Along with a stunning array of glitter, beer, food, and first-year students, the rush week of January 28 – February 3 marked a slight drop in both fraternity and sorority rush. Overall, there were a lower number of students involved in spring semester Greek life.
Involvement in Greek life typically includes around 80 percent of all undergraduate students, but this semester the percentage dropped two points, with 78 percent of students being involved in Greek life, including all first-year students who recently rushed.
Likewise, the first-year rush class of women and men was smaller than last year’s, totaling 157 women and 118 men. Less than half of first-year male students participated in the formal rush, a significant difference compared to previous years.
“It’s a reflection of the reality that there are many different avenues for involvement open to Sewanee students,” Forbes Mann (C’10), coordinator for fraternity and sorority life, explained. “As a new generation of students comes to Sewanee, it is on our fraternity community to evaluate the needs those students have for involvement, and to adjust our practices appropriately to manifest our fraternities’ distinct values in ways that are relevant to today’s students.”
Various news reports across the country on hazing-related student deaths have also not gone unnoticed. He added, “While I have always admired how well Sewanee students take care of each other, it’s also important to realize that we at Sewanee are not immune from the kind of horrible and widely-publicized tragedies that have occurred as part of the new member process at different colleges around the U.S. over the past year.”
First-year Bernice Leveque (C’21) experienced the rush process, but ultimately chose not to join a sorority. Although she had no intention of rushing when she first came to the school, Sewanee’s unconventional Greek system led to her decision to try it out.
“I went to all ten houses hoping to find my place, and while there definitely was one or two sororities that had potential, the entire process was something I just couldn’t bring myself to support or be a part of,” said Leveque. She concluded, “By not rushing, I hope that more people will see that you can find your place here and it doesn’t have to be in a Greek organization.”
Sal Spada (C’21) concurred, maintaining, “I guess I don’t fit in with that type of lifestyle, and I don’t think it would benefit me personally right now.”
On the other hand, Sam Kebede (C’21) commented, “I was hoping to get a really high GPA last semester so I could have some breathing room during rush. Unfortunately, I didn’t do as well as I thought I would, so I want to make up for it now and rush next year.”
Culminating on Saturday with the onslaught of Shake Day, Sunday, January 28 marked the start of the rush process with formal house visits. Women and men went from door-to-door across Sewanee’s campus, interacting with Greek community members to decide which sorority or fraternity would be the best fit for them.
Kappa Omega pledge Youjin Sung (C’21) underwent this year’s rush week, remarking, “I enjoyed becoming a part of something that has been in Sewanee for a while, something bigger than myself.”
For almost 20 years now, Sewanee has followed its annual schedule of house visits on Sunday and Monday, returning house visits on Wednesday, and a concluding Shake Day on Saturday.
However, while sorority and fraternity rush follow quite closely together, there are some ways in which the processes differ. First-years in sorority rush must “return house” to four different organizations in order to ensure that they will receive a bid.
According to Mann, “Fraternity rush allows participants to determine the number of organizations to which they return house, and it does not limit the number of bids an individual participant can receive.”
Altogether, the Greek community continues to thrive at Sewanee. In spite of the lower rate of rushees, Intersorority Council President Yin Agbontaen (C’18) said, “Everything worked out for each Greek organization as it always does!”
Since the blur of rush week, pledges have been bonding with their fellow brothers and sisters through a series of formal and informal house events. Mann concluded, “The diversity of our sororities and fraternities in size, chapter tone, and interests is a real strong suit for us as we continue to build a model Greek community.”