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Rush Needs More Truth, Less Rhetoric

By Jeremy Hylton
Editor in Chief

Every freshman is greeted the same way at MIT: You were not admitted by mistake, you are told. "Each of you is here because we know that you have the intellectual capacity, the energy, the imagination, and the will to succeed," President Vest said to you.

It seems strange that many of the upperclassmen and administrators who run Residence and Orientation Week -- and a fair number of the people who don't like the way it's run -- forgot that welcome. They don't give you enough credit.

The wonderful thing about R/O Week here is that you are given the freedom to choose where you want to live. Other colleges have computerized schemes that match up students who major in computer science or people who like Star Trek (hardly a discriminating factor at MIT). Here it's up to you to find somewhere that you fit in.

Rush would be a lot better if the Ad Hoc Committee on an Informed Rush did not cover the campus in sensational posters about ILGs and you probably have an easier time finding a living group if bad mouthing rules did not limit what people can tell you about independent living groups.

The Ad Hoc Committee's name is something of a misnomer. The group promulgates every stereotype that you can imagine about fraternities and sororities. Some of the fraternities here are probably guilty of some of the things that the committee's posters describe, but the committee's picture of fraternity life is wildly different than the one I saw during my two years in a fraternity.

Admittedly, my experience in a fraternity is colored by the fact that I pledged Zeta Beta Tau, which has no pledge period. That doesn't necessarily mean that freshmen are treated exactly the same as upperclassmen at ZBT, but it does mean I missed out on the pledging rituals of some fraternities.

Living in a fraternity, for the record, was a terrific choice. I did have some extra housework to do as a freshman; I did have to spend a week here during Independent Activities Period doing cleaning and maintenance; I did participate in a secret initiation ceremony. I was not hazed, nor was any other freshman. I never got drunk, nor did anyone expect me to. I made a lot of friends, worked on problem sets into the wee hours of the morning, played foosball. I took a road trip to Washington, D.C. I got along with some of the people at ZBT. I didn't like some of the people.

In short, I had an experience not unlike the experience a lot of people had in dormitories. Every living group will have some tension between residents, every group has its traditions -- look at the Burton Bombers or the Bexley anti-rush.

One poster suggested the following course of events: "Get shitfaced ... Get hazed ... Learn how to rape ..." This kind of trash is disappointing. There is no need to insult your intelligence this way. If there are problems at fraternities, they should be described fairly and accurately -- then you can make an informed decision.

As if the anti-fraternity rhetoric weren't bad enough, the Inter-Fraternity Council strictly enforces a gag rule on all its members. If you're in a fraternity, you can't say anything bad about another fraternity. This stonewalling is as ill-advised as posters that portray only the ills of fraternities.

Ostensibly, the bad mouthing rule prevents a fraternity from lying about another group to convince you to stay at that fraternity or to keep you away from some other ILG. It's a worthy enough goal to try to keep rush bias-free, but it is not very realistic.

Spoon feeding you only the good side of other ILGs compromises the basic premise of rush -- that you are mature enough and intelligent enough to make your own decision. If someone told you that a particular fraternity treats women poorly (come to think of it, the ad hoc committee told you that all fraternities do) and you were interested in visiting that fraternity, you would, I trust, check the claim for yourself. Fraternities are all selling something this week -- and you should never trust everything a salesman says.

Suppose, though, that you went to the fraternity and asked a few questions about how women are treated by the fraternity. You might discover that the fraternity's attitudes are not compatible with your own. Then bad mouthing, regardless of intent, would have saved you from a big mistake.

The IFC gag rule even limits what factually true statements can be made about another fraternity. Only the barest facts about the incident at Phi Beta Epsilon, please, the IFC says -- otherwise it would be bad mouthing. Part of the logic at work here is that if you want to know something -- and you can't be told because of the bad mouthing rules -- then you can go to an administrator and ask him.

It is downright ridiculous to expect you to track down an administrator or someone else not covered by the gag rule to unearth some of the details of the incident at PBE or the theft of $70,000 of computer equipment by some brothers at another fraternity a few years ago. You should have pretty easy access to this kind of information. It's important.

To make matters worse, these administrators probably are not available to talk to you. Neal H. Dorow, adviser to fraternitites and independent living groups, made it clear to one Tech reporter that he did not have any time to answer questions -- not even two minutes. Good luck tracking him down yourself.

Today fraternities will be extending bids. Trust your instincts and your judgement. Don't believe everything you are told. It may be difficult to make an informed decision, but try your best.