DePauw’s Double Standard: Policy Promotes Inequality for the “First Night” Out Among First-Years

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Article written by Olivia Jennings, Ella Tobias, and Layla Brown-Clark

As upperclassmen women, we are no strangers to the DePauw party scene and drinking culture. This weekend is a rite of passage for students, as it is the first night that first-years are allowed at Greek parties. Despite this, we have witnessed a consistent, significant presence of first-year males at fraternity functions. Meanwhile, there is a whispered narrative of panhellenic sororities who threaten first-year women with being “blacklisted” from joining their organization. 

While “blacklisting” is not an official part of the Greek process, according to Frae Binder, director of fraternity and sorority life, the threat is enough to disproportionately target and discourage first-year women who plan to take part in panhellenic recruitment from attending parties, while we continue to see the presence of first-year males and those who do not plan to join Greek life. 

According to the Student Handbook, first-year students are prohibited from attending events hosted by Greek chapters that involve alcohol until the Office of Substance Abuse Prevention and Education sets a date each year. Typically, the date is about 10 weeks into the semester, often falling on Halloween weekend. If students are caught breaking this rule before this date, they’re subject to Community Standards charges, but said charges are not outlined in the handbook. 

DePauw believes that, by prohibiting first-years from attending parties, they are mitigating the risks of the “red zone,” the timespan at the start of the semester where students are statistically most likely to experience sexual assault or alcohol overconsumption, according to Binder. 

The rule is well intentioned in theory, but since it is only actively enforced upon women who plan to go through panhellenic recruitment, it creates a double standard among underclassmen. We argue that it is time for the rule to undergo necessary reform. While one solution is to improve the enforcement for everyone to mitigate risk, we propose that the rule should be removed in its entirety, as it only prolongs the “red zone” and perpetuates gender inequality.

As of now, we believe that the rule is only prolonging the “red zone,” especially since the first weekend out is on Halloween weekend, arguably the most high-risk weekend of the semester due to costumes and drinking culture. From our experience, the social consequence of getting “blacklisted” far outweighs the risk of getting in trouble with the community standards process, as the severity of breaking the rule is not made clear and there are no faculty members present at parties to actively enforce it. Because of this, it is only followed by first-year women who plan on going through the formal recruitment process. 

We believe that it is time for a change in the sexist enforcement of this policy. If the rule continues to exist, we must find a way to implement it in a consistent manner. After all is said and done, we’re still left questioning, what are first-years actually being protected from?