No. 6 Leaves IFC, Citing Privacy

Delta Psi, better known as the No. 6 Club, left the Interfraternity Council to join the Living Group Council before rush this fall following disagreements with the IFC over the Clearinghouse system policies.

During spring, No. 6 had attempted to make an agreement with the IFC to disengage from the Clearinghouse during rush this fall, arguing that the system infringed on freshmen’s privacy. The IFC decided that No. 6 would not be allowed to participate in rush without using the Clearinghouse, since opting out would conflict with their policy of maintaining equal playing field between fraternities during rush.

The Clearinghouse system tracks the location of male freshmen during rush. Freshmen are required to sign in and out at each fraternity they visit, and the system is updated in real time so that fraternities can see where a particular freshman is at a given time. Freshmen males are automatically put into the system unless they opt out.

“It seemed to us a violation of freshmen’s privacy,” said M. Tom Kennedy ’10, a member and former president of No. 6.

Christopher A. Fematt ’09, the IFC recruitment chair, defended the use of Clearinghouse: “We do understand that everyone has a right to their privacy,” said Fematt, but freshmen are “participating in what is our recruitment.” Fematt emphasized that the data is only used to locate particular freshmen. “We’re not tracking how he felt, what clothes he was wearing, or what he was doing at a frat.”

Last spring, No. 6 motioned to end their participation in the Clearinghouse system at a meeting of the IFC. However, they were refused. No. 6 tried to compromise with the other fraternities in the IFC over Clearinghouse. “If the issue was safety, we would enter the information into the system, but only release the information to the IFC exec board,” said Ana-Maria A. Piso ’10, the president of No. 6.

Fematt explained that Clearinghouse data is only accessibl e to the recruitment chairs of each fraternity, who have limited access; as well as the Director and Assistant Director of the IFC, the IFC Recruitment Chair, and one other person hired to work on the database, who have full access. After rush, the data is destroyed. “The information we usually release are just numbers,” said Fematt.

Kennedy said No. 6 also offered to compromise by allowing freshmen to opt in to the Clearinghouse system rather than opt out. He said most freshmen did not know that system existed and so did not know about their right to not participate.

The IFC increased its efforts to publicize Clearinghouse this year, said Fematt. A seminar was held to educate rush chairs so they could talk to freshmen about it, and it was explained in the freshmen rush pamphlets. “It was apparent that freshmen didn’t know about Clearinghouse,” said Fematt. “I openly invited freshmen to come talk to me about it,” he said. This year, five freshmen opted out of the Clearinghouse system.

Disagreements over IFC governance

No. 6 said that their decision to leave the IFC also stemmed from their feeling that the IFC had deeper problems with its governance. Piso said that the IFC makes rules by majority vote, which “doesn’t protect individual fraternity rights.”

The IFC holds monthly rush meetings the second semester of each year, during which any of the recruitment chairs of the member fraternities can motion to change a rule. It was in these meetings that No. 6’s appeals to change policies on the usage of Clearinghouse were struck down. “I looked into different ways to use Clearinghouse,” said Fematt, “But the other twenty-six Recruitment Chairs said, ‘This is the system, and we won’t change just for No. 6.’”

“The protest by No. 6 brought to attention that there was no sanction for disagreeing with the rush rules,” said Fematt. In response, he said, a new rule banning fraternities from rushing without agreeing to all the rush rules, including the requirement to use Clearinghouse, was put in place to preserve an equal playing field between fraternities. No. 6 also protested this new IFC rule.

No. 6 believes this rule violates a key principle of the North-American Interfraternity Conference. “One of the key principles of the NIC is open recruitment,” said Piso, “meaning that any fraternity can recruit. We thought this rule was against this principle.” One of the by-laws on the NIC website states, “Host institution will not prohibit NIC member fraternity from recruiting/rushing male students on campus.”

In the end, No. 6 believed that leaving the IFC was the best option, and it became a member of the MIT Living Group Council on Aug. 28, 2008. The LGC does not have a system like Clearinghouse.

Piso said being an independent living group did not affect No. 6’s rush this year. “We were at the Greek griller, just in the LGC part,” said Piso. “Our rush was equally successful as the previous years.”

Fematt described the parting between No. 6 and the IFC as “happy and content.”

“Chris [Fematt] firmly believed that a compromise could be reached, but he had to listen to his constituents, who didn’t want a compromise. I think he did an excellent job listening to his constituents,” said Kennedy.