Rush process for Greek life a complicated experience at Dartmouth
Rush processes differ for men and women at Dartmouth.
This article is featured in the 2019 Homecoming special issue.
The first few weeks of fall term are characterized for many Dartmouth students by rush — the intensive recruitment process in which potential new members vie for bids from Greek houses. Though the timing of the formal bid night for the Interfraternity Council coincided with that of the Inter-Sorority Council, the two processes are very different. Whereas women’s rush is highly ritualized and regulated, men’s rush is far less formal.
The formal rush process for fraternities occurs over the course of two consecutive nights, during which each PNM can “shake out” at one house, which means shaking hands with each brother in the house to demonstrate interest. The brothers then deliberate and offer bids.
Aaron Trauner ’22, who rushed Alpha Chi Alpha, said he appreciated how the IFC rush process gave him time to establish relationships with the brothers.
“It’s difficult to be authentic in a five-minute conversation with someone you just met, whereas with guys’ rush, relationships can be formed over a longer period of time,” Trauner said.
The rush process was in full swing for Trauner since last winter, during which he spent time at the two houses he was interested in. He spent most of his time at each house playing pong. Overall, he said he had a positive rush experience, but one marked by indecision.
“It was a point of privilege for me to have a decision to make, and to be relatively confident that it would work out either way,” Trauner said. “I was choosing between two places that I really respected and liked.”
Trauner started spending time at the two houses he was interested in last winter because of the upperclassmen he knew in each house. Though he was aware of the open-to-campus, dry events for other houses, the only ones he said he attended were for the two houses he was initially interested in. While he said that the men’s recruitment process is not perfect, he said he is not able to think of ways it should be changed.
“I think it’s probably a good idea for guys to go to all of the houses, but nobody wants to do that,” Trauner said. “There would probably be a lot of pushback if somebody proposed that.”
The recruitment process for women has undergone numerous changes since sororities arrived on campus in 1977. Various changes have been implemented to respond to rising demand, including offering a second term of rush in the winter, adding additional rounds of rush and adding a new sorority, Alpha Xi Delta. The select-and-rank computer system, referred to as “the algorithm” among potential new members, was adopted in 2008.
Unlike with IFC rush, those participating in women’s rush are required to visit each house. This year, these “rush parties” occurred from Sept. 26 to Sept. 29, giving PNMs flexibility to schedule the events around classes and extracurricular activities.
ISC president Kenya Jacob ’20 said the ISC rush process seeks to maximize honesty and authenticity in interactions between chapter members and PNMs.
“We don’t censor what girls are allowed to talk about,” Jacob said. “You can talk about if you’re really vibing with a house … but we emphasize that both PNMs and sisters can be frank.”
Dhwani Kharel ’22, who went through sorority recruitment last week, said that at the rush parties PNMs were paired with a sister when they arrived. The sister then wrote her name on an index card and asked questions. Common conversation topics included classes, majors and activities on campus. However, she did note having more meaningful conversations at some houses.
“I did have some great conversations about problems with the Greek system, being a woman at Dartmouth … and then there were also some fun questions, like ‘What would you be if you were a kitchen appliance?’”
After round one of rush concluded, PNMs were called back to a maximum of five houses. During the second round, they spent 45 minutes at each house. Following these visits, PNMs received a maximum of two houses that they were to visit during preference night. After pref night, PNMs received bids from their recruitment counselors on Oct. 5.
Kharel received a bid from Chi Delta last weekend, but said that the rules governing women’s rush made it more stressful.
“I don’t think [the ISC] should be forcing anyone into a house or making it more stressful than the process already is,” Kharel said.
Unlike Trauner, Kharel said she does think the rush process needs reform. She emphasized the need for transparency and recounted feeling like she was going into the process blindly and hoping for the best. She noted that some houses held pre-rush events that were open to campus in the spring, but she felt these events didn’t offer any real insight.
“I didn’t know much about the houses at all,” Kharel said. “I had heard the stereotypes associated with some of the houses, but that was the extent of my knowledge.”
Kharel said she envies the IFC rush process because it seems less arbitrary. She said that the more casual interactions seem to allow PNMs and brothers to get to know each other better. Despite this, Kharel said, the process was bearable, but she is relieved it is over. She added that the stress manifested itself for a lot of people with competitiveness.
“My conclusion at the end was, ‘This was kind of stupid,’” Kharel said. “It almost brought out a lot of the same competitive attitudes as the college admissions process — and in the end, it wasn’t that big of a deal.”