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The Dartmouth
April 23, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Gart: Let’s Grab A Meal Sometime

Fraternity rush might be a better system than its sorority counterpart, but it’s still flawed — and deserves scrutiny.

This column is featured in the 2022 Homecoming special issue.

The very first thing I did for fraternity rush was in mid-April. The weather was turning, and our class was thrilled to finally be welcomed into the houses on Webster Avenue instead of getting tossed out of them. As an eager first-year thrilled to get involved, I began attending every rush event I could — and honestly, I had a fantastic time. 

As the months went by, I had meals with brothers from several different fraternities, and I slowly began to narrow down the list of houses I was excited about until I finally had it down to two. After putting things on pause for summer break, I returned in the fall, excited to continue the process. As the first few weeks of fall term flew by, I began to really get to know the brothers in both fraternities I was considering. More than just tools to get what I wanted, these people became genuine friends of mine — with one catch. Inevitably, I was going to have to choose one space over the other. 

When it came down to shakeout, I was confronted with one of the most difficult decisions I’d ever had to make. And to be honest, it was no surprise why — I had just spent months of my time befriending, hanging out alongside and bonding with the members of these houses. But suddenly, I didn’t feel excited to join Greek life. I almost dreaded it. No matter where I chose, I was going to feel terrible about my decision. 

Yes, sorority rush is a significantly more flawed process than fraternity rush, but there’s a fundamental problem at the heart of men’s rush that still makes it an incredibly emotionally-taxing process: We almost get to know the brothers a little too well. When cut from a fraternity, it doesn’t feel like a logical, impersonal decision; it feels like the friends we’ve made over the past few months are dumping us at the curb. In fact, sorority rush is intentionally impersonal — conversations with potential new members are limited to mere minutes, making the final decisions much less painful. For fraternities, on the other hand, it is personal — and everyone knows it. Yes, the emotional onslaught experienced by men is significantly more subtle than their sorority-rushing counterparts, but it’s sure as hell still there. 

However, it’s also true that the informal, casual nature of fraternity rush is one of the best things about it. We get to know brothers on a genuine and personal level, aiding greatly in the clarity necessary to eventually choose a fraternity. I am in no way suggesting that fraternity rush should attempt to emulate sorority rush (hell no). Instead, I propose an easy concept that would lighten the load on everyone involved: transparency. 

If individual fraternities, and the entire Greek system at large, were to remove the shroud of mystery from the rush process, the experience of each potential new member would improve massively. Instead of desperately trying to glean information — such as when cuts will be made or where we stand on the roster — from the brothers we know best, receiving some sort of standardized update on our status (in other words, how likely we are to receive a bid) would lighten the emotional load placed on our shoulders. 

As it stands now, discerning one’s footing in the list of potential new fraternity members is an incredibly touch-and-go, awkward process. Sure, brothers might be transparent with some kids, but the vast majority are sucked through weeks and weeks of crushing uncertainty, ending all too often in extreme disappointment. Yes, I understand that a fraternity’s obscurity is supposed to somehow add to the appeal of rushing there, but frankly, I call bullshit. Let kids know how they’re doing, and they’ll be grateful for the information — not somehow disappointed at the opportunity for surprise. 

I’ll leave it at this: My colleague’s recent article shone a fantastic spotlight on the sorority rush process and its deeply flawed system. Put simply, the fraternity rush process isn’t as bad. To me, it seems that men on campus are generally more satisfied with where they end up, and the system itself is a lot more enjoyable for the potential new members. But at the same time, the problems of fraternity rush fly under the radar far too often — and they deserve to be discussed just as openly. 

In fact, in a world (and school) lagging behind in mental health awareness, men’s mental health is often cast by the wayside. Being emotionally vulnerable is difficult no matter the case, but men usually have a significantly harder time opening up to their friends and family. In the context of a process as socially taxing as rush, this split in mental health is exacerbated further. I watched first-hand as my female friends collectively voiced their frustrations about the sorority rush process, while my close male friends attempted to convey a cool, even-keeled perspective in spite of similarly frustrating experiences.

But hey, at the very least, I got a few good games of pong out of it all.