During the last week, while Israel attacked Palestine, drug lords pushed Mexico deeper into political disarray and the FDA discovered salmonella in my peanut butter (knock on wood), someone on this campus was stressing out about balloons.
"Are there going to be enough?"
"Why are you asking me? I'm busy trying to memorize the list of things I'm not allowed to talk about during recruitment."
"What?!? Just remember the four B's: Boys, booze, bucks and bed."
"I can't talk about boys or bed? Isn't that redundant?"
"You want to ruin this for all of us?!? Don't talk about boys or bed and buy yourself a busy beefeater hat wif lafty taff and playboy maf and if you don't do it all perfectly we're going to ruin our chances."
That hypothetical conversation was between two women on this campus in one of six sororities that undergo the process of recruitment. The reason for the stress is this: Each sorority has exactly time to fill up a predetermined number of balloons of a predetermined color at the allotted helium tank. In the event that the balloons malfunction or they don't all fill up within 20 minutes the unfortunate sorority has fewer hard-earned balloons for that night of recruitment. I consider them hard-earned because had the sorority been caught doing something naughty (i.e. texting a potential new member during winter break), there might have been a consequence such as the loss of balloons at recruitment events or the dreaded loss of prep time. As a result of rules such as this, dirty rushing almost becomes the Red Scare among sororities who turn each other in if they hear about someone crossing the line. Rather than encourage relationships between the classes, the regulations prevent friendship and candid conversations. I swear I couldn't make this stuff up.
In no way am I bashing sororities ... I'm not that dumb ... but as an outsider I think it's funny they have so many regulations. Unfortunately, for a lot of the women involved it's more like a living hell. A more precise analogy I've heard a few times is that recruitment is like speed dating ... on speed.
Recruitment seems even worse when it's compared to the rush process for fraternities -- considered by many people to be the best week of the year. In a stereotypically paternalistic "boys will be boys" mentality, this school lets us have tons of leeway during rush (and in general), but practically keeps the women indoors knitting and playing piano. You might be thinking that sororities aren't historically ardent in their feminist passion, but I personally know several women who would bite my head off if I called them "girls" in this article -- why don't they cry foul at the recruitment process?
Better yet, why don't they cry foul at the rules that govern them all year? Because no one can deny that the system works for better or worse, and I don't think anyone really wants to change it or try something new. There have to be limitations of some sort because obviously, if everyone stands up in a crowded room no one has a better view. I just laugh at the extent to which the week is structured and manipulated rather than allowed to change with creative thought and ingenuity.
So here we are, another spring semester and another class of students either excited about their new group of friends or wondering to themselves what went wrong during the last week. The tradition continues to grow and shape our school in unifying or divisive ways depending your perspective. All we can do now is plan for next spring and maybe give the sororities a little more wiggle room. Unlimited balloons might be a good place to start.
Contact writer Michael Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org
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