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Rush Should Work More Like Real Life

Column by David D. Hsu
News Editor

I still remember Residence and Orientation Week my freshman year two years ago. During the President's Welcome Convocation, some dean told us something like: "In the next few days, you will be making some very important decisions about what the next few years will entail. And just like real life, you won't have all the information or all the time you want. But you'll still make a decision, just like real life."

During Killian Kick-Off, Van Van '97 echoed those words. "MIT doesn't prepare you for life; MIT is life," he said.

Now that I've been through R/O Week three times in one form or another, I can easily conclude that rush is nothing like real life. If rush were like real life, I would be feasting on steak and lobster every day.

I guess I should clarify myself. When I talk about real life, I'm talking about life I've known growing up in the United States.

It's true that aspects of rush emulate life in communist or fascist countries. In certain countries, rights are taken away in the name of protecting the people. In an odd way, it's the same with rush.

Fraternities, sororities, independent living groups, and dormitories are only allowed to rush within a specified time. This is to ensure that the freshmen get a fair look at all their living options. All the freshmen would obviously be swayed by events happening early. There's no way freshmen can make choices by themselves.

The most important decision freshmen made before this week was which college to go to. Some freshmen probably exhausted resources, looking through U.S. News rankings and The Fiske Guide, making campus visits, and talking to undergraduates. Some other freshmen may have just decided to go here based on the name. But the point is that the information is easily available. It's the same way with other important decisions like buying a house or a car. Yet information needed for deciding where to live at MIT for the next four years is hard to get during an arbitrary amount of time before Killian Kick-Off.

I've heard some criticism about The Tech's decision to print Sigma Phi Epsilon's rush ad before Killian Kick-Off. One person asked me whether The Tech had any interest in protecting the freshmen. Were freshmen really threatened by a full-page ad?

I guess nobody has any confidence in the ability of freshmen to think for themselves. Yes, they're not going to be as knowledgeable of MIT as upperclassmen, but they can still make their own decisions. Most of them probably know they shouldn't go out in public if they haven't showered in a week, which many upperclassmen forget.

Even though I haven't seen their rush statistics, I'll bet that Sig Ep's rush was neither significantly hurt nor helped by the premature ad. It was no secret that Sig Ep was going to participate in rush, and I doubt the ad displayed any information that wasn't readily available in a summer rush book. One more slick page won't hook many freshmen.

Sig Ep should not be fined for their early ad any more than any fraternity should be fined for their summer rush parties, rush booklets, or all those phone calls from fraternity brothers. Let people decide for themselves, just like in real life. After watching the Olympics, freshmen probably have learned to tune out commercialism.

When I was a freshman, the badmouthing rule was still in effect for dormitories. I had to ask someone at Harvard to find out about the MITfraternities. But I considered the information I got just as I considered the information I got from fraternity brothers: How well do I know the source? How credible is the source? How impartial is the source?

Most people go through this type of reasoning. If someone hears one living group badmouth another living group, they'll ask the same questions and make their own decision.

Future freshmen are likely to become more and more accustomed to the Internet. Perhaps fraternities, sororities, and dormitories should be required to close down their World Wide Web pages before Killian Kick-Off. Some aimless freshmen might stumble upon the Web site, and the results could be disastrous. Countless freshmen looking at brothers', sisters', and residents' homepages actually might learn something useful about the living groups. It would be unfair to let a sorority with an established Web page get an advantage over a sorority that's more HTML-deficient.

Maybe the Interfraternity Council and Dormitory Council Judicial Committee members should patrol the Web, looking for violations. If they come upon one, a simple e-mail to will save those innocent freshman minds. But I guess that would just be too wacky.

I can understand that if rush were a free-for-all, freshmen would be carted off as soon as they arrive, but certainly rush can be a little more reasonable. Fraternity and dormitory residents should be allowed to wear shirts displaying their living groups, FSILGs should be permitted to badmouth, and sorority sisters should be allowed to talk to female freshmen.

When freshmen arrive, they do not want to be mothered by countless rules. It's time to make rush more like real life.