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What’s the deal with flower-ins?

By Prindle News Hound
14 Nov 2014
Image by Swallowtail Garden Seeds (via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

For most men and women in Greek chapters, flower-ins were a part of their first experiences in Greek life. The purpose of a flower-in is, in general, to allow new member classes from each fraternity and sorority to meet each other and bond. This is supposed to unite the Greek community as a whole, but is the institution of flower-ins a completely exclusive event?

For example, chapters don’t always get to go to every other chapter; sometimes this is due to scheduling, but it could also be due to favoritism. Attendance at certain flower-ins is encouraged more than at others. Multicultural chapters are often left out of this tradition, since InterFraternity Council (IFC) and Panhellenic are the only two councils involved.

There is also pressure placed on members, specifically fraternity members, to kiss the girl. In my personal experience, the mechanism intended to prevent unwanted kissing or touching – a beaded necklace – was ignored at a few flower-ins. Many of us turned our heads to avoid a kiss, and then got boo’ed by the crowd. If a guy avoided a kiss, the yelling in protest was even louder. People were made to feel guilty for not making out in front of 50 or more people. The guy that flowered us in then ignored us; sometimes they ignored us even if we kissed them. How are new member classes supposed to meet each other if they don’t talk to each other? I got to know my sisters better than the brothers of any fraternity through these events. People who feel uncomfortable with even the potential for kissing or physical contact may be hesitant to attend the event, making it unlikely for them to meet a new member class from another chapter. Oftentimes, people attending flower-ins are intoxicated. This can lead to destruction of property – accidental or intended – and perhaps unwanted advances when signals are not read correctly. There may also be pressure to drink. While certain chapters enforce sober periods, many do not, leading to a tradition of intoxication.

With the Title IX laws being strongly enforced, this is a relevant time for the student body to address concerns about flower-ins and solve the issues. IFC has already had a meeting to discuss these issues. While I did enjoy my flower-ins for the most part, I noticed many problems with the tradition during my new member period. Is it ethical to put new members in these situations, especially if they are unaware of what goes on at a flower-in or don’t know they can refuse to kiss the person? Could these events be considered a form of hazing, even if they are not technically mandatory, because they make so many new members uncomfortable and apply pressure to do something? Are flower-ins inherently sexist, with the pressure put on the girls to prevent unwanted advances and no equivalent of a beaded necklace for guys who don’t want to kiss the girls? Do they leave out new members who may be shy or have no desire to kiss someone they just met?

What do you think about flower-ins? What kind of changes should be made, or not?

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