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Take a Few Steps Back from Hectic Rush

Column by Jennifer Lane
Staff Reporter

As a sophomore Residence and Orientation Week worker, I've had a chance over the last few days to experience rush in a totally new way: From the outside. My situation is fairly rare. Most upperclassmen either are actively involved in rush for their own living group, or simply avoid the entire rush week by not returning to campus. I'm not rushing for any living group, and have had a chance to fairly passively observe rush events, and I've come to some disturbing conclusions.

The Institute has created a very interesting situation for upperclassmen in fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups. Members of FSILGs have been thinking about rush week all summer. They've been here at MIT for several days already - cleaning, washing, dusting, polishing, fixing, and engaging in other non-typical FSILG activities. In short, their lives have been spent lying in wait for one object: A freshman, many freshmen, any freshman. They become penned-in bulls waiting for a fight, practically foaming at the mouth. If you're a wandering upperclassman during rush, be prepared to tell about a hundred pairs of hopeful eyes that no, you're not a freshman.

These are upperclassmen that are so desperate to get their hands on a freshman for Thursday Night Dinners that they stampeded - hardly an adequate word to capture the image of hundreds of upperclassmen sprinting from Kresge Oval - onto the football fields before Project Move Off Your Assumptions had even finished. Freshman-hungry living group members could be seen waiting in the bushes, presumably to ambush juicy frosh.

Granted, meeting an entirely new freshman class is exciting, and upperclassmen are eager to meet and get to know as many as they can. However, the behavior of many upperclassmen before Thursday Night Dinners was more than simple over-excitement; it was rude and childish. It took several minutes to get the upperclassmen to retreat, and no one was happy for the extra waiting time. One would have thought that MIT upperclassmen could overcome the mystery of patience that kids in 6th grade struggle with.

Killian Kick-Off, a major rush milestone, offers another distressing glance into the group mindset of upperclassmen. All the speakers commented on the special position that freshmen are in. They've come to a place of greatness, and are about to begin an amazing four-year journey. Yet witness the sharp contrast between what the speakers suggested for shaping this opportunity, and what occurred moments later, when Interfraternity Council Rush Chair Allison L. Walters '96 officially kicked off rush.

Four out of five of the speakers were women. (This fact that was noted often during the event. Had four of five been men, it would have been a great injustice, but that's another column). Keynote speaker Catherine D. Conley '96 and the other women seemed to be very proud of this, and encouraged the freshwomen to take advantage of their opportunities. With women making up 42 percent of the class, it is evident that women are as smart and able as men. A few moments later, however, women could be seen running around in fraternity-lettered bikini tops, encouraging freshman to attend events for the so-advertised frat . Scores of other, more clothed women also attempted to get male freshmen to attend a fraternity's festivities that evening. But freshmen were enticed by their intellect and conversation, right? I'm sure.

Conley also told the freshmen not to always do what they're told, as she illustrated by telling them to jump. Yet moments later freshmen followed the first bubbling fraternity brother that beckoned, and there were plenty of them to do the beckoning. I got the impression that, had Killian Court been a large cliff, the entire freshman class and all the fraternity members would have charged eagerly over the edge, lemming-style.

I'm not trying to discourage people from joining FSILGs, nor am I trying to bash R/O Week, which I think is a great thing. Rather, I'm trying to get people, rushers and rushees alike, to stop and take a few steps back to analyze their behavior.

Every Killian speaker emphasized having fun during rush, and that is important. Fun is indeed had by all. Given the diversity of MIT and Boston, freshmen will probably have a great time no matter where they end up. So maybe the important question isn't, "How much fun am I having?," or, "Am I meeting as many freshmen as I can?" Maybe the important question that most people forget is this: "Whatever I'm doing, or wherever I end up living, is this going to be a time that I can be proud of later, when I can see it from the outside?"

Jennifer Lane, a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering and computer science, regrets never having learned a sorority's secret handshake.