New changes in Roundup policy are encouraging

2013-03-25_Roundup_Maria

Maria Arrellaga

Sam Shrull dances with the American flag at the Sigma Chi fraternity’s party Saturday afternoon during UT Round-Up weekend.

Willa Young

Roundup has a bad reputation. It’s difficult to blur that clear-cut distinction because, in a way, this reputation comes with good reason. Thousands of young adults flood West Campus each spring, clad in different hues of radioactive glow, causing chaos and mayhem at the largest Greek event of the year. Alcohol flows, music booms and lights paint the sky in pulsing vibrancy.

So why is it that I am feeling this foreign sense of pride? Why is it that this event only makes me more sure of my decision to come to the University of Texas?

Perhaps it is because when friends and family back home in California ask me why I would leave paradise for the stagnant and blistering reality of the Texas plains, I have a simple answer.

My University is one of the finest institutions of higher learning in the nation, with many schools ranked with the likes of Harvard and Yale. My school is placed in a city teeming with diverse and dynamic culture that begs to be different. My school has sports teams that cause childlike anxiety among the toughest men. And in one weekend, my school of leaders, thinkers and achievers can have more fun than any other place can scarcely imagine.

But maybe that’s just my newly adopted Texas ego.

Surely applauding our student body for its ability to intake obscene amounts of alcohol while maintaining perfect GPAs isn’t exactly commendable. Roundup is, first and foremost, a massive party. Shocking as it may seem, it wasn’t always that way. It was actually once a university-sanctioned event.

“For 60 years Roundup was a spring semester weekend of homecoming events, parades, competitions and dances,” Assistant Dean of Students Elizabeth G. Medina said in a letter to all Greek affiliated students. “The decision to discontinue sponsorship came after a series of racially inflammatory incidents associated with the weekend and as a result, Roundup has not been an official university event since 1990.”

High school recruitment was another factor that separated Roundup Weekend from the university. High school seniors would receive their acceptance letters to UT, then celebrate by attending Roundup weekend. Greek organizations wearing their letters from head to toe would use this opportunity to do some early recruiting before fall rush.

A strict policy of no high school students in any Roundup event was enforced this year by the Greek governing bodies. The University Panhellenic Council and the Interfraternity Council threatened to enforce large fines to any organization found “dirty rushing,” or associating with future rushees, or helping any high schoolers get into Roundup events. Standardized wristbands were required to attend any event, and valid college ID’s were scanned at each wristband station to ensure no high school students could gain access. 

Any unapologetically loyal member of a sorority or fraternity, including myself, would naturally want a leg up on the competition in recruiting new members, but this policy creates a much more fair process.

You see, the advantage a potential new member can gain by knowing even one person in the house of their choice is astronomical. It is very difficult to get into any sorority at UT if the rushee does not send in multiple letters of recommendation, pictures and references. But even that isn’t enough. Just like searching for a job in the real world, who you know is everything. 

As I said before, I am an out-of-state student. I did not know a soul before stepping onto this campus last August, and I was at an extreme disadvantage for recruitment. Women and men from Texas could easily take a weekend trip to Austin, get their name out, make friends in sororities and secure their spots months in advance by attending Roundup. Thousands of other out-of-staters had no such opportunity.

It is a commendable step on the part of the UPC and the IFC to halt any unfairness in recruitment that comes with Roundup. 

Obviously there is no way to cut off all high schoolers from attending Roundup. The hype and tradition is extremely attractive to the sheltered rebels in Texas high schools. I presume there will never be a year without some seriously underage party-goers. This year a box of wristbands was stolen from the wristband station at the corner of 25th Street and Pearl Street with the stolen wristbands likely distributed to sneaky high schoolers. The station was forced to move on campus to prevent further theft.

Even with the intense restrictions, some impressively sly high schoolers still made their mark on West Campus last weekend. But the fact that the Greek community is finally taking action on this unfortunate and unfair reality should be appreciated.

I won’t lie and say that Roundup is something the University should be proud of. It is dangerous, baffling and frankly, insane. But the Greek community is actually taking steps toward positive change and taking advantage of the infamous party scene to do some good.

There are plenty of complaints that can be made about Roundup Weekend, many of which I will whole-heartedly agree with. However, this year I can take a look at this large student community and know that we are one step closer to a fairer system in recruitment, and a more positive presence on campus.

Published on March 25, 2013 as "Roundup changes prove positive".