Boots and Rallies

by Aaron Pellowski | 10/2/14 7:51pm

Welcome to the third article in a series of undercover expositions of Dartmouth’s undergraduate culture, generously supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. If you’ve been paying attention on the journey thus far instead of losing all your waking hours to GameCubes and Go-Gurt, you’ll recall that I confessed two weeks ago that for the past three years, I, Aaron Pellowski ’15 (real name J. Deirdre Horowitz, RISD ’06, DAIUS ’10) have systematically hoodwinked you all into believing I was yet another of the hyper-privileged bovines in Barbour jackets and Nantucket reds that call this campus home. After this year is up, I will return to my loft apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where I will likely dabble in fingerpainting, codeine and Baha’i. But mostly I will be working on my memoir, which like my other articles, will be a sparkling and trenchant polemic about why I’m better than everyone and how everything about Dartmouth is bad. Of course, I will take no personal responsibility at all for my own choices and conduct.

With any luck, such a publication will grant me the apotheosis I desire to dwell among those detractors of Dartmouth who have made a name for themselves in a similar fashion.

The topic of this article is sorority rush. My first introduction to the nightmare circus of sorority rush came when I was a sophomore, sitting in Collis and watching what I later learned were bids get handed out. I saw girls come up to the table where the Rogue Eyes were seated, open an envelope and proceed to either screech with glee, or to twitch a little and give an affected “Yay!”

In a few sad cases, a girl would take one look at her card and instantly crumble like a Jell-O cup on the GDX dancefloor while the Rogue Eyes hugged her and squealed “Welcome to Apple Delta!!!” or something like that.

This year I decided to study sorority rush more intensively. I interviewed several rushees and present sorority sisters and sat in on a few rounds of deliberations. At this point, I have several astounding findings to announce.

First, the shotgun-and-scram process used during sorority rush is possibly the stupidest system invented. This is not news to anyone, but consider if literally anything else in the world worked like rush does — College applications? The job hunt? Visits to the hospital? Everything is decided by a hundred-mile-per-hour merry-go-round of banal conversation and snap judgments. Imagine saying at the ER, “Nurse, you gotta let me in! I’ve got a three-pound anal cyst, and I think it could blow any minute!”

Nurse: “What’s your name? Where are you from? What did you do this summer! Wow, that’s so cool! My freshman summer I taught orphans how to program in Python.”

Another big question in sorority rush — local or national? Many sorority sisters have confided in me that some of the most treasured aspects of the Greek experience to them were the instant assumptions onlookers made when they learned their exact affiliation, an event expedited helpfully by the endless supply of branded commodities — pins, backpacks, totebags, sweaters, you name it. While local sororities contain more empowered social spaces, their sisters lose the privilege of being inscribed in a two-letter box after they graduate since, outside of the Upper Valley, no one has heard of Simba Elk.

Finally, I’d like to add on some rush tips and insights for the girls in the Class of 2018. (Sorry ’17s — the future of your value and identity at Dartmouth will have been locked-in by the time this article is published.)

Prepare three good knock-knock jokes for round one. A spot of humor can really take the edge off a nerve-wracking process like rush, and it will make you stand out as a “funny girl” if you have nothing else going for you. I might suggest “Knock knock!” “Who’s there? “Anita!” “Anita who?” “Anita go pee really badly but I’d rather hold it for now so I hear more about your sisterhood’s charity work!”

Bring an extra dress with you on a hanger. If anyone asks, let them know you’ve brought along a spare in case you get too sweaty and need to change. Sorority girls understand the value of preparedness and your vigilance will not go unnoticed during delibs.

Practice simultaneously maintaining contradictory beliefs, i.e. “The sun is the center of the universe” and “The earth is the center of the universe.” This skill will come in handy as you chalk up your own shortcomings in rush to “some computer glitch” or the “total arbitrary unfairness of process” while at the same time, you look at your sobbing friends who didn’t get an Aphid bid and quash the awkwardness by thinking, “It’s hard to swallow, but I guess I am prettier and more socially talented than them.” Doublethinking will prove useful again later when you defend sororities as legitimately empowering to women in your sophomore summer women and gender studies course.

Finally, I’d urge you to keep in mind something you will probably be told a thousand times — rush may be a miserable process for almost everyone, but no matter what happens, you have the same chance to be happy as any other student. Dartmouth supplies us with infinite resources, structures and programs so that we always have something to do and identify ourselves with, but it’s the experiences we create and initiate ourselves that are truly fulfilling and unforgettable. You can do that in any sorority or in no sorority at all, and realizing that this power belongs to you and not some randomized institution is awesome. It’s hard to criticize rush in the abstract when it’s complicitly perpetrated by the same people it victimizes. But at the bottom line, the process remains what has been called “one of the dumbest, meanest things on campus.”

So don’t let rush try to tell you what your value as a person is. Only I can do that.