Friday, January 23, 2015

It's Greek Season. Rush. (Away)

Wow. It's been a whole month since I last wrote. It's nothing personal, I just haven't had much to say. And I've been whinier than usual, so I've done you a favor by not posting. Today, however, I have something "stuck in my craw" that I need to put out there, even at the risk of "wrankling" my Greek readers. And by Greek, I don't mean those whose last names end in "opolis." In this case I'm referring to those of you who were/are members of sororities or fraternities. I expect this post will be even less popular than the one in which I unintentionally offended women from the South.

For years I've considered writing on the topic of Greek life, but I just haven't taken the plunge. Yesterday, however, I read a piece in the Villanovan (the University student newspaper) that demands my response; even at the risk of wrankling some of you. The article "Sorority recruitment does not end in smiles for everyone" was written by a freshman who's been a sorority sister for all of one week. With memories of recruitment/rush still fresh in her mind, Deanna details a process she calls both "horrifying and exciting." She explains that rush requires every girl to attend nine 20-minute "rounds," one with each of the University's sororities--and then she describes the experience:
Lines of girls stood outside rooms of screaming sorority girls chanting songs about their chapters, wondering how they would be assessed once in the room and how they should act, if any different from themselves.
The rounds were exhausting, as I’m positive they were for the sororities as well. I like to consider myself a fairly social person, but I've never experienced a situation that called for so much social energy and effort in my life.
On the first day we all met two or three girls from each chapter and were expected to hold a conversation with them, about literally anything, for the full allotted time, without awkward silences. During each of these meetings all I could think about was “how is she judging me right now? The way I talk? My eye contact?” I’m still not sure I know.
By my final round I felt like a robot programmed for small talk and smiling—I was exhausted. And while that seemed like a lot of complaining, I did somehow have fun with many of the girls I met and I was happy to be able to meet so many of the faces I pass on campus every day. I didn't really know what to think when I “went to sleep” (stayed up all night re-living each conversation) on day one.
The writer goes on to report that she received a text the following morning at 4:30 a.m. telling her her schedule for day two. This is when you learn which chapters "dropped you." Deanna says, "If you thought your conversations went well, it’s difficult to not take the rejections personally." At the beginning of day two, she recalls the number of women she saw crying. By the end of that day, she was "seriously starting to wonder if recruitment was worth the social and emotional exhaustion." She continues:
I have to say, my wake-up text on the third day of rush was one of the worst rejections I’d ever felt. I now know that it was a blessing to have been dropped by the sororities that I was, but at the time I had no perspective, and I really just felt worthless. I know this isn't the intention of the sororities, and they “don’t want to drop any girl” but the reality is awful. And I didn't just feel sorry for myself. I felt horrible for my friends and even for strangers too. 
No woman should have to feel unwanted, but at the same time, how else would sorority recruitment work? 
Our writer says she couldn't be happier with where she ended up and she's glad that things worked out the way they did. She concludes, however, "I still look back on recruitment with negative memories, and I wish there was another way to do it. I think it may just be a necessary evil that some women won’t escape from with a smiling face. I know so many great women that fell through the cracks and I wish I could convince the sisters to go back on their decisions."

Wow. Where do I start?

My feelings about the Greek system have been firmly in place for 25 years, since I was a wee freshman myself. Deanna's honest evaluation of the sorority rush experience only adds to my conviction that this system is at best ludicrous, and at worst, cruel. Why any bright, personable college student would put themself through it is beyond my comprehension. And yet I have several friends who have nothing but great memories of their Greek experience. Even my husband is a former fraternity boy (though I'm not sure "former" ever applies to frat brothers).

I could go through Deanna's article line by line and comment on what I perceive to be madness, but I think I can sum it up by saying no one should voluntarily put themself in a position of being assessed/judged/evaluated unless there's a career move on the line. Don't we tell our kids, especially sensitive teenagers, to not let others determine their worth, to not let what others think or say bother them? I know that's a message I hope my kids hear, and yet, in just a few short years they may actually choose to have that very experience. And if selling yourself with fashion, a smile and small talk isn't enough, many of these groups will ask you to humiliate yourself and even risk your life to prove you have what it takes to be one of them. My husband would say it's about creating a bond, but I would say, "No thanks."

I understand that your first year in college is difficult. I know that making new friends isn't easy, and that there's something appealing about the idea of having a ready-made group of sisters or brothers to help you adjust. But no matter how hard I try, I just can't imagine allowing myself to be evaluated by my peers and waiting to hear whether I've impressed them enough that they want me to join them. Everyday in real life we're judged in some form or another; do I want to volunteer for a formalized version wherein I may be rejected not by one mean girl in high school, but by a couple dozen from different sisterhoods who are kind enough to turn me away by text message? I don't get it.

If all of that doesn't have you "rushing" for the hills, consider this:
Screaming sorority girls chanting songs about their chapters.
Enough said.