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The Dartmouth
May 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Reflection: A Rush Perspective A Year Removed

Connor Allen ’25 humorously reflects on the fraternity rush process.

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Fraternity rush season has at last come and gone. You didn’t have to look too hard to watch it unfold: One could have noted the sudden uptake in carefully crafted texts to upperclassmen, messages that are eager to show interest but certainly not too eager. Or you could have taken a look at Foco. Normally devoid of upperclassmen (no longer shackled by the inconveniences of the Ivy Unlimited meal plan), dark side was flooded with unexpected pairings of brothers and aspiring brothers alike for the past month. Chuckles were more nervous than usual, and perhaps the senior brother who had given up on a career in comedy found his hopes reignited by the easy laughs his charm generated among the ’26s. 

But most of the evidence of the controlled social tornado that is fraternity rush wasn’t visible to the public at large: the overthinking, worrying, politicking, networking, strategizing. Rush is reminiscent of a middle school nightmare — anxiously awaiting whether that close group of friends will invite you to their sleepover tomorrow night, as they whisper around the lunch table. 

For me, rush wasn’t all bad and scary, though. When I rushed, I met some of my favorite people on campus, both in my eventual rush class and in a variety of other Greek houses, all of whom would have been otherwise unknown to me. By getting to know both brothers and fellow rushees, rush broadened my narrow, first-year perspective of campus. This view had previously restricted me to befriending people in classes and on Mid Fayerweather second floor (occasionally first floor).

Rush itself is therefore not exclusively a campus-destroying force: It’s a weird combination of terrible and fun. It gives every affiliated guy on campus the chance to play NBA general manager, if they so desire: “No, dude, we gotta take that kid — he’s so chill. If we make moves on him, no way he leaves for house X.” And conversely, for some, rush offers sophomores the chance to play LeBron, actively courted by Nike and Duke (in this case, an “A-side” house). 

For the non-matured, college male who knows how to play the part, rush can be like middle school hockey tryouts, prom and college admissions all rolled into one mega, social package. You even get to wear a suit and shake a bunch of socially validated, older hands at the end during rush’s aptly-named, official conclusion: shakeout. 

Rush is an initiation into some sort of more mature world, devoid of any of the real-world responsibilities that true maturity will bring after school. For me, it was a deep sigh of relief that, like a broad number of Dartmouth students, I had made it through some sort of waypoint and not fallen off of the social radar — in the mainstream, overly traditional and inherently exclusive sense. 

During rush season, there are as many heartbreaks as there are happy endings. Teary phone calls, friend breakups and ominous texts from brothers asking a prospective brother to “chat about rush and your options” are all perpetuated by the rush machine. It also can put some of the more fortunate prospective new members in the dreadful position of being “split,” i.e., having charmed enough brothers at multiple houses during the rush period and left forced to make a challenging gut decision. This is where the script is flipped, and existing brothers are politely but solemnly informed that they will be joining another house. It is as dramatic a moment a fraternity brother can possibly experience in his time on campus. Even more dramatic are the “runners,” those who leave a particular fraternity’s main hall just before the hard 9 p.m. rush-concluding deadline to sprint down Webster Ave or Mass Row and join another house. I had a relatively unique and unnoteworthy experience: only wanting one house from the get-go and spending my fall there before eventually joining as a new member. So, my experience of all this rush drama was second-hand, but still memorable enough to be writing about it a year later. Such is the potency of rush. 

Picking a fraternity is as brutal as a college decision — at least for the regular decision crowd. Except this time, the “college” you’re choosing is just 60 or so fellow students, many of whom you’ve built some connection with during the rush period, and the risk is losing this bond by choosing to end up elsewhere. I saw my friends agonize over this choice, with late night phone calls and heated pleas. 

To be fair, I’m being a little bit facetious in this college admissions comparison, so scoff at that if you like. Still, picking the right social environment for the next three years matters more to some Dartmouth men than the research opportunities, rankings and international prestige of the colleges they might have been choosing between at one point. And it’s hard to fault them for that. Like quite a few, I believe that the most important part of Dartmouth to me is, without a doubt, the people I spend time with. I would transfer instantaneously if my beloved Dartmouth social community did so. As it is, rush inevitably shifts around those social circles, for better and for worse. Like pretty much everything, it’s a mixed bag.

I’ve tried to not let Greek life put me into a box. At its best, it can serve as a launching pad to meet disparate corners of the Dartmouth community at large. Imagine the following, relatively plausible scenario: A fellow new brother has a former roommate in a different frat that he brings to lunch with you. Before long you are joking around and join his dance group during the next try-out cycle. Greek life can expand your social reach, tempting as it may be to hunker down in the basement with the brothers. These two activities are not mutually exclusive, which I’m slowly working my way into realizing. You can do both. 

To me, Greek life isn’t and shouldn’t be the end-all, be-all. I’ve tried to let it complement the existing routines of my life, satisfying a social need I didn’t know I was missing. It doesn’t need to be the great replacer of everything built over your first year. If that were the case, why would Dartmouth force you to spend that whole first year building a new identity, all for it to go to basement-sludge waste?

That said, for those who rushed, I’d be excited for the future. I’d hope that you savor the chance to meet people, for these could be some of the closest friends you’ll ever meet, if you play your cards right and are willing to take a chance with a new group of people. This summer, a ’91 visited my Greek house. He pointed to his face on a composite and identified a few old buddies with whom he organizes a yearly trip (skiing, golf, something, I’m not sure) to relive the glory days. I hope to be doing the very same, as my knees get worse and the number of new composites in the house stack up.

Lastly, I’ve learned to make new friends but keep the old. I won’t finish the rhyme, because it’s as simple as that, but I hold onto those people I originally chose to connect with, not just those with whom I was chosen one Friday night in October. It takes some effort, but for myself, it’s been worth it. And I mean not to convey any contempt with that note. It’s just a reminder that a fraternity doesn’t have to take over all the aspects of your life that you value, as great as your new brotherhood will be. 

In summary, rush is over. Thank God.