Saklad: The Outside Scoop

Looking at rush from an unaffiliated perspective.

by Avery Saklad | 10/12/18 2:10am

Before coming to Dartmouth, everybody had something to tell me about the Greek system: it’s the campus social scene; one can find friends outside of it; it’s pervasive; it’s a great community; it’s overbearing. Most of my peers told me that despite my reluctance, I’d probably end up joining a sorority — it’s just what Dartmouth students do. 

Despite everything I was told, I didn’t really understand the reality of Greek life when I committed to Dartmouth. After a little over a year on campus, I get it. This school is tough. We spend four or more years here slugging through classes and homework and exams and at the end of the day, isn’t it nice to have a place to blow off steam? Greek life can provide that space for many Dartmouth students; it’s a community in which one can undoubtedly belong. What’s more is that everybody’s doing it, and those who don’t rush are a scattered minority of outsiders. 

I never saw myself as a sorority sister, but when ISC Rush sign-ups and events started flooding my blitz, I toyed with what it might be like to involve myself in the Greek system. While considering my options, I could conjure the names of two or three sororities I’d briefly entered for Dartmouth Outing Club pong tournaments and the like and then never returned to again. None of the names really meant anything to me. Although I know many affiliated women, I don’t associate any houses with groups of people or community values with which I feel particular solidarity. 

I thought about submitting a portrait of myself and scampering from one sorority to the next for 30 minutes of strained conversation and feigned faces. I imagined acting like I belonged somewhere until a house let me purchase an official label. In the future, my label would loosely bind me to a collection of women that I would associate myself with by little more than mere circumstance. Rush deadlines slipped past, dragging throngs of women painted in an image of femininity that I don’t match. The brisk clacks of their heels across blistering stretches of pavement told me about concern, apprehension, anticipation, second-guessing. In the end, my freshman year instinct was right; Greek life’s not for me.  

Rush is both relieving and lonely from the outside. It’s gratifying to watch my friends scramble to complete social tasks and know that I have nothing to pile atop of Dartmouth’s intense course load, nor feel an inclination to join them. Unperturbed nights mandated exclusively by my own agenda are my reward for clinging stubbornly to the precipice of Greek life. On the other hand, it’s hard to reconcile my decision not to participate with the potential for a bustling social life. While most of my friends have house events and a sea of new faces to familiarize themselves with, my few unaffiliated friends and I spend an increasing amount of time keeping ourselves occupied with pastimes that don’t involve an automatic invite. 

Now more than ever, the reality of living on a small campus is salient. There is enough activity to keep one occupied for days, but they all expire before most students even think about starting their evenings. Later in the night, while seemingly the whole campus is posting Snapchat stories from various basements, the social scene starts to feel a little more like it did freshman fall. I have to gather scattered bits of information and invitations, evaluate my random assortment of options rather than rely on designated programming. The unsystematic sparseness of it doesn’t feel exactly like missing out on rush, as that implies a desire to take part in the first place, but rather like my opportunities have refined themselves. It’s not the end of the world. Perhaps my social schedule isn’t assigned to me by my big sisters, but it exists and it’s only the things that I want to do.

We ought to take the pressure off women to rush. It’s a decision that’ll have tangible effects on how one spends their future at Dartmouth, and it should be deliberately made rather than assigned as a default option. Many students get sucked into Greek life because it’s where popular choice guides them. To those considering rushing, if you find a house you mesh well with, then brilliant. Spend a hectic term putting on your best face and running fool’s errands for the people who fall for it, and you’ll generate a community of friends you can rely on anytime during your years at Dartmouth. You’ll be comfortable; you’ll have a label that announces you belong. But if you don’t find a Greek space that beckons to you before it’s time to make a three-year commitment, or if basements aren’t the places you prefer to spend your time, don’t feel compelled to commit to a house just because almost everybody else is doing it. For students like me who aren’t interested in Greek life, non-affiliation offers ample independence and autonomy to compensate slower nights over rush weeks. Either way you swing it, it’s alright.