Verbum Ultimum: Dartmouth's Inconvenient Truth

A call to remember those rejected during rush.

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 10/11/19 2:15am

Fall term brings many perennial favorites to the College: a new freshman class, football, Homecoming and fall foliage. It also features rush — a period of several weeks in which many sophomores seek admittance to Dartmouth’s fraternities and sororities. The Editorial Board commented last week on the rush process, but what happens when that process ends? 

For many students, rush can be an exhilarating and exhausting experience. Although rushing can be an arduous journey — cultivating relationships, attending dozens of social activities and often sacrificing school work in the process — the reward at the end is a significant one.

But what about the other side of rush? What about those students who don’t get bids to fraternities or sororities?

There are many such students. But campus seldom talks about that. Students who receive bids are so relieved at the completion of the journey that they don’t want to think about the unlucky ones. And those left out — well, who would want to advertise that fact to others?

For students who seek a bid, failure to receive one is not just a simple rejection — it means that efforts made to impress a group of peers were not enough. It means that the door to Dartmouth’s predominant social scene has been slammed shut. 

As things stand, there is a deafening silence on this issue, forcing those students left behind by the rush process to deal with it in private. That rush ends in failure for many is an inconvenient truth that many Dartmouth students would rather not think about. As a community, we can do better. 

Fraternities and sororities form the nexus of student social life at Dartmouth. Roughly three out of five of students join Greek organizations, which actually amounts to about four of five eligible students given that freshmen are ineligible to rush. Joining a Greek house not only gives you membership to a “Dartmouth family,” but it also puts your foot in the door to spaces that are deemed valuable.

A common refrain heard on Dartmouth admissions tours is that although fraternities and sororities play a major role in social life, the Greek system here is more inclusive compared to other colleges, even for unaffiliated students. This is both true and problematic. Greek life at Dartmouth is more open to the general student body than at other schools. But if that aspect is its main selling point — that all can participate who want to — what do we say to those who have been rejected by it? It’s difficult enough to be rejected, but how about by a system that explicitly promises and promotes inclusivity?

The roughly one in five unaffiliated Dartmouth upperclassmen do not comprise a homogenous group. Some came to Dartmouth never intending to rush and are perfectly happy being unaffiliated. Some came to Dartmouth with an earnest desire to join a house. And, importantly, there are many students who probably wouldn’t have rushed had they attended another school, but did so at Dartmouth because they felt they had to.

For those students who never intended to rush, this is not a matter of concern. Many students are perfectly happy during their four years at Dartmouth while unaffiliated. However, for students who would not have joined a Greek organization at another school, but felt it necessary to do so at Dartmouth, being denied the status associated with Greek life can be much more than just an adverse experience. The same could certainly be said about those who always intended to rush in college. So who will be at their sides if they are given the cold shoulder? 

There is no simple solution to this matter. Fraternities and sororities are exclusive organizations by nature. Rejection is a part of life. Creating a scenario in which everyone who rushes gets a bid would be both impractical and a poor reflection of how things work in the real world.

Yet there is one thing that can be done — something that involves not a change in policy but a change in attitude.

The rush process is, in a self-evident way, a selfish one. It’s every person for themselves. Everyone is concerned about what will happen to me; what house will I join; how will I fit into the social scene, and so on. 

The best remedy for selfishness is compassion. Many of us probably know at least one person who was denied a bid. Most likely, that person does not talk about it with you. Offer them that opportunity — give them the chance to open their heart and let loose their emotions. Perhaps that individual has talked to few people about their experience, and the chance to express their thoughts could prove a cathartic exercise.

A simple show of compassion could make all the difference. And it’s compassion that the rush process at Dartmouth so sorely lacks.

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

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