Park: Don't Fear Rush

by Annika Park | 4/30/15 8:13pm

We’re halfway through spring term, and the time has come in which women in the Class of 2018 are able to discuss the formal Panhellenic Council recruitment process without being met with passive aggressive comments of “It’s only winter term, you guys still have so much time!” As an ’18 woman beginning to consider the possibility of rush more seriously, I have a few words I’d like to put out there for my fellow first-year sisters.

In my experience, Panhellenic recruitment and sorority affiliation seem to carry a slightly taboo aspect, one in which women are discouraged from openly discussing their preferred choice of which organization they would like to join. The Panhellenic recruitment process exacerbates this by essentially preventing women from having the upper hand in their choice of affiliation — the organizations seem to have more agency to choose their members than potential rushees, and even then, I have heard that the algorithm behind the rush system deprives members and organizations of some power as well.

First-year women often find it difficult to discuss their hopeful affiliations out in the open as the final determination of where we will be affiliated is not always up to us. I find this ridiculous to some extent. It is true that we should shy away from superficial discussions of house rankings, but it’s undeniable that organizations differ from another — each and every sorority has its own personality. Every first-year woman should have the opportunity to hear stories or meet affiliated upperclasswomen that demonstrate the unique traits of each sorority.

Each organization is different, regardless of whether the sisters make the house or the house makes the sisters. What I believe every sorority on campus emphasizes, however, is lifelong sisterhood, friendship, solidarity and female empowerment. Therefore, I find it difficult to understand why women hesitate to have open dialogue about which organization best suits them. If you have met members of a sorority with whom you connect and identify, there should be no reason to fear saying so publicly.

Many of my male friends that I have talked to about fraternity recruitment seem to have an idea in their head about which fraternity they wish to join — or have at least narrowed down the possibilities to two or three options. Of course, this is likely due to the systemic difference of men’s increased ability to choose their affiliation and the ability of fraternities to remain open to the public for campus parties. As many women often do not have an opportunity to experience the sorority they wish to join in a social setting — unless they have their eyes on a local sorority — it is true that their idea of the sorority may be less concrete or well-rounded. Yet that does not mean that their ideas should be immediately invalidated.

There are two prongs to this silenced conversation. One is the outdated system of Panhellenic recruitment — in which all sororities barring Epsilon Kappa Theta take part — which takes power away from “potential new members,” making affiliation with a specific house a privilege rather than a choice. The other is that many women fear being excluded from this privileged system so much that they are reluctant to take part in an open conversation about the rush process. It’s a cycle of being silenced and silencing others.

Sororities are no different in terms of affiliation from other campus clubs, activities or sports. Put very simply, it is a form of membership to a group of people who share the same ideas, beliefs and values as you. By no means am I trying to bash the idea of sorority affiliation or Greek recruitment. As an ’18 woman, I intend to rush next year, hoping to join a system in which the majority of students take part. All I know and would like to say, however, is that I’m not afraid to discuss with my friends what sorority I think I would be a good fit for me. None of us should ever be afraid of the system so much that we can’t talk about it. By talking about it, we can take the power back.