Verbum Ultimum: Deliberate This

ISC rush must evolve to allow women more agency in the process.

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 9/28/18 2:10am

As potential members of Greek houses go through recruitment, or “rush,” the majority of Dartmouth’s campus has been even more preoccupied with Greek life than usual. It is very clear, though, that men and women are going through very different processes to reach very different finish lines. 

Interfraternity Council Rush, for many, is a relatively lax affair. Rush events held by different houses often feature some combination of food and fraternizing. Potential new members typically have an idea of what their chances are at different houses, informed by candid and informal conversations with brothers. It does not hurt that they also have most likely spent time getting to know brothers and hanging out in the fraternity house prior to rush. 

Inter-Sorority Council Rush, on the other hand, is a much more fraught affair. Taking place over the course of two weeks with multiple rounds and the investment of many hours, ISC Rush looks more like speed dating. After attending parties at all eight ISC sororities for the first round, potential new members are called back to up to five houses for round two and to up to two houses for preference night. If women are invited to two houses on preference night but they only preference a single house, they are unable to rush until next year if they do not receive a bid from the house they preferenced. All of this then culminates into either a night of celebration or of disappointment. 

One can’t help but wonder during this time, as women line up outside sorority doors and fall behind on their other, arguably more pressing, commitments, why it is that ISC Rush must operate the way it does. There’s no denying that sororities offer many women positive communities that support and uplift them. In the midst of rush, however, it can be easy to lose sight of why women choose to join in the first place — for a space of empowerment.

To be empowered is to have agency, yet ISC Rush is designed in a way that removes agency from all sides. Somehow, the process of attaining membership in these female-dominated social spaces is reflective of a patriarchal system that gives women little control over their fate. If the ultimate goal is to empower women, then the process of getting there should also reflect that. 

Women’s lack of control in the process is the result of a flawed system that lacks transparency and isn’t conducive to creating meaningful connections. The current system leaves too many questions unanswered, creating an ambiguity that disempowers both the PNMs and the sororities that will be welcoming them. It’s common knowledge that ISC Rush uses a computer algorithm to match women with their new homes, but very little information about this system has been shared with the women who actually go through the process. It should be a priority to ensure that both PNMs and sororities are informed of the inner workings of the rush process so that both sides are aware of how the system will affect them. 

Using a computer to make decisions that affect the experiences of hundreds of Dartmouth women each year is just one example of how the rush process dehumanizes a very human experience. The structure of rush inherently does not foster the development of interactions that go beyond the superficial, nor is it conducive to forming relationships that last. A 10-to-20-minute conversation with someone is not enough to inform an accurate perception of a person’s character, which is usually assessed through some form of a rating system. Rating PNMs based on brief and generally surface level interactions naturally reduces women into something less than what they are, and while intentions may be good on both sides, such a system creates an intimidating and inauthentic space to engage in. 

When social spaces don’t have open membership, entry into those spaces will always involve competition and limited spots to fill. The problematic nature of ISC Rush isn’t just that it pits women against each other, but that it pits them against each other for the wrong reasons. Surface level judgments are difficult to avoid, and can easily turn rush into a competition over looks and extroversion rather than a process of connecting women to one another and forming a sense of meaningful belonging into the communities they are about to enter. This is especially relevant for women of color, for whom rush can be an even more intimidating experience.

The vastly different experiences of ISC and IFC Rush is a reflection of Dartmouth’s evolving social structure, and the changes made to ISC Rush over the last few years demonstrates that students haven’t become complacent. This year’s recruitment model is a step forward by opening up more options for PNMs that allow them to maintain more agency over their time. 

Creating a better ISC Rush experience requires that members of this community not only continue to challenge the process itself, but that they challenge the social structure of Dartmouth. Through improved outreach from sororities to underclassman women and an eventual overhaul of the dominance of fraternities, sororities can become more welcoming spaces and provide women from both sides of rush with more agency.

The editorial board consists of opinion staff columnists, the opinion editors, the associate opinion editor, both executive editors and the editor-in-chief.

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