I was a freshman once. Escaping my hometown of Tampa, Florida, I went to MIT, leaving my family and high school friends behind. I was an unattached soul, with no group to call my own. Faced with the fear of being alone and unsupported, I was easily tempted by the promises of Sorority Recruitment.
At the Greek Griller, the sisters gathered on the Kresge lawn, their tables sedate compared to the purple-suited brothers of tEP squirting lukewarm chocolate pudding into frosh mouths. Come to the sorority side, the girls said, we have cookies.
Like many other freshwomen, I signed up, my curiosity piqued. We were led to an auditorium, where the sisters extolled the many benefits of sorority life: philanthropic events, academic support, and a sisterhood of lifelong friends. Each incoming member would be assigned a “big sister” to help you adjust to sorority and MIT life, all for eight easy payments of $399.
Sorority recruitment includes a series of “parties,” for a liberal definition of the word party. That first day, they marched us around the student center to each sorority’s room. The sisters greeted us with singing, clapping, and smiles, too wide to be natural. After an introduction of each sorority, us potential new members were shuffled from sister to sister, talking about why they had joined, what the benefits were, what made their sorority special, and so on. Instead of loud bass and strong drinks, the rooms were filled with the murmur of 50 women wetting their whistles with lemonade. There were six sororities in total, and by the end, I was exhausted.
The second day’s morning, we all regrouped in the Lobdell dining area, while they showed the chick flick She’s the Man. I have particular tastes, and watching the movie was not unlike having rats clawing on the inside of my skull. After that experience, we were broken into groups and shuttled from sorority house to sorority house. We were set to work gluing photos and drawing pictures as “philanthropic activities,” really an excuse for another set of “parties.” I knew that the product of the arts-and-crafts we were doing was not as important as impressing the sorority girls, but I could not help putting some artistic effort into drawing a rocket ship on a book plate, to balance out the estrogen levels of the other pictures.
Some of the sorority houses did impress me with their lush wooden paneling and course bibles, but others had an overpowering scent of shampoo and perfume. I was told that quads were popular among senior sisters who had made close friends, but I could not imagine willingly living in a room with three other people. When were they going to masturbate?
At the conclusion of that day, we were left in Boston, without dinner. I thought fondly of the lobster dinners I could have been eating at fraternity rush. This was the point in which I should have realized I didn’t want to continue, but I yet had a perverse perseverance, driven by the desperation to find an in-group.
At that point, I chose my top four sororities, of which, only one chose me back. I was happy to only have one “party” on the third day, even though it meant my chances of being in a sorority were dangling by a thread. Somehow, I was still not convinced that a sorority was right for me.
That waffling led ultimately to me being denied an invitation to return for the fourth day. I was never so happy to be rejected in my life. I think my Panhellenic Recruitment Counselor was more sorry for me than I was sorry for myself.
The sorority recruitment process is designed to weed out those who would not fit into a sorority, like me. I admit that my reasons for trying to join a sorority in the first place were quite selfish. I wanted the social and academic support that being in an organization would bring me, without necessarily wanting to contribute in return.
Sorority recruitment has changed since I went through it two years ago. I hear they actually feed you now. Maybe they don’t show you pop movies anymore. Yet, the core structure remains.
As a freshman, lonesome and pining for a group to call your own, it’s easy to grasp for any opportunity to belong. Unlike high school, MIT is large enough to support many subcultures, and you should never feel pressured to join a specific group if you don’t connect to the members. There will certainly be opportunities to make friends, if you get out there and find the people you like.
Oh, the epilogue to this tale? After three hungry days, I went to the place I knew that had free food, a certain independent living group. I joined their meal plan, and have been a fixture of their community ever since.