Sorority ruch: Singing, eating and polite conversation, all for sisterhood

The University of Washington Student Newspaper Tuesday, September 3, 1996

Letters to the Editor

Sorority ruch: Singing, eating and polite conversation, all for sisterhood Heather Dimbat Daily Staff

Every September swarms of sorority women cram themselves into doorways, chanting and clapping while herds of impeccably groomed rushees stand speechless on the sidewalks between 17th and 22nd Streets NE.Sorority formal rush remains a mystery to those who have never experienced it. People passing by can't help but gawk when, at a precise moment, 16 doors fly open and 60 to 70 sorority members behind each one start singing and swaying in unison.THE PROCESS:Exactly why a young woman would subject herself to this one-week emotional roller coaster ride is beyond the imaginations of those who avoid joining Greek organizations. Yet, according to Barb Probst, UW Panhellenic adviser, the process works amazingly well."There are enough spots open in the 16 sororities to take every rushee," Probst said. "There is a place for them somewhere, provided they keep an open mind."Probst said formal rush is a mutual selection process where both sorority and rushee decide what happens next. There are four rounds of parties: first period (rushee visits all 16 houses), second period (rushee visits 12 houses), third period (six houses) and preference (three houses). After each round of parties, sorority members gather to invite those candidates back whom they feel best represent the qualities they're looking for in a pledge.Rushees then accept invitations in their meeting sections the following day and return to the maximum number of houses allowed for the next round.During the actual parties, rushees meet several sorority members. Members have practiced a system of rotation, allowing them to meet as many rushees as possible; many sororities begin practicing in early spring at house workshops, and all of them have an intense "work week" right before rush week, in which they polish their conversational skills and their routine for meeting rushees.Entertainment or a house tour is provided, "a welcome break from all the talking," according to Dana Beard, a senior Panhellenic's rush chair, whose house identity cannot be revealedPanhellenic council members remain anonymous during rush week so they can offer rushees unbiased rush counseling.Food is provided at each house's preference party. Rushees and sorority members will have eaten three mini-meals in three hours that day.This year rush will occur September 16 to 23.And what about those door chants? They occur at the beginning and end of some parties to build excitement, perhaps even a bit of comic relief.NO-FRILLS THESE DAYSIt's true that sorority rush once incorporated massive amounts of money to create impressive rush parties. Spending money on lavish costumes, intricate stages, fancy drinks and expensive house decorations were once high priority. Sorority members of the past spent a good deal of time at rush parties putting on a show, rather than becoming acquainted with their audience, and Probst said some sororities in the southern states still rush this way. The National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), the governing body of the 26 national sororities existing in the U.S., attempted to stop the practice six years ago. The 1990 NPC Rush Resolution called for college campuses around the nation to put caps on rush spending and devote less time to entertaining rushees from a stage and more time talking to them."The UW has completely complied with the implementation of the Rush Resolution," Probst said, "and it has helped rush a lot. We've seen fewer rushees drop out of rush, and rush numbers have steadily climbed in the last few years."UW sororities are only allowed one theme party, which occurs third period. Here they may use a plain stage and hand-held props. Members can wear costumes if they choose.A SUCCESSFUL RUSHEE Nicole Rusinovich, sophomore member of Kappa Delta, is from Astoria, a small town on the Oregon coast, where, she says, few people have heard of the Greek system. Rusinovich said she was no exception. She walked into rush with no concept of what the sororities are really like."My image of a sorority girl was that of a tan, anorexic snob who shops every day - definitely not me," she said. "After staying in the dorms at freshman orientation, though, I decided to try it out anyway."At first I was really scared. Everyone was fixed up, so I thought it was strictly based on appearance. I had to remind myself that, by nature, formal rush is a created situation and first impressions are lasting. I'm actually still friends with a lot of people I met during rush week. We were all in the same boat."It's funny, though," she added. "My impressions of the people in my house and their impressions of me are so different now. We can all be ourselves and everyone's accepted for who they are."INDIVIDUALS VS. MOB MENTALITYA constant concern among college women pondering rush is the possibility of losing their individualism and/or identity should they join a sorority. Rusinovich certainly considered this before she signed up for rush."I didn't decide until halfway through the summer before my freshman year to rush," said Rusinovich, who wasn't impressed with the dorms. "I heard stories that sororities do certain things, like slap a $70 fine on you if you skip a social function. I didn't want to follow any rules either, especially since I was finally able to leave my parents' house."Rusinovich said the guidelines at Kappa Delta are simple, though, and she doesn't mind complying with them. Even functions deemed mandatory are excusable if she has to work, be with her family or study."The house is very flexible on such issues," she said.Probst said Panhellenic strongly encourages membership diversity. She said most sororities do an excellent job of rushing diverse pledge classes on their own, and it's rarely an issue."Everyone does what they want in my house," Beard said. "Lots of girls volunteer, tutor, do sports or participate in religious groups."Rusinovich said she was worried she'd have to be best friends with 100 girls."I found it to be like high school, though. You gravitate toward a few people with similar interests. There are people in the house from every part of the state and beyond, from all different backgrounds, yet you still have certain things in common."Rusinovich added everyone in her house is treated equally, freshmen through seniors, and her opinions count just as much as do those of a veteran member."Sometimes I forget that some of my best friends are two years older than me," she said. "In high school I was never close to upperclassmen."INFORMAL RUSHInformal rush has traditionally been reserved for UW fraternities, but recently it has become a common practice in the sororities, too. If a sorority's total active membership is below 95, it's eligible to use Continuous Open Bidding (COB).Probst said UW sororities pledged more than 60 women through COB last year. Generally, interested members sign up through the Panhellenic office, HUB 304G, and sorority rush chairmen are given a list. Sororities invite informal rushees to functions, such as sorority-fraternity mixers, or invite them to coffee or dinner.Informal rushees are given bids to join houses directly, in person or over the phone."It's a wonderful program for anyone who didn't go through formal rush or who dropped out for whatever reason," Probst said.The formal rush process has certainly simplified in the '90s. Rusinovich said UW sorority members have tried for years to dispel the negative stereotypical reputations some of their older sisters earned for them.With everything toning down, rushees can confidently embark upon formal rush week with little or no fear.Sorority rush this September will take another generation of young women into the Greek system. Their choices made, they leave a portion of their old lives behind and move into a world that will become an integral part of their college careers and beyond.Next year, they will be the ones to give the parties, greet the rushees and welcome another group.

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