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Old 10-08-2004, 01:46 AM
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Gustavus cancels rush activities, citing safety problems

Thu, Oct. 07, 2004

Gustavus cancels rush activities, citing safety problems

Associated Press

ST. PETER, Minn. - Gustavus Adolphus College abruptly canceled this year's rush period over concerns about the safety of some initiation rituals students go through to join fraternities and sororities.

"I received some credible reports from multiple sources that persuaded me that the safety of Gustavus students was being placed at risk by some fraternity and sorority practices," Dean of Students Henry Toutain told the Mankato Free Press on Wednesday.

The rush activities began Sept. 25 and had been scheduled to run through Sunday. Toutain stopped them Monday after meeting with student leaders of campus Greek organizations.

He threatened to penalize any Greek organization that continued with rush.

The possible attempted suicide of a fraternity pledge was one of the many rumored reasons behind Toutain's decision, said Austin Sponsel, president of the student senate and a member of Delta Phi Omega, and Will Sutor, rush leader for Epsilon Pi Alpha.

Toutain would not confirm or deny the incident. However, he said two or three investigations have been initiated to examine rush week behavior.

"We're looking into reports involving several organizations," he said. Toutain said they may lead to complaints being filed against individuals or groups in the college's judicial system.

Another factor in Toutain's decision may have been a motor vehicle accident involving several sorority pledges, Sutor said.

Sponsel said the pledges were members of her sorority. She said the accident was not their fault and denied rumors the pledges were suffering from sleep depravation due to participating in late-night rush activities.

Sponsel said she was disappointed that pledges will miss out on the growing and bonding process of rush week.

"There's some of the girls who were in our rush class who I just don't know very well and didn't get a chance to know them in the last week," Sponsel said. "We're going to have to work much harder to make up that bonding."

However, campus rush committee co-chair Lyncee Davies, Sponsel's sorority sister, said Greek leaders understood Toutain's decision.

Still, Davies said she feels the administration dislikes the Greeks. She worried about the future for fraternities and sororities on campus.

Toutain said Greek organizations were banned from Gustavus for a five years beginning in 1988. Reasons included cases of fiscal mismanagement, hazing and alcohol abuse, he said.

The organizations were welcomed back only after agreeing to conditions laid out during meetings with administrators. There may be some interest in revisiting that conversation, Toutain said.

Last year, Toutain said he came close to ending rush early after several incidents of vandalism and assault.

"I think it's premature to say this sounds the death knell for fraternities and sororities here," Toutain said. "But it may well be something that promotes some good conversations on campus about how they can most contribute to this place."

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