The nature of rush and purpose of fraternities

In light of the recent developments in our front page article this week, I would like to outline the ideal nature of Greek recruitment and comment generally on the purpose of Greek life. Full disclosure, I should mention that I am a Sigma Chi and have no first-hand experience with any wet recruitment event.

Rush season is a time in which Greek organizations and potential recruits have two short weeks to decide whether to enter into a lifelong relationship. At a recruitment event, a fraternity is attempting to display to the potential recruits what makes their organization worthy of their investment, and why an organization should invest in a potential recruit. It’s a rather whirlwind experience for both parties. First impressions have profound impacts.

Usually, it’s a rather chance event that causes someone to first appear at a fraternity house. Often, a friend will bring them, or a chance encounter with a brother will stick in their mind, as was the case for me. First impressions of the fraternity by potential recruits usually include how much fun the organization is to be a part of, how it functions as a club. It’s a place to go for entertainment, for sports, and for food. This is what brings potential recruits to the organization, but they won’t stay long if this is all they come for.

Potential recruits then likely begin to notice the relationship that all brothers share, that of brotherhood. This is what keeps potential recruits coming back, and makes them take the possibility of membership more seriously. Potential recruits see the way brothers interact, and recognize it as being different from ordinary interactions between people. Maybe it’s a deep, meaningful conversation that a potential recruit has with a brother that shows them that they could enter this relationship. Brotherhood should be the most important attribute for a Greek organization in attracting potential recruits.

Potential recruits could also be attracted to other facets, such as philanthropy, or academic achievement. Maybe they’re a legacy, meaning one or both of their parents were Greek. Maybe they’re looking toward the future and thinking about how joining this organization may help their career and post-college life. A strong alumni relationship will certainly help those with high professional aspirations. Maybe saving thousands of dollars on room and board charges by living in-house sophomore year is in the back of the minds of potential recruits. Certainly, the decision to join a Greek organization isn’t without self-interest.

However, when it comes to less commendable desires, a Greek organization must be vigilant. No fraternity should be interested in initiating any person whose motive for joining is to obtain alcohol. The consequences of doing so are dire. These people ruin organizations. The entire Greek community suffers from the inclusion of people who are not interested in upholding the standards and obligations they bind themselves to during initiation. As Sigma Chi Founder Isaac M. Jordan once wisely delivered, “The amount of mischief which one abandoned and dissolute young man can do is incalculable; he destroys everything around him; avoid him as you would a pestilence. One drop of poison will defile the purest spring. Avoid by all means the poison, the virus, the hemlock of bad associations.”

From the other perspective, alcohol distorts the perception a potential recruit has of a fraternity. The draw of alcohol may temporarily be more powerful than that of more worthy reasons for joining a fraternity. This can tragically result in a brother finding themselves in a less-than-reputable organization, having squandered the opportunity to join one they would be more satisfied with.

It is for these reasons that alcohol has no place in the recruitment process. It is for these reasons that the Interfraternity Council has rules that prohibit alcohol during recruitment. These rules are wise to be followed, and it’s a mutual effort. It’s the responsibility of the organization to not offer alcohol to protect themselves from unworthy potential recruits and to protect others from making regrettable decisions. It’s the responsibility of the potential recruits to not accept alcohol and to avoid organizations that do, to protect themselves from making regrettable decisions and to protect the fraternities from unworthy potential recruits. I ask anyone in a Greek organization to look back to the words of their founders, as I have, and consider how their behavior now compares to the original intentions of their founders.

I recognize that formal recruitment for sororities is entirely different from that of fraternities. Formal recruitment for sororities is a much more abbreviated, tightly controlled process. There is little to no opportunity for sororities to offer alcohol to any potential recruits during their recruitment process due to the plethora of rules in place regulating recruitment for sororities. However, I can only hope that women are still receiving the same opportunity to make a well-thought, educated decision regarding which organization they wish to join, considering the short duration of allotted contact time before bid day.

It can, and should, be recognized during the potential recruitment process that most Greek organizations do host events outside of recruitment where alcohol is served. It isn’t a topic to be ashamed of, or to be avoided. Potential recruits must be aware of what they’re considering to enter. Though it shouldn’t be a centerpiece, anyone accepting a bid should have had a short discussion with a brother about the role of alcohol in the fraternity, along with all other aspects of fraternal life.

After recruitment ends, the mutual responsibilities for both pledges and fraternities do not end, but rather grow in magnitude. The specter of hazing still lingers over the Greek community, a haunting from years past where it was once believed that fraternal bonds could be best forged under life-and-death situations replicating those of the civil war. This unwise conceptualization of fraternity has since been recognized as such, and it has become the life’s work of many great people to eradicate it from the Greek community, such as Michael A. Greenberg, current Grand Consul of Sigma Chi. The use of alcohol in hazing is a deplorable practice, in a similar way that it is deplorable during recruitment. Apart from presenting obvious existential dangers to both pledges and fraternities, using alcohol for hazing erodes the value of the relationship between the pledge and the fraternity. Each fraternity has only one chance to prepare their pledges for the all-important moment of initiation, a moment of life-changing implications for everyone involved. The pledge has the opportunity to learn and grow tremendously from the experience both leading up to and during initiation, an opportunity which is ruined by hazing.

A fraternity is a network, a group to rely upon for friendship, comfort, assistance in times of need, and enjoyment. The network will also rely upon its individual members to reciprocate these qualities. A fraternity is a place to call home, a place to feel safe and loved. A fraternity is a place to build one’s self, to learn redeeming qualities, to find mentors, and to develop into a respectable adult. A fraternity is an order of gentlemen, among the most honorable of college-educated people. It’s a wonderful experience to be a member of an organization that I love so deeply. It is my hope that others have a great experience as I have, and that their organizations do not participate in wet rushing and hazing to demean that experience.