July 28, 2007

More Than a Party: Frats at C.U.

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This article appears in the 2007 edition of The Sun’s annual Freshman Issue.

With over 60 Greek chapters on campus, it’s easy to forget that only a third of Cornell undergraduates are actually members of a fraternity or sorority. However, almost every Cornellian encounters one aspect of the system: fraternity rush.
Unlike sorority rush, fraternities advertise and recruit all year long, with many having events before classes even begin.
Although freshmen cannot receive invitations, called “bids,” to join a fraternity until their second semester, many who have gone through the process advise seeing chapters early in the year and trying to meet the brothers before formal Spring Rush, when interested students come up the week before classes to visit houses and meet brothers.
“I think it is important to both attend rush week and informally rush in the fall,” said Tau Kappa Epsilon member Brendan Byrne ’08. “Rush week is helpful in the sense that you are able to see a fraternity in a different, party-free setting, but let’s face it … it’s pretty polished. I couldn’t help but feel like I was constantly being presented with a sales pitch.”
Informal meetings with brothers were a big influence in choosing where to pledge, he said.
“Rushing” various houses with a group of friends also helped him feel more comfortable, rather than going into a house alone.
In addition to fraternity parties, the Interfraternity Council works hard to create programming with a positive focus that will involve current Greeks and freshmen together.
In addition to a “Greek Week” scheduled in the fall to give students a chance to find out what fraternity life is all about, fraternities involve freshmen in intramural athletics, philanthropy events and volunteer opportunities, such as the ever-popular Habitat for Humanity. Many Greeks advise interested freshmen to take advantage of these opportunities. Rush week lives up to its name and rarely provides leisurely opportunities to truly get to know the brothers at a fraternity without them paying too much attention to “selling” their house.
Mike Shub ’08 concedes that in the middle of Spring Rush, brothers act differently than they normally might.
“Yes, it is an artificial, ugly [process], but you get free food out of it,” he said.
Not everybody saw the change as a problem, however.
“Rush was a very good process,” said Mitchell Kotler ’07. “It gave me a chance to spend a whole week partying before classes started second semester of freshmen year. I had a chance to drink every day, gamble and see naked women. Everyone was ridiculously nice to me in order to try to get me to join their house.”
“What’s artificial about that?” he asked.