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The Dartmouth
May 18, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Selling the Product of Fraternities

During the first weeks of this term, my social relevance somehow increased. With fraternity rush impending, I, alongside many other men in my class, was starting to be taken seriously as a potential new member by fraternities. This was a strange reversal from our invisibility to the frat brothers when we hung around in their basements as freshmen — it was almost a throwback to orientation. “What are you taking this term?” and “Where are you from?” were questions I heard far too frequently.

In the weeks leading up to rush, as I hung out at houses and attended pre-rush events, I felt almost as if each house were delivering a sales pitch and that the alphabet soup of Greek letters represented different product brands. At each house I went to, I was sold a distinct and well-packaged product.

Perhaps, when one considers the way business culture is so intertwined with campus culture, it should come as no surprise that rush at Dartmouth shares some striking resemblances to the way businesses conduct marketing. Interestingly enough, the adage that every fraternity has a unique character to it proved to be true as I spent time at houses I hadn’t frequented freshman year. Sometimes, these characters came to life in an almost parody-like enactment of the houses’ respective reputations. If the fraternities were actually companies, some of their commercial slogans might sound like the following:

“We’re not really into the frat scene... we just... are...” *snaps*

“Line for pong is always six, no girls allowed.”

“The only thing sweeter than our mixed drinks are our brothers!”

“Because our social dues are so high, we could play pong with champagne, but we still drink Keystone.”

As I met fraternity members and even other ’17s who were looking to rush, I started to ponder why I was rushing at all.

Last fall, I had the option to reinvent my identity by starting college, and this fall, I came to see rush as a way to live out that identity by surrounding myself with similar individuals in a Greek house. The only problem was, I still didn’t know who I wanted to be. From the onset, I knew that I wasn’t ever going to be a stereotypical party-hard “frat bro,” but at the same time, I wanted to meet new people and have a good time.

Going into rush week, I had a few houses in mind that I was seriously considering. I made an effort to hang out and get to know the members I didn’t already know, but despite my attempts at casual conversation and assimilation, I would be plagued by a strange feeling by the end of the night. I tried to imagine the person I would be at each house — who I would be after two years of brotherhood — and no matter what house I was at, I wasn’t satisfied with my future self. It was for this reason that, even as I entered the last 15 minutes of rush night, I still did not know what house I wanted to end up in — whose slogan fit me best.

I inadvertently entered into the mindset of thinking that my affiliation would entirely determine my identity. I bought into the concept of fraternities as businesses, as a collection of distinct brands. Through some twist of logic, however, instead of simply buying a product that they were selling, I envisioned myself as a product for them to brand. As if I were some gray, formless matter, I had sought an identity entirely based on and constructed from the Greek system.

So at 8:55 p.m., there I stood on Webster Avenue — paralyzed by doubt and anxiety, thinking about every version of my future self and wondering if it had been a good idea to rush at all. Finally, I realized that ultimately, which house I decided on didn’t matter.

After having been alive for 19 years, I had already developed an identity that I was satisfied with, and I didn’t need to be in a Greek house to live up to my perceived ideal. A Greek house wouldn’t change who I was, only I could do that.

It was so simple. All the internal turmoil and indecision that had been building up for weeks ended with perhaps the most anti-climactic five minutes of my life. I simply walked to the house I was most comfortable at, shook out and that was that.

People choose to rush for all sorts of reasons. Some do it for the sense of community. Others do so because they like the upperclassmen at a house or because their friends rushed. Some rush for social status and some just do it to try something new. All of these are perfectly fine reasons to rush a house.

For me, rush was about defining myself as an individual before it was about finding a group of guys that I liked hanging out with. For future classes, you are not the product — Greek life is. And it’s your decision whether or not to buy it. So rush. Or don’t rush. Just know that, either way, your affiliation or lack thereof doesn’t define you.