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Don’t Talk To Me

Christen Gray

You’ve arrived at MIT, found your temporary housing, and kissed your parents goodbye. Finally, you are at college. The place you have counted on to find other people like you, the experience you anticipated through four drudging years of high school.

Inhaling deeply, you decide to go out and explore on your own before your temporary roommates arrive. Armed with a campus map and your Hitchhiker’s Guide, you set out down the hall. On the elevator you encounter an upperclassmen who isn’t directly assigned to give you packets or point you in the right direction. Timidly, you introduce yourself. Your greeting is rebuffed by a short hello and an awkward silence for the rest of the overly slow elevator ride.

Undaunted, you decide to search out food as your stomach growls. You remember seeing food in the Student Center. You grab what looks like good food in Lobdell and progress to search out a place to eat it. You quickly spot an upperclassmen sitting at a nearby table. Surely this person will be more friendly than the last. As soon as you introduce yourself, she gets up to leave, so you eat your meal alone.

After lunch, your stomach is turning, and you can’t be sure whether it is from the lack of company or the food. Wary of any further interaction, you slink back to your room assignment to begin memorizing the course numbers (maybe then you will fit in) and await the arrival of your temporary roommates.

This is the greeting that awaits many freshmen as they arrive at MIT. Many are lucky enough to mostly run into non-affiliates, but others, such as the girls in McCormick, will be surrounded by people who cannot talk to them. Many freshmen are not even told about the silence rule until days after they come to MIT. Thus, many are left with a bad taste in their mouth toward FSILGs before Rush has even begun.

The official rule is that no member of a fraternity or independent living group can engage in conversation with any potential rushee. The Panhellenic Association rules have recently changed to allow social contact with freshmen, but many upperclassmen are not aware of these changes. Therefore, fraternities cannot talk to freshmen males, sororities do not talk to freshmen females, and independent living groups can talk to no freshmen. The consequences of infringements range from fines to punishments which restrict a house’s ability to rush. This speaking restriction extends from the Friday before orientation (when all the pre-orientation programs begin) to Killian Kickoff.

Many freshmen are eager to contact people who they know from high school as soon as they arrive on campus. Finding these people provides a small safety net or comfort zone in a strange and daunting environment. However, if a freshmen spots an old buddy who happens to be a member of an FSILG, instead of the warm greeting she was expecting, she is greeted with a quick hello, and her old friend is often gone before the bewildered freshmen even knows what has happened.

An older sibling cannot even give a campus tour to his or her little brother or sister coming to MIT. If the freshman had planned on staying with their sibling before they are allowed to move into their temp housing, tough luck.

This can even affect non-affiliates around campus as we try to be friendly and work with the people around us. On an elevator in the student center, I asked a group of people carrying large objects what they were doing. Everyone just stood there silently, looking desperately for someone else to answer, until I announced, quite flabbergasted, that I was not a freshman.

Roaming the campus, I found many affiliates who were annoyed and frustrated by this rule. They felt it was silly and unnecessary. However, each of the affiliates I talked to was in such fear of reprimand to their respective houses that they would not permit even a simple quote in this paper.

I encourage all who are not affiliated to reach out and explain what is going on to the bewildered freshmen. I encourage those who are affiliated to fight stupidity through whatever channels they feel comfortable with. Really, I would like to see a mass disobedience on the part of the fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups. However, I have seen how deeply IFC has placed fear for this rush in them. No one dares risk anything, so nothing changes quickly.

This year is the last year for rush -- or at least rush as we know it. Next year the silence rule will be history. However, who is to say the new rules will be any less ridiculous and encumbering than the current set?