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Last weekend, campus was taken over by Sorority Rush. For five days, herds of girls could be spotted moving about from house to house in search the one that they could call home for the next four years. For the first two days, I was one of those girls; by day three, I removed myself from the process. My decision was not made because my favorite houses did not call me back, or because I was offended by any of the sorority girls that I met. I simply realized that Greek life was not for me. And while I do see the benefits that belonging to a sorority can offer, as a whole the recruitment process and Greek life in general embody various aspects of our culture, as a campus and as a nation, which are cause for issue.
For those who have never gone through the process, few would call Sorority Rush a fun time. Even girls who are now happily pledged to a house seem to agree that by Bid Day they were both emotionally and physically exhausted. This year, an unprecedented number of underclassmen went through this process; hundreds of girls signed up to rush, and of that group, 700 ended up with a bid to a house. While many girls did drop out of the process, others simply were not asked to join a house.
The process lasts for five grueling days, each intended to introduce potential new members (PNMs) to various aspects of sorority life, from philanthropy to sisterhood. It is also a mutual selection process. At the end of every day, PNMs narrow down the houses they would like return to by increments of two. At the same time, current members of the sorority go through each girl they met and decide who they want to invite back into their house. From both perspectives, rush is a week of continuous judgement.
Each day many PNMs get increasingly stressed that their favorite houses won’t call them back. When this happens, the girls are told that they were just not meant to be in that house. However, it is questionable how that determination is made. The encounters PNMs have with the houses are brief — so brief, in fact, that it is impossible for members of the sorority to get to know each PNM well enough to decide whether or not she is a good fit. And while it is unfair to claim that the sorority members are judging the PNMs based solely on looks, there is no way that their criterion for an invitation back into the house goes beyond a superficial level.
The PNMs who make it through from day to day with continuous invitations back to their top houses, and an eventual bid to join one of them by the fifth day, are those skilled at girl speed-dating. They are able to woo each sorority member they talk to, being equally as impressive as they are complimentary. The girls who make it through to the end of sorority recruitment are those who know how to seem interesting and fun and charitable, without ever having to break the surface of who they truly are as a person.
Beyond the recruitment process, participation in Greek life is dependent on a degree of conformity. While many find security in the general atmosphere of like-mindedness that supposedly exists within the house, that norm could develop into the notion that any major shifts in personality must be suppressed. College presents an opportunity to develop personal identity before entering society as full fledged adults — Greek life, then, places major restrictions on a student’s ability to independently determine who they are.
Tied to this commitment to conformity is the fact that the Greek system is built upon exclusivity. At the end of rush week, you are either a sorority girl or you are not. And while our campus is different from other schools with large Greek systems in the fact that many students have friends who fall on both sides of membership, that does not mitigate the damaging effect that this exclusivity can have. At best, participation in Greek life is only feasible for those who can fund it. At worst, it leads to racial discrimination in the collegiate social world. While this does not seem to be prevalent on our campus, it does suggest a larger problem that results from the exclusive nature of the Greek system in the nation’s universities.
I dropped out of recruitment because the benefits of joining a sorority were overshadowed by the problems I see within Greek life as a whole; I could not find it in myself to buy into an institution which promotes conformity and exclusivity. The girls who didn’t make it through to the end — those who dropped out and those who did not receive a bid — are perhaps the ones who actually ended up where they belong. While they may not be the best candidates on a superficial level, there is so much more to them than any sorority house will ever get to know. Rather than developing my college experience around a sorority, I know that I am free to determine for myself who I truly am, outside of what my family or friends or sorority sisters tell me I should be.
Contact CU Independent Staff Opinion Columnist Emily McPeak at email@example.com.