Approximately 350 freshmen (and a few sophomore) girls’ hearts will race this Friday evening as they don their nametags, apply the finishing touches to their makeup, and prepare to talk for seven hours straight. Welcome to rush. For three exhausting days, girls will participate in a mutual matching process where potential new members (PNMs) will select sororities and sororities will select PNMs. The process culminates with Bid Day: each girl may receive a small envelope from a sorority with an invitation to join. As many critics of Greek Life have pointed out, there are significant barriers to joining a sorority. However, these obstacles are intrinsic elements of rush and cannot be completely eradicated because sororities —like all other social communities— have barriers to entry. Stanford’s panhellenic takes active steps to lower these barriers and by making rush as inclusive, genuine, and positive as possible and Stanford’s ISC should be commended for its efforts
I. Barriers to Joining Greek Life are Unavoidable yet Minimized at Stanford
Greek life is often criticized for its exclusivity and significant barriers to entry. Although there are legitimate criticisms of sorority membership, attacks on exclusivity miss a critical point: all social communities have obstacles to entry and are exclusive to some degree. This is true whether the community is a co-op, a sorority, or a student group because the very definition of a group implies that there are both insiders and outsiders. However, the Inter-Sorority Council (ISC) at Stanford actively works to include all girls that wish to join an ISC sorority instead of pretending that they are able to avoid exclusivity. Nearly all girls that participate in the entirety of recruitment receive a bid, and for those who are unhappy with their rush results, ISC works with them to find solutions. Because a sorority is a community, it is impossible to avoid barriers to entry. However, when compared to other institutions, Stanford does as much as possible to reduce the strength of these barriers.
There are three main barriers to joining a sorority at Stanford that affect all PNMs. First, the PNM must be present on campus. Second, the PNM must pay to participate in formal recruitment. Third, the PNM must have sororities interested in her. These requirements are relatively minor at Stanford, especially when compared to other institutions’ rush processes. Recruitment occurs during the second weekend of spring quarter when most students are already on campus. Therefore, the first roadblock is quite easy to overcome. In contrast, at many other schools, the barrier is higher: recruitment occurs before the school year begins. For example, at the University of Alabama, fall formal recruitment begins twelve days before the start of the 2015 school year. This schedule forces potential PNMs to decide in advance whether they wish to join a sorority, and arrange logistical details to participate.
Cost is the next barrier. The registration cost for Stanford ISC Recruitment is $40.00. This cost is not negligible for many students (and Stanford ISC does provide fee waivers) yet it is only 25% of the University of Alabama’s recruitment cost and 33% of Florida State University’s recruitment cost. Even at the University of Southern California, recruitment costs start at $80.00. Stanford’s ability to keep the cost relatively low stems largely from its shortened recruitment period of just three days. At other schools, such as Alabama and Florida State, recruitment lasts approximately one week.
Finally, sororities have to be interested in a PNM. Stanford has every PNM fill out an informational form (which asks about your interests and involvement on campus) and this form is the only information given to the sororities. During recruitment, all PNMs talk to every sorority on the first night so rushees can see whether each sorority is a good fit and vice versa. From there, the mutual selection session begins: rushees rank their preferred sororities and if their rankings match with sorority interest, they continue on with that sorority. The process is more arduous at some other universities. For example, some schools solicit letters of recommendation, which Stanford prohibits. At the University of Alabama, these letters are due by July 15th, nearly one month before fall recruitment. USC does not require these letters, but they are accepted by sororities. Some girls have professional photos taken to send to sororities before recruitment. Because Stanford does not require these same standards, the rush process is more genuine; the process is built through a year’s worth of relationships at Stanford rather than artificially developed conceptions formed before students arrive on campus.
II**. ISC Makes Recruitment as Fair as Possible**
Stanford strives to make recruitment as sincere as possible. Its process is both well-organized and unique: Stanford has a shortened recruitment process that occurs late in the year and holds rush parties in places that are equal for all sororities.
Stanford attempts to minimize total immersion in Greek life by imposing a quick, three-day recruitment cycle that does not occur until April. Girls who are interested in fully participating in their sorority can do so by attending events and vying for leadership positions. However, a short recruitment later in the year ensures Greek life is not the center of an exclusive universe that is isolated from the rest of the Stanford community. Even if girls do join sororities, all of the PNMs’ experiences are not limited to that group. Greek and non-Greek students share a common Stanford experience in their freshmen dorms, friendships fostered through clubs, and unique opportunities. Furthermore, a three day recruitment cycle reduces the time that PNMs will have to worry about recruitment and reduces distractions from their other commitments, such as spring musicals, athletic events, and challenging classes.
The parties are also hosted at common locations such as the Black Student Union, Old Union 200, or the Tressider Oak Room allowing both housed and unhoused sororities to recruit on an equal playing field. PNMs know that three sororities have houses, but there are no house-tours, food tastings, or other events that would heavily dominate the interactions between active members and PNMs during recruitment. Every night, sororities move to a different room; each sorority has the same amount of time to set up, decorate, and then talk to PNMs. This system helps ensure that the recruitment experience focuses on cultivating personal relationships instead of on a sorority’s overall amenities.
Stanford’s ISC sorority recruitment process attempts to ensure all participants have as positive an experience as possible. Without a doubt, rush is tiring. For most, it is stressful, and for some, it is absolutely overwhelming. However, Stanford’s ISC has taken positive steps towards making rush as specific to Stanford students as possible. The short recruitment cycle later in the school year combined with a low cost lends itself to an environment where rushing is an active choice and not joining a sorority is a perfectly acceptable option. Participating in recruitment and being in an ISC sorority is not for everyone. However, for those that go through the three day recruitment cycle, nearly 100% of girls receive bids. For those who do not, ISC works with them to find alternative options, such as informal recruitment, non-Panhellenic Greek organizations, or formal recruitment the next year.