As women growing up in our society we are often told to be strong, independent individuals to prove that we are equal to men. We are told to take no bullshit from others, and always stand up for our wants, our beliefs, and ourselves. We are told to embrace our differences and go against the “typical woman” stereotype. Yet here are twelve hundred young, bright women at the University of Michigan standing outside in rain and shine, getting shouted at, and forced to conform to a system that can end in an unbelievably high levels of stress and dejection. And there I was questioning this process while in the cold as number 1047, behind Stuart and in front of Sweet at 7:50, when I should’ve been sitting around a table in a tiny hot- box, located in the basement of Angell Hall, learning how to write this essay.
If I’m questioning this process, I wonder how local bystanders are handling this. It must be an interesting sight seeing hundreds of girls dressed up with nametags around their necks and a map glued to their faces as they rush to the next house. I asked my friend, Sydney, who lives down the hall how she felt about rush and why she dropped after the first round. Her main reason for dropping was that the whole thing was too time consuming and expensive. Sydney said she didn’t like the idea of being judged after only ten minutes. How could they know whether they liked you or didn’t like you after only ten minutes? She felt they were judging on purely superficial things during first round such as looks and the clothes you had on. “To be honest I don’t even know how the rush process goes, but I do know that I’m happy I’m not a part of it anymore. Its crazy and so intimidating. You see girls just lining up in front of all these houses and I couldn’t help but compare myself to them. The only reason I wish I did it is so I can go out with y’all, but I know there should be more to it than wanting a social life.” And she was right. I knew I wasn’t just going through rush for a social life. There was more to it. She was also right about the rush process being crazy. The first part of the rush process is getting assigned to your “New Mother”, also known as your Rho Omega.
A Rho Omega is a sister from one of the houses, but during the rushing process she is neutral. All evidence of her in a sorority are taken down or covered up. They are neutral so they can guide you and give you advice without being bias. Your Rho is the one you go to for help of any kind, whether you need a mint, tissue, tampon, brush, perfume, bobby pin, or Band-Aid, she is always there for you. Your Rho has you fill out thirty-three notecards with your name and number, my number being 1047, which we gave to the sororities after each visit. I’ve been told that they either put a yes, no, or maybe on your card and discuss you after you leave. Rush is a two-week process that is composed of four different parties. Each party, besides preference parties, is spread out over a two-day period. At the end of each party the women are to report back to the Union to rank their houses. How you’ve ranked the houses and how they rank you determine whether you are called back to the sorority or not. The first party is called “mixer.” Mixers are twenty-minute visits to every sorority on campus. The second party is called “second set.” Second sets are forty-minute visits to, at the most, eleven houses. With longer time, the conversations are longer and more in depth compared to mixers. A tour of the house is given and a skit is performed.
The third party is called “third sets.” Third sets are very similar to second sets. They are forty-minute long visits to, at the most, seven houses. On this round they explain their philanthropy and how they partake in it. The fourth and final round is called “preference parties,” known as “pref. parties.” Pref. parties are hour-long visits to, tops, three houses. On pref. parties you have to go through tradition ceremonies that explain what their sorority is about and how their sisterhood would change you. Before mixers began, the girls discussed the houses and their reputations, and were ordered to get into line alphabetically and to get to know the girls in front and behind of you because they would be staying in this order for mixers. We then went parading to the first house of fifteen. On the march we encountered many men hollering and hooting and girls telling us good luck. While many of the girls were wallowing in the attention, some, such as me, became anxious about the multiple “good lucks” that we received. Why would one need luck in this amazing ordeal, when everyone gets the house they love? The adrenaline was at an all time high at the arrival of the first house. We were all excited to get this process started. We were in an alphabetically ordered single file line, starting at the front steps wrapping down the walk way and the sidewalk. We waited there wondering what happens next, when a bellowing started to come from the house. If you listened closely you realize they were chanting a catchy tune that, without a doubt, would get stuck in your head. As the chanting continued, the front door swept open and we began marching into the unknown with a smile plastered to our faces. Once you stepped over the threshold, the chanting transformed into a roar. We were instantly paired and introduced to a sister of the house and led, arm in arm, to a table of refreshments and then to a spot on the floor where we sat. Once we were both seated on the lovely wood floor, we dove into intense girl flirting.
After about three minutes of conversation with a sister, another sister came and the conversation repeated. By the end of the first round, it began to seem hugely similar to speed dating. We repeated this process of being marched down to houses, getting hollered at, and screaming small talk over all the other girls for the rest of mixers. After we ranked, we waited until the next day to receive our next schedule, which was composed of the houses we were asked back to. We received a text from our Rho about where to meet her to collect our schedule. This was the first time I realized that this process could be cruel and unfair. Girls were already beginning to get cut from their favorite houses. Some girls were upset, but in general the spirits were still high for Second Sets to begin. Second sets continued in a very similar manner to mixers. After second sets were completed, we once again received our schedule, a few days later, from our Rho. Many hearts were broken this time because some of the houses we loved did not love us back. We had the spirit of a band geek that just got rejected by the homecoming queen. We began to get sick of rush, but clung to some of the last houses that kept us. The day to see the houses left on our schedule, at the most seven, rolled around and we picked up our spirits and plastered a smile on our faces again, despite feeling rejected, and marched into their houses with our heads held high. After visiting the houses and ranking them you waited for your Rho to call with your schedule for pref. parties. This time when your Rho called you, you were expecting to get cut. You’ve hardened yourself so you wouldn’t be disappointed.
This way you were ecstatic when you received your top three or you could’ve accepted the three or less houses you got without feeling dejected. Preference parties are different than the other events. You are required to wear cocktail dresses and heels, eat fancy desserts, and partake in traditions that have been going on for centuries. This is the round where you really have to observe
the girls and their ways to see if you can picture yourself being apart of this sorority for the next four years. After you visit your houses you go to the Union and rank them like all of the other times, but this time it holds much more meaning. The order of your rank can truly effect what house you receive a bid from. Some girls, like me, take an endless amount of time deciding what house to rank as one, while others know their order before they even stepped foot into the union. Others are making a much more riskier decision and “suiciding” – only listing one house instead of three, meaning they have no back up houses. After preference parties and ranking, the participation of the rushees is over. The day after preference parties, they simply wait until they receive a call from their Rho to inform them if they have a bid or not. The day after receiving the call, they go to the Michigan Ballroom League, sometime between 11 A.M.- 1 P.M., to pick up ones bid. The bid has an invite to bid day of the house that desires you to pledge to. One can either deny or except a bid.
The next two days after prefs. were the most stressful days of rush. I felt like I was on an emotional rollercoaster. You had no idea what house you received a bid from when you received that call from your Rho. So when the call came, your heart stopped beating until your Rho announced the news. If the news was positive then you became ecstatic until you began to fret nonstop wondering if you received your first pick or not. If your news was bad, then that was that. You were done and can’t do anything about it. This is where your Rho came in handy for she counseled you. I also felt stress from the academic standpoint. Rushing is a long process, lasting through almost all of September. Since the majority of the Rushees are freshmen, we were already struggling to adjust to the endless pages that we were assigned to read, homework, studying, and getting the right amount of sleep. Now we had to add late night rushing activities to the list. So as the month passed by, the homework piled on. The amount of stress from homework and not knowing what house you received a bid from was murder. How could we begin to chisel our way into the mountain of homework when our brains were fully occupied over our future sisterhood? Walking into the Michigan League Ballroom you could already hear the thuds of feet bouncing up and down, squeals of delight, and sobs of despair.
As I walked up to my Rho to receive my envelope, I felt like it wasn’t me. I began to wonder why so many girls, I included, go through this atrocious, time-consuming process just to be able to receive a bid. Who would’ve thought I would have gone through this hell of lining up like a military parade, getting chanted at, making small talk for hours, running from house to house in under ten minutes, and repeat all for just a piece of paper inside an envelope? Certainly not me. Why am I putting myself through hell and back just to gain sixty other friends when I already have some? Why do women in general do this to themselves? Maybe for the experience, to be able to say I survived the process and came out on top, to meet your future life long best friends, for the title of being able to say you are in a sorority, for a full social calendar, for the chance to meet more guys, for the idea of continuing tradition, to improve your resume, or to volunteer and partake in the sorority’s philanthropy. I believe that it isn’t just one of these, but a combination of all of these factors that make it worth women to put forward this momentous amount of effort to join a sorority. As I tore open my envelope and read my bid, I realized that a bid isn’t just a piece of paper but a doorway to be able to experience all of the things sorority life has to offer.