updated 5/6/2005 4:01:03 PM ET 2005-05-06T20:01:03

Trying to shed its image as one of the biggest party schools in America, the University of Colorado is demanding that its fraternities put off the traditional fall recruiting period known as rush until the spring semester.

The 16 fraternities at Colorado have said they are eager to help the school curb problem drinking, but they have balked at postponing rush, complaining it will cost them enrollment dues and wreck recruiting.

“We can’t afford to defer rush. It will kill off the Greek system in terms of numbers. Whether that’s the university’s intent, we’re unsure,” said Ryan Lynch, a member of Sigma Nu and the internal vice president of the Interfraternity Council.

The school, with 24,700 undergraduates, contends freshmen need time to adjust to college before pledging a fraternity.

“We want to have a full semester for students to get acclimated to campus before they’re put in a position of having to choose a fraternity or sorority,” said Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Ron Stump. “It’s an opportunity for them to become a little more mature before they get to a decision that is intended be a lifelong decision.”

The university is threatening to deny fraternities the use of such things as campus meeting rooms, playing fields and lists of incoming freshmen unless they comply. It is also warning it will remove any mention of the frats from orientation materials, Web sites and open houses.

Colorado’s reputation has been tarnished by a scandal in which investigators said alcohol, drugs and sex were used to entice football recruits to campus, and two years ago it was dubbed the No. 1 party school by the annual Princeton Review.

The school has boosted its alcohol education programs and toughened penalties for liquor violations. Freshmen have to pass an online class on alcohol abuse.

Despite such measures, an 18-year-old pledge died last fall after a night of drinking. The frat was shut down and five members pleaded guilty to providing alcohol to a minor. It was one of at least six deaths at colleges around the state since last fall.

The dispute at the University of Colorado is not about drinking at rush events; the frats have said they would have no problem pledging to ban alcohol from recruiting activities.

In fact, liquor is off limits at rush events at Colorado and elsewhere under nationwide standards adopted last year by the North American Interfraternity Conference, which represents 4,800 fraternity chapters at 800 U.S. campuses.

“We had to endure a number of hazing incidents that resulted in tragedies,” said Jon Williamson, executive vice president of NIC. “Insurance costs had gone up and the executives said something was wrong here.”

The stumbling blocks at Colorado are postponing rush and a university request that frats have live-in advisers, something Williamson said not all chapters can afford.

About 160 campuses nationwide have delayed recruitment for fraternities, Williamson said. But he said that does not solve the underlying problem.

“And that issue is very simply alcohol,” he said. “Deferred recruitment is not going to change the culture prevalent on that campus.”

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