tabs on freshmen and record their movements; Clearinghouse is a cooperative spying network.

When the modern Clearinghouse system was introduced in 2005, freshmen likened it to “Big Brother” (see “Clearinghouse Worth Missing”, September 13, 2005 in The Tech). This negative response might be why freshmen are now deliberately kept in the dark about Clearinghouse. In Rush 2005, Clearinghouse computers were required to be at the front entrance of each fraternity and freshmen could see that they were being entered into the system; the IFC has since become wiser and last year fraternities were encouraged to keep their Clearinghouse maintenance hidden in a back room. Despite this, all freshmen are entered by default into a system they do not even know exists — and they have to proactively request to be withdrawn if they so choose.

The Inter-Fraternity Council has made several excuses for Clearinghouse. They have claimed that freshmen need to be tracked for liability purposes — but only men are entered into the system, not women attending fraternity rush events. Perhaps the IFC believes that no one will care if an accident happens to a woman. They have argued that the IFC needs a way to make sure freshmen are brought back from trips on time — which does not explain why the names of freshmen going on these trips should be accessible to other fraternities and not to IFC executives only.

No excuse offered stands up to scrutiny. At IFC meetings this term, fraternities have finally been willing to admit it: the purpose of Clearinghouse is to spy. Fraternities use Clearinghouse to see which freshmen are being courted by other houses so that they can target those freshmen — or abandon them. So don’t worry freshmen: it’s all for your own good.

We, at the Number Six Club, think that spying is simply unethical — and we are not the only IFC member to think so. We certainly never intend to use the data we have access to. We also do not want to help enable the spying that goes on. This term we informed the IFC that we will not sign any rules that force us to spy on freshmen. The response: a motion is now going before the IFC that any fraternity that fails to agree to all of the rules including Clearinghouse will be banned from recruitment during Rush week.

If a fraternity wants to keep track of who has been to their house that is their privilege. If a fraternity wants to share that information with other fraternities, no one has the right to stop them. However no fraternity has the authority to coerce others into spying for them.

Ana-Maria A. Piso ’10 is the President of the Number Six Club. M. Tom Kennedy ’09 is a former President and Rush Chair of the Number Six Club. This column is submitted on behalf of the Members of Number Six.