Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Despite pressure, rush provides new avenues for growth

From the third-story window of Prentiss Hall on Sept. 21, I can hear a rush of energy as women move out the main door into the grassy courtyard. Their voices carry loud and clear, gushing with excitement. They are heading out for their final day of formal recruitment.

Formal recruitment is the process all prospective members must go through in order to get to know the men’s and women’s fraternities on campus before joining one. Both prospective and active members preference one another based on a mutual sense of gelling well and sharing common interests. For two weeks in mid-September, men and women around campus gathered to explore Whitman’s Greek scene. It is a different experience for everyone, yet there seems to be a unanimous feeling that the recruitment process and Greek life foster community and connection.

The common stereotype of Greek life –– attributed to large, state schools –– is a lifestyle that supports binge drinking, excessive partying, class bunking, a short-sighted view of relationships and exclusivity. But first-year Michael Brock says Whitman defies those stereotypes.

“Fraternities aren’t very exclusive here. People don’t really base their identities off what fraternity they’re part of,” said Brock.

First-year Emily Bowen agrees that Greek life isn’t a mutually exclusive identity. However, she does see elements of exclusivity in the formal recruitment process. She explained that during recruitment, some prospective members are not invited back to women’s fraternities that they preference. Such a situation can lead to hurt feelings and a sense of being left out.

“I wish there was a way to make it a little bit less exclusive,” said Bowen.

She said that the brevity of the recruitment process is a reason for this, and she does understand that limitations can create an atmosphere of exclusivity. Bowen argues that women’s fraternity recruitment process is very structured in comparison to the relaxed manner of men’s fraternity recruitment.

Women’s fraternity recruitment consists of specific events spanning four days over two weekends. The days include section tours, Activity Day, Philanthropy Day and, finally, Tea Day, to which potential new members are invited by two of the women’s fraternities they preference.

Men’s fraternity recruitment, however, mostly consists of upperclassmen taking first years to lunch over a period of two weeks and doing activities such as whitewater rafting and cliff jumping.

Both Alpha Phi Recruitment Chair senior Kate Coll and Phi Delta Theta President junior James Lavery said the reason for this discrepancy is in the national guidelines set by Panhellenic (the national women’s fraternity organization) and the Interfraternity Council (IFC).

Coll explained events for women’s recruitment are specifically prescribed by Panhellenic at the national level; Tea Day, Activity Day and Philanthropy Day are all required by the overarching organization.

In contrast, Lavery said the only essential rule set nationally by the IFC is that recruitment events and fraternity-related programming cannot include alcohol consumption. Beyond that, each institution’s IFC can choose how to design their recruitment process.

“The only pressure would be trying to present yourself. You are going to want to put your best foot forward,” said Lavery.

The weight of making first impressions is, for many, a trying experience to navigate during recruitment. Yet the different structures of men’s and women’s fraternity recruitment programs subtly affect how that pressure is felt.

“There is just a lot of pressure to put on your best face and impress people. And the way they chose people to come back, it was based on surface impression,” said Bowen.

She said that since women’s fraternities spend a total of four days worth of activities for formal recruitment and men’s fraternities don’t follow the same timeline, the women’s recruitment process brings a pressure to make a lasting impression in a very short period of time.

Coll said the pressure to make a good impression isn’t limited to potential new members.

“Often being on the other side is uncomfortable, too. You want them to like you personally because that connects them to the sorority,” said Coll.

The discomfort new members feel doesn’t go unnoticed by current women’s fraternity members.

“I didn’t know people knew I was uncomfortable [when I rushed]. But we know,” said Coll.

It’s a lot to deal with, especially during the first month of a new school year. For the same reason, Bowen and Brock said its challenge and excitement can be avenues for personal growth.

“I’ve never really thought of myself as someone who is really good at meeting people right off the bat,” said Brock. “I’ve learned that I could get better with practice.”

Bowen found that she became more certain of her future goals.

“I understand more what I want to do in college,” she said. “Talking about and reiterating my interests helped me come up with a better plan for what I want to do while being here at Whitman.”

Brock and Bowen also saw recruitment as a helpful way to soften the transition from high school to college. Brock said he had mostly been in contact with other first-years who are also struggling through the transitional phase. Formal recruitment provided an alternative point of view.

“Meeting all these upperclassmen and sophomores and just seeing how happy they are here and how close they are is really cool to think that ‘Wow, I may be in a really similar place next year,'” said Brock.

Ultimately, according to both upperclassmen and first-year members, a men’s or women’s fraternity is all about making close connections.

Bowen and Brock both expressed how much they looked forward to being a part of a close-knit group of people ready to provide support and advice when needed.

Lavery and Coll also named these as benefits of Greek life. There are many ways to be part of a group at Whitman through clubs, Interest Houses and other groups. Greek life is yet another avenue.

“I think it really does go back to having a support system … to find your niche, your smaller community, and I think that is a huge advantage,” said Coll.

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