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Sorority Rush Differs from ILG Counterparts

By Kevin Frisch
staff reporter

While fraternity rush is familiar to most freshmen and upperclassmen, sorority rush remains a mystery for a large segment of the student population. Far more structured than its fraternity counterpart, sorority rush brings MIT's four sororities together as a unit working closely together to coordinate events.

"It's basically a kinder, gentler rush," said Maria B. Killos '93, president of MIT Panhellenic, an affiliate of the National Panhellenic which organizes rush for MIT's four sororities. By contrast, the InterFraternity Council merely sets guidelines and rules for member living groups.

"We really try to work together during rush," said Susan K. Scruggs '93, president of Alpha Phi, one of the four sororities affiliated with MIT Panhel. "The fraternities are there to screw each other, and we're here to make sure as many girls get the valuable sorority experience."

For instance, a sorority member may not have a conversation "lasting longer than ... the amount of time it takes for a sister to explain she cannot talk to the rushee," according to the 1992 Panhellenic Rush Rules.

"It eliminates the constant hassling of rushees," explained Killos.

She added: "A profound effort is made to get rushees to see everything and to keep their options open." Sororities try to ensure that each woman sees all four groups beginning to select a particular sorority.

Spending up to $2,500

Another difference is that much sororities spend less money than many ILGs on rush, Killos said. According to this year's MIT Panhel rush rules, no sorority may spend more than $2,500 on rush. Some fraternities, Killos said, spend in excess of $10,000 during rush.

"The personality of the sisters is what counts, which should attract the freshmen, rather than huge quantities of food or fancy hired entertainment," explained Rebecca D. Niles G, MIT Panhel rush chair.

For this reasons, men are not allowed at sorority rush events. "We don't want any women joining a sorority just because there are cute guys around," said Julia M. Stowell '93, who chairs the MIT Panhel Rho Chis, who assist freshmen during sorority rush.

Rather than ask freshmen to leave a sorority event, as is done at many ILGs, sororities use a series of invitations to determine which freshmen end up in each group. Freshmen who will not receive bids are simply not given invitations to one of a sorority's three rush events.

Rho Chis are rush counselors

A number of sorority members disassociate themselves from their specific sororities during rush, and work to organize the entire rush process. In addition to the officers of MIT Panhel, three members of each sorority volunteer to help the sorority system as a whole. These 12 women are known as "rush counselors," or "Rho Chis."

Rho Chis are selected for their counseling ability and experience, often from being R/O workers, Niles said. These women then go through a one-week training program by the Rho Chi Chair to teach them how to help freshmen women.

Sororities also treat rush violations differently than fraternities and ILGs, Killos said. If a sorority member sees a potential violation, she reports this to her rush chair, she said. Within 24 hours, rush chairs from the involved sororities then meet and try to work out their differences.

If that fails, the Panhel president tries to mediate between them. If the differences can still not be resolved, then an ad hoc Panhel judicial committee settles the issue. No such committees were needed in the last two years, and none of met so far this year, Killos said.

Unified front at first

While ILGs spend every moment of rush promoting their individual houses, sorority wait for several hours before dividing up into their respective groups. Sorority members wear Panhel shirts to the freshman picnic, and only reveal their letters until after a convocation following the picnic.

At this convocation, sorority members tell freshmen about Panhel, and about what women's groups have to offer. Freshmen are told how to rush a sorority, about Rho Chis, and how to rush non-sorority ILGs.

Later, women break into four groups for 10-minute tours of each sorority's rush room, located on the third and fourth floors of the Student Center. This is the first time that sororities break from the unified front, and tell the women about their individual sororities, Stein said.

Individual rush events

Open houses are the first scheduled events. Women go to different rush rooms, spending as much time as they wish getting to know the sisters. Sororities consider this event important, because following the Saturday open house, all events are by invitation only.

The invitations are given out by the Rho Chis in private, Niles said. This is done so that they can console freshmen who get upset about not receiving invitations they wanted. In addition, Niles said, "special `escape routes' are designed so that freshmen can avoid public embarrassment if they are visibly upset."

The number of invitations a woman receives dictates how long she may spend at a sorority's informal event, the first rush event after the open house. The more invitations a freshman receives, the less time she is allowed at each sorority. Panhel's rush booklet stresses the importance of "keeping your options open" by looking at more than one sorority.

The informals are the only time that freshmen and sorority members can interact with each other outside the rush room. This includes anything from strolling around campus to taking a tour of Boston or seeing Alpha Phi's house. Once the informal is over, freshmen may only interact with sorority members inside the rush room.

Next come "theme parties," where women are expected to stay for the entire event. Each sorority thus has two of these parties, coordinated so that women could attend all four. Theme parties are important because it is the basis on which invitations go out to the final event before bids are given out.

The final event is the preference party. Freshmen may receive many invitations, but may only attend two preference parties. As with the informal, the preference parties are staggered so that freshmen may attend any two. After attending their last preference party, freshmen rank the sororities in the order of their preference.

Bids and rankings

The following morning, bids go out. Which freshmen receive bids from which sororities is determined by a representative group of alumni sisters, based on the preference listing of the freshmen. The number of bids each sorority can give out is the same, and is the total number of women rushees at all the preference parties divided by four, Scruggs said. This, the "bid quota," is the maximum number of bids each sorority can give out. No woman will get more than one bid; if more than one sorority is interested in a woman, only the one highest on that woman's list may extend her the bid. An effort is made to extend bids to all women who wish to join a sorority, and the bid quotas are waived in some cases in order to achieve this.

To accept a bid, a freshman must be in the sole presence of a Rho Chi to ensure that she is making an independent decision. If a freshman turns down a bid, and still wants to join a sorority, then the next highest sorority on their preference ranking has the option of extending her a bid, assuming they have not yet reached their quota.

Panhel officers said that sororities have self-enforced hazing rules. They claimed that their rules are far stricter than any state anti-hazing laws. Sororities "have no reason to haze, and no desire to haze, and never have," Scruggs said forcefully.