While I have no inherent issues with those involved in Greek life or those choosing to rush, after three semesters here, I feel it is fair to say that the culture surrounding Greek life can be problematic, especially during the recruitment process. So, I wanted to outline my experience in an effort to counter the typical stories of rush week, push this dialogue forward, and offer a few suggestions concerning what this community should consider as the week approaches.
I came to Sewanee as an extremely introverted and anxious freshman, and because of this, I was a firm believer that rush week would be the definition of hell. I had always known that I was not going to be one of the bright-eyed recruits visiting houses and crying from the overwhelming excitement when a bid finally slid under my door; in fact, I figured I would probably drive home for the weekend to avoid it altogether.
However, throughout the course of the week, I quickly realized that simply ignoring rush was not an option, especially here where more than 80 percent of students are, or will be, involved in Greek life. It often came up in conversation in the weeks prior to rush, but whenever I would tell some of my friends my plans to sit out the week’s festivities, they would tilt their head and ask an insane amount of questions until the conversation shifted into almost an interrogation.
A smaller, but still notable, portion of my friends continued to insist that I should do it anyway, even if just for the free food or “to make sure it wasn’t something I was interested in.” When I tried to explain how my understanding of myself was precisely why I did not want to, the conversation would die as each one gave me a judgemental look and then glanced at each other.
Although I never gave in and forced myself into situations I was not comfortable with, many incoming freshmen do feel an astonishing amount of peer pressure to go through the process when it is something they have frequently expressed disinterest in. For people like me, this pressure is a lose-lose. We either feel like an outcast for not following the crowd or we attend the events and still do not feel adequate.
Of course, that isn’t to say that we would remain pessimistic if we wound up participating; many of my friends have found new homes in their respective organizations and have had wonderful experiences. My point is that for those who remain outside of the whole ordeal, regardless of any reasons they choose, the last thing they want is the added pressure from friends and upperclassmen to “just do it.”
Additionally, when all of your friends are preoccupied with the week’s festivities, either as an active or a recruit, the isolation grows even greater. This is just one of the downsides unfortunately, and not much can be done. Yet, because you are exempt from the doom of the passing hello when you do see your upperclassmen friends, I suppose it evens out.
The entire week of lonely meals, Netflix binge sessions, and general isolation ends with complete chaos: Shake Day. While everyone is off with their new brothers or sisters, those who abstained from the process sometimes struggle to figure out what exactly they are supposed to be doing. Some go home, bands of stragglers group up to do their own things, or, in the worst case scenario, spend the day cheering up friends who aren’t happy with their bids or who might have fallen through.
So, as this week approaches, here are a few things to keep in mind.
One, rush is a time where everyone is stressed out, and while we typically consider the actives and pledges who are struggling with intense schedules, we could be more inclusive of those who are stressed out for the opposite reason.
Two, it is never okay to pressure or shame anyone into rushing (or anything really) if they explicitly say they do not want to.
Three, while this is a hectic time, it is supposed to be fun for those involved. Anyone who chooses not to participate is not a “downer” or trying to steal other’s happiness away. This just isn’t the path for everyone, and regardless of one’s choice, it is theirs to make. Fitting in at Sewanee is not synonymous with being in a Greek organization, and we have to stop treating it like it is.