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Clearinghouse Worth Missing

Aditya Kohli

Big Brother has silenced my alarm clock. Most students would be happy to never experience its timely abruptness again. I, on the other hand, yearn for it. I have not heard it since I have been on campus — not because I have been waking up early or because I sleep through it, but because hundreds of MIT fraternity brothers have replaced it. My mornings at MIT thus far have been characterized by loud knocks on my door and incessant phone calls from area codes I did not know existed.

The Clearinghouse tracking database has been reinstituted this year after a four-year hiatus. It is used to keep track of how much time a freshman spends with a particular frat. Freshmen sign in or out when entering or leaving fraternities and their status is subsequently entered into a database open to all fraternities. The most apparent use of Clearinghouse is “camping.” For example, fraternity A wants a particular freshman at one of their rush events. They use the Clearinghouse database to find out he is at fraternity B. Brothers from fraternity A travel to fraternity B and ask to speak to the freshman. The freshman has the option of remaining at house A or going with the new brothers from house B. While seemingly practical, this outdated system fosters uncomfortable situations and compounds unwise rush decisions.

I should not be guilted into leaving a fraternity if a group of brothers camps for me. I have precisely ten minutes, as outlined by Clearinghouse rules, to greet campers, which is not enough time for me to plan out the rest of my day. Once I leave campus with a fraternity I am often gone for six to eight hours. I am barely a freshman; I do not yet have the courage to tell four seniors to leave me alone. I often give into the pressure and depart with the new fraternity. I am not interested in seven steak and lobster dinners or daily paint-balling; I am solely interested in getting to know the brothers and the houses. My experiences are effectively rendered meaningless by impromptu jaunts with fraternities I am not interested in.

As soon as I sign out of one house, I receive a phone call from another. One week is not enough time to decide four years of your life. One week fraught with interruptions and distractions is infinitely worse. There is no time during rush to sit down and think about where you want to pledge; there is no time to even decide whether or not you want to pledge. The Clearinghouse system compounds this paucity of time. I often return to my dorm and find a fraternity-associated van waiting for me. The last thing I want to be doing is spending time somewhere I am not comfortable; unfortunately, I am often pressured into doing just that.

The Clearinghouse system is meant to help freshmen experience a myriad of houses; however, it is more important to understand one house than to superficially experience five. Moreover, camping creates unnecessary tension between rushers and brothers. Freshmen are forced to make a quick decision — one that is rarely prudent. This rushed decision can turn a once healthy relationship with a fraternity sour. I spent a night at fraternity X. Little did I know that they must notify all other fraternities of my “wake up” time, so that the camping can start as soon as I wake up. When I woke up at fraternity X the next morning, I found a group of brothers from fraternity Y standing next to my bed — hardly a comfortable situation. Again, while the notion of getting to know many frats buttresses the apparent value of Clearinghouse, the familiarization process should not be forced on freshmen but rather left to personal interest.

The system is obsolete. If a brother wants to contact me he can call me at any time on my cell phone. If he does not have my cell phone number, he does not have it for a reason. There is no need for him to arrive unbeknownst to my dorm room or another fraternity. I should be able to decide where I want to go at what time; there is a reason fraternities print rush schedules. I did not come to college to be stalked. I do not have a whistle on my key chain. I rushed to find my niche at this school; I rushed for purpose. Clearinghouse has made my purpose during rush to avoid sketchy frat guys. Big Brother has arrived in all his glory.

Aditya Kohli is a member of the Class of 2009.