Wheeler: Reforming an Imperfect Process

by Katie Wheeler | 9/30/12 10:00pm

So girls' rush is finally over. Some of us are enthusiastically adapting to sorority life. Some of us got into the houses we always aspired to be in, while some of us found ourselves somewhere unexpected. And then there are some of us who have dropped out of rush with the hope of someday doing it again or, conversely, with the resolve to remain unaffiliated. Whether or not we ended up where we wanted to this rush season, I think we can all agree on one thing: Rush is a pretty unpleasant process.

We were warned about the perils of rush. We knew that it would be long and tiring and anticipated the superficial conversations. And we understood the importance of keeping an open mind. Yet we held on to the promise that everyone would end up happy either joining a house with girls that they liked or making the choice to be unaffiliated. This assumption, as it turned out, was wrong. Even though we were repeatedly told to dread it, we were unprepared for the reality of the experience.

I was definitely nervous coming into rush. Had I gone anywhere but Dartmouth, I would have never even considered rushing. But since it was such a big thing here, I figured I would give it a try. The first round, during which you visit all eight sororities for 45 minutes each over the course of two days, appeared a daunting task. But, in all honesty, I found it fun. It was cool seeing the houses and talking to upperclassmen and learning about their experiences, passions, accomplishments and advice. I really tried to keep an open mind: I found myself saying that, truthfully, I'd be happy at almost any of these places. Rush really wasn't so bad; the mindless small talk and my absolute exhaustion paled in comparison to the inspiring women I was meeting and my building excitement about joining a house.

Then round two hit. Suddenly, rush wasn't so fun anymore. Of course, some girls got called back to their top five houses with no problem. But most girls took a considerable hit to their egos after being called back not to their five preferred houses, but to three, or two or one preferred or not. A significant number of girls dropped rush right then. And while many pushed through round two, they found themselves confronted with similar disappointment as they were called back for preference night. More girls dropped out, many not because of a newfound desire to be unaffiliated but because of their extreme unhappiness with what they deemed a lack of viable options.

Of the 413 women who initially registered for rush, only 280 were extended bids ("68 percent of women extended bids in rush," Sept. 27). So what happened to the notion that everyone would end up in a house that they liked or happily unaffiliated? In part, potential new members themselves are responsible for this unsatisfactory outcome. We often complain that 45 minutes of small talk in no way allows sisters to actually get to know us and judge us fairly. I argue that 45 minutes of small talk, often overshadowed by the stereotypes we hear about these houses, in no way allows us to truly appreciate each house. We are far too dismissive and judgmental as we preference certain houses over others, even though we like to reassure ourselves of our open-mindedness. We must give unforeseen alternatives a chance and must accept that there are inspiring and awesome women at every house that often defy their houses' stereotypes.

But don't let me detract from the problematic nature of the rush process itself. It boils down to whom you know, how well you present yourself in short periods of time, your physical appearance (though many will vehemently deny this) and luck. There also just aren't enough bids to go around. Although I don't foresee any drastic changes in the rush process anytime soon, I would recommend increasing the number of pre-rush events throughout freshman year to allow those interested in rush to get to know sisters in a low-pressure environment. The best thing, however, that a girl who wants to rush can do is to appreciate the limitations of the process and realize that one cannot take rush or oneself too seriously. Becoming so invested in something that could very well not work out the way you originally wanted it to would be unwise. Being open truly open to possibilities is really the only way to succeed during rush.