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Sororities Try to Maintain Fair, 'Civilized' Atmosphere

By Daniel C. Stevenson
Associate News Editor

Panhellenic Association sorority rush at MIT is strikingly different from fraternity rush, said Panhellenic Rush Director Nicole A. Wainwright '95. "As women we try to be a little more civilized and present you with your options rather than dragging you kicking and screaming from Killian court," Wainwright said at the Women's Convocation Friday night.

"We don't rush 24 hours a day," said Alpha Chi Omega Rush Chair Lori A. Callaghan '96. Sorority rush doesn't have the entertainment element of fraternity rush - they have "no paintball, no sumo wrestling," or other events planned, Callaghan said. Instead, "we always have conversation."

At the convocation, freshmen were told about Panhel rush and living options for women at MIT. Following the convocation, the women were assigned a Rho Chi, rush counselor, in groups of about 26 women, according to Rho Chi Chair Valerie A. Jordan '95.

The freshmen toured each of the five sorority rush rooms, after which they could attend two open houses on Friday and Saturday. Some women are then invited back to the sororities for informal events Saturday and Sunday, as well as theme parties Sunday night. By Monday night, a lower number of women are invited back for preference parties, and final bids are sent out by the Rho Chis on Tuesday.

Larger rush predicted

In the past, "approximately one-third of all women got bids," Wainwright said. "New member classes this year are expected to be slightly larger than previous years," she said. Two possible reasons are the addition of Sigma Iota Phi into formal rush and the fact that MIT "admitted about 100 more women than they did last year," Wainwright said.

The class of 1998 has approximately 450 women representing 40 percent of the class size, the largest number ever according to Assistant Director of Admissions Zaragoza A. Guerra III.

Stephanie H. Newman '96, rush chair for Sigma Kappa, said that they were expecting a bigger number of freshmen this year, but they really wouldn't know an exact number for several days.

The four larger sororities (AXO, Kappa Alpha Theta, Alpha Phi, and SK) have a bid goal this year of approximately 35, which was set by Panhel, Callaghan said. However, this number is not firm and can change either up or down, she added.

"We're looking for fewer freshmen than the other sororities," said SIP Rush chair Aliza E. Mezrich '95. SIP, MIT's fifth and newest sorority, had a pledge class of five last year compared to around 30 for the four other sororities.

Eye-catching' skits

Rush Counselors led the sorority tours following the convocation, Jordan said. All the rush rooms are located in the Student Center, with two (AXO and SK) on the fourth floor. SIP, APhi, and KAT are in rooms on the third floor.

During the tours, the sororities typically "put on a skit, then talk to them [the rushees] for a few minutes," Wainwright said.

The skits AXO performs are designed to be "something eye-catching which will bring the girls back" to the open houses after the tours, Callaghan said.

Following the tours, women could return to any of the rooms during Open House I on Friday night, and Open House II mid-Saturday, Jordan said.

Open Houses I and II are the only two non-invited parties, Wainwright said. Rushees are encouraged to spend as long as they want with each sorority during the allotted times, Wainwright said.

Following the open houses, freshmen can spend only a limited time with the sororities outside of the rush room, and only by invitation, Wainwright said.

These events, also called informals, occur Saturday night, Sunday morning, and Sunday afternoon. The informals typically involve trips around Boston or tours of the sorority houses for AXO and APhi, Callaghan said. Rushees may only attend four informals.

Paris and jungle themes

Women invited to the informals also received invitations to the theme parties, which took place last night. They can only attend three of the theme parties, Callaghan said, even if they receive four or five invitations. AXO had a jungle theme, with sisters dressing up a parts of a jungle, Callaghan said.

Sigma Kappa's party, entitled "Vive La Sigma," has the theme of a night in Paris, Newman said.

SIP is featuring a college version of the game of life, Mezrich said.

"Informals are not mandatory," Callaghan said, but the theme parties are mandatory if a woman wants to receive a bid from that sorority.

AXO emphasized its new sorority house - which only opened this fall - to its rushees, Callaghan said. "It's a big draw and practically everybody we've talked to has seen our house."

Rush Counselors provide support

Rush counselors provide impartial advice to freshmen as they decide which sorority to rush or even whether they should rush at all. They answer general questions about the sororities and rush policies, and encourage freshmen to "look at the sororities for themselves rather than make snap judgments based on somebody else's opinions," Jordan said.

A Rho Chi, temporarily de-affiliated from her sorority, cannot discuss or even identify her sorority, Jordan said. "Because they don't know which one we're in they're not afraid to tell us their concerns," she said.

Rush counselors also function as a third party between the sororities and the rushees, said Callaghan said. "I think it's good [to have counselors hand out bids] because it protects the Rushee," she said.

The Rho Chis prepared for rush with role-playing situations, including parent problems, cross rushing (receiving invitations from several sororities), and personal problems, Jordan said. They are "there to remind them [the rushees] to be themselves," she said.

"I enjoy being able to help the freshman women," Jordan said. "Rho Chis feel that they can be more assistance to the freshmen as counselors than as rushers."

One of the goals of the National Panhellenic Conference is to have a no-frills rush for all sororities, Jordan said. Sororities are limited to spending $2,800 for rush this year, and that number will be reduced by $200 a year until only $1,500 is spent.

"National Panhellenic is pushing really hard for rush costs to be lower," Wainwright said. The ultimate goal of the reductions is to have "no decorations, no costumes, no party favors, no food - just icewater and people," Wainwright said. This is "so that girls concentrate less on the decorations and more on the people."