Monday night, 580 women sat on the edge of their seats in Kennedy Hall. It may have appeared that they were filming a scene from an ill-begotten sequel to Mona Lisa Smile, but the meeting was, in fact, the beginning of rush week.
“Remember,” a cheery blond girl in Uggs, who had earlier dubbed herself Sorority Sally, told the mostly freshman audience, “boys and booze are off-limits topics.”
Sorority Sally was explaining appropriate conversation topics between the members of the sorority houses and the rushees.
“The National Panhellenic Conference pretty much standardizes many aspects of rush to ensure an equal playing field for all of the houses,” said Meghan Dubyak ’04, the current president of Cornell’s Panhellenic Association.
For Dubyak and her male counterpart at the Interfraternity Council, Paul El-Meouchy ’04, preparations for this week’s events, ranging from “figuring out the computer system to corresponding with the National Panhellenic Conference to recruitment to arranging buses,” began a full calendar year ago, according to Dubyak.
“In the spring semester we get pictures from all the chapters, which we put on a CD that gets distributed to freshmen. And then there’s a huge drive in the fall to get freshmen to sign up to rush,” El-Meouchy explained.
That recruitment drive proved itself successful this year as 580 men, 100 more than last year, signed up to rush Cornell’s 40 fraternity houses. El-Meouchy said he only expects that number to rise as the week goes on. The Panhellenic Association experienced a similar increase in registration.
“I used to never know anything about sororities, so I thought that rushing would be a good way to find out what girls in sororities do,” said Sara Tam ’07, who is currently participating in the process.
For others, the decision to rush comes from a personal connection to the sorority system.
“My mom was in a sorority when she was in college, and she kept telling me how fun it was, and how I should try it out. I wanted to get involved on campus and maybe check out new living for next year,” said Jackie Breesh ’07.
For the women rushing, the week is highly structured, ensuring that each woman spend at least half an hour at each house. Tuesday, for example, rushees went through “rounds,” a series of thirty-minute visits to each of
the eleven recruiting sorority houses for which the candidates are divided into groups of approximately 23. Each woman made decisions about which houses she wished to continue rushing, while the members of the houses decided which women they’d like to see again. As the week progresses, the rushees narrow their lists down, as do the houses.
“Ninety-nine percent of women who go through rush in good faith effort get a bid in a house,” Dubyak said.
“Good faith effort” means that a woman who rushes has three houses at the end of the week on her final list. A final selection of fewer than three houses is known as “suicide rushing” and can result in a student finding herself without a bid.
The week can also be difficult because, “things get personal, but we do the most we can to relieve the tension,” Dubyak said.
“I think the hardest thing [for the women who are rushing] is the uncertainty. They don’t know what the houses are like,” said Stephanie Wedekind ’05, whose reign as the new president of Panhel will start once rush ends.
In order to relieve some of that tension, there are 26 recruitment counselors, members of the sorority system who have temporarily disassociated themselves from their own houses.
“The recruitment counselors are kind of like camp counselors. They provide advice, Kleenex, make-up, whatever is necessary. They’re there for support,” said Betsy Cooper ’04, the director of recruitment counselors.
The IFC’s system is a lot less structured, largely because there are so many fraternities, according to El-Meouchy.
He explained that the men rushing are encouraged to go to as many of the houses as they can, but, “if a fraternity does its job, recruitment is an ongoing process that starts in the Fall.”
Fraternities hold “smokers” each day. Historically, this was a time when potential members would sit around with brothers and smoke cigars and play cards. While the days of cigars and card games may be long gone, the sentiment remains.
Last night, tomorrow night and Sunday night are times dedicated to “contacts,” when fraternity brothers go and speak to potential members in their residences, allowing for more personal dialogue. At Sunday night’s contact, fraternities will offer non-binding bids, or invitations, to perspective members. Technically, rushees have until Tuesday to make a decision about which house to join.
“If a freshman is seriously rushing two houses, one house might put pressure on him to sign a bid on Sunday. Really he has until Tuesday. As far as we’re concerned, the bid they sign on Tuesday is the only one that matters,” El-Meouchy said.
However, the week’s biggest enemy may not come from within the fraternity or sorority system at all.
“I’d have to say the hardest part has been the cold,” Breesh said.
Panhel’s new sorority, Alpha Xi Delta, will begin recolonizing once formal recruitment is over.
The fraternities and sororities in the Multicultural Greek Letter Council as well as the co-ed fraternities hold recruitment at other points in the academic year.
Archived article by Freda Ready