Want to Go Greek? Better Fit the Mold

ON CAMPUS — Fraternities and sororities are most commonly known for weekend ragers and the occasional contribution to the community through required philanthropy. As UCSD is not exactly famous for its social scene, oftentimes the most prominent advertisements on Library Walk are for Greek life. For incoming freshmen looking to squeeze as much as they can from their college experience, going Greek is presented as the perfect, all-inclusive package. Differing from the drunken stereotype, UCSD Greeks boast a great balance between rigorous academics and a healthy social life. And while the Greek system may be a good outlet and source of fun on campus, the entry process — Rush Week — is blatantly shallow.

The six-day Panhellenic recruitment process requires pledges to narrow their sorority preferences further and further each night, picking their top two from the original nine by the end of the week. When a rushee has ranked her choices, she is matched against the chapters’ rankings to find the most mutual selections, a process that allegedly ensures that incoming members will receive a bid from one of their top sororities while simultaneously achieving the best fit for everyone.

Walking into a room filled with smiling girls, all dancing and chanting their individual chapter songs, was like walking into Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World” ride. Each sorority chooses how to present itself to the group of pledges through compelling speeches from chapter presidents about their “classy reputation” or “focus on philanthropy” and picture slide shows. The girls all appear to be interested and lively but once the song and dance was finished and pledges were partnered randomly with a member for a brief interview, routine took over.

Each veteran stood scanning her rushee, asking the girl’s name, college and major, with all the excitement and interest of a well-rehearsed infomercial, internally gauging whether the answers matched the mold.

After just a few short minutes the conversations ended as members fluttered off to meet new girls — leaving with one last thorough up-and-down glance. The distinct blueprint in each chapter’s room was uncanny, as the high-heeled, short-skirted blondes were at home with the Pi Phis and the quieter (often Jewish) girls were warmly welcomed by AEPhi.

Although pledges are made to believe that the chapters are trying to impress each and every one of them, it’s impossible to deny the truth about their reputations. Pledges are encouraged to leave preconceptions at the door; however, walking into each chapter’s room just confirms the so-called rumors. Each sorority’s pictures, memorabilia and members themselves were living proof of the stereotypes pledges were told to forget.

Being herded like cattle from room to room in dictatorial silence was a sharp contrast to the bubbly parties championed by sorority members. Pledges were not allowed to speak to each other — a strictly enforced measure to discourage chatty girls from passing on information of these “false” caricatures and influencing other people’s opinions. This demand was obviously useless, as pledges are well aware of which sororities are considered the best — meaning the most-favored by frats — and silly, since chapters are simultaneously looking to fill their mini-me quota.

Entering the dark, pushy lair of the less-praised sororities, pledges were surrounded by the sad desperation of chapters trying to prove their worthiness. Be it their looming height or awkward sweat stains, there was a clear difference between these Greeks and those from the more coveted chapters. They sang and danced like the neighboring sororities, but these girls were less successful in attracting an excited group of followers, nearly begging each rushee to give their chapter a shot through awkward strokes of the arm and intent, uncomfortable stares.

But despite the claims of a happy mutual selection, at the end of the sometimes-grueling process, the decisions and preconceptions of each chapter carry a much heavier weight than the desire of the pledge. No one’s nuanced personality can be expressed in a three-minute meet-and-greet, so there’s no way sorority selections are based on anything other than an aesthetic evaluation. And with quarterly dues in the range of $300, rushees better hope they wore the right shoes to impress their soon-to-be sisters.

While on bid day throngs of screaming pledges rush excitedly toward the top-choice sorority that selected them, there are still tons of forgotten girls who paid $30 only to find there was no perfect, mutual match for them. It was these girls who marched tearfully home from Price Center, clutching their high heels, lamenting their devastation over not being chosen by the chapters they felt a connection with. Although this otherwise-celebrated Greek system may provide a sustainable social life for the “in” crowd, the allegedly mutual rush process proves to be just as shallow as Elle Woods in all her stereotypical glory.