Heine: We Are Here

Sorority recruitment is more flawed than getting second-choice houses.

by Jessica Heine | 10/13/16 12:30am

We the rejects of sorority recruitment are here. We exist, in the flesh.

I went through formal recruitment and shake out with an open mind. I trusted the system. When friends went to invite-only pre-rush parties in the spring, I did not fret. When round one of rush arrived, I dressed up and smiled gamely at the parties, and I spent a night with butterflies in my stomach waiting to hear about round two. I had only butterflies — not knots — because I had been told along with the rest of my rush group that we were guaranteed at least one callback.

For me, this turned out to be true: I was called back to two houses. But when I heard that the Panhellenic Council had reneged on its one callback guarantee, I felt guilty about being part of an organization that would reject girls based on a five-minute conversation.

Despite a queasy feeling in my stomach, I listened to others’ reassurances that only girls who were especially rude would be eliminated. I tried to tell myself that they were to blame, that they were just making no effort to be friendly.

During round two, I went to my two houses, talked to a few sisters in each house, and before I knew it, it was over. I prayed for all of those girls already eliminated, hoping I would not join them. After a sleepless night and long day, I received the text that I was not going to preference night, the final step of formal recruitment. I would not find that home away from home I had hoped to gain in a sorority. I would not participate in the meetings every Wednesday, the tails every Friday and Saturday, the charity events, the bonding experiences, the sophomore summer extravaganzas. Five conversations after I entered round two, I was voted out.

In the past year, I had been told by many that every girl was guaranteed a bid. Others claimed that, although it wasn’t technically true, it was almost impossible not to get a bid. Not a single person I asked about Greek life mentioned knowing anyone rejected just because no houses wanted her. When I asked upperclassmen this question at a pre-rush event in the spring, they said that if I wanted a bid, I would get a bid. At an informational session, an adult told me that as long as I went through formal recruitment, I was guaranteed a bid. My Rho Chi, a student assigned to guide me through the rush process, told me the truth the night before rush. However, she assured me that complete rejections were very rare. I went to the Office of Greek Life, where an employee begrudgingly told me that roughly three percent of rushees are kicked out of the system unwillingly. But once again, she assured me it wouldn’t happen to me, insinuating as many others had that those who were rejected were somehow less than normal, unfit even to be acknowledged.

Yet here I am. After many tears and a trip home to avoid bid night, I’m back at Dartmouth as an unaffiliated woman. I’ve been advised to pretend that I dropped rush because I didn’t get my top choice. But I refuse to sit silently as everyone affiliated assumes that those forced outside the system are faceless and effectively nonexistent.

When I asked my Rho Chi for an estimate on how many women were in the same situation as I was, I was told that, according to Panhell, I wasn’t allowed to know. It’s no surprise that women like me are invisible on campus. We are initially told that this situation doesn’t exist; once we are in it, we are prevented from learning anything about how it occurred.

I have read so many articles about the pros and cons of Greek life. Not once have I read or heard a single statement that mentions what it is like to rush, be open to every option and still be rejected straight out.

I hope to provide that perspective. Dartmouth needs to remember that people like me exist and are not just numbers on a page. We sit near you letter-wearers in class. I do not disparage you, as I could have quite easily been you. Perhaps had I been a bit thinner, smiled a bit more sweetly and joked a bit more endearingly, I would have been you. Perhaps, in a future term, I could be you. Regardless, I will not let Dartmouth pretend that I do not exist.

The only purpose my rejection serves is to perpetuate a system where some people are “in” and others — the invisible few — are “out.” If the employee at the Office of Greek Life estimated accurately, each sorority would only need to take one to two more new members to accommodate everyone. Claiming that there is no better solution is not an excuse. My rejection is not just a flaw in the system. Each house could have easily taken one more new member like me, someone who — while perhaps not the most beautiful or cool “sorority girl” — is kind and friendly and cannot possibly ruin any parties. A “flawed” computer system did not inform me that I was rejected by every sorority, sending me into one of my most painful weekends to date — people did that.

The problem is not that there is simply no room for me but that I serve a critical purpose for the exclusivity of the Greek system. As one of the “outs,” knowledge of my (preferably faceless) existence reminds people that they are “in.” You can claim I deserve rejection, but you cannot claim, as so many did to me, that the total rejection of “normal” women doesn’t happen at Dartmouth.

If you are like me, remember that you are not alone, you are not invaluable, you are not unworthy. You do not need to lie to your classmates and claim that you chose to drop out. Your rejection says more about the Greek system’s need to feel more exclusive than it does about your own worth. Dartmouth must remember that our tears, our pain and our loneliness are the price it pays for the golden exclusivity that makes Greek letters shine.