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October 21, 1979 - Image 16

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The Michigan Daily, 1979-10-21
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Page 4-Sunday, October 21, 1979-The Michigan Daily

IThe Michigan Daily-Sunday, t

Sorority girls: Rush


social approval

By Amy Saltzman


I walked home alone that night, after a mandatory
meeting at the Michigan Union. Rush had been mentally
and physically grueling. I thought I would never smile
again. My gums ached from the sugary lemonade. My hair
was plastered to my head. My feet burned. I had to go to the
Tomorrow night we would visit ten more houses.
It was difficult to get more than a superficial view of the
individual houses during the first two nights. As we left the
glowing, white-pillared Kappa house 'on Hill St., the
"sisters" formed two parallel lines creating a long win-
ding aisle onto the lawn. Each rushee self-consciously
walked down the aisle as the brightly smiling Kappas
waved good-bye. "Are they real?" one girl remarked as she
emerged from the myriad of toothy girls and flapping han-
ds. "I'd just like to see one of them get a pimple," said
another rushee.
-But as we continued our travels from house to house,
some substantial charzicteristics of the general system
became evident. Most notably, the system appeared to be
entirely white.
According to officials of the Panhellenic Association, a
national organization which represents the 16 sororities on
campus, there are a few blacks now in sororities, and two or

three black women did go through rush this year. But no of
forts have been made to attract blacks, National Panhelleni
Conference area advisor Jackie Messmer said. "When yoi
take a person and put him in a category, you are discrimin
ting. Everyone should be judged for themselves, not whi
they are, what they are, or where they're from," sai
There are three black sororities on campus, but none o
them have houses, and all have chosen to remain separatf
from the larger white system. Panhellenic Advisor Marv
Beth Seiler said association officials have met witI
representatives from these sororities in an effort to gei
them involved with the rest of the Greek system on campus
but she said they "expressed little interest." Panehellenic
President Susan Clark added, "I don't know how much ef
fort we will make this year. I don't want to pester them:
they obviously aren't interested."
UT IT IS THE racial, as well as the religious
and sexual segregation, that marks the Greek
system on this campus and at others. The
system is inherently a contrived social environ-
men .articipants on both sides of rush admit that per-
sonal appearance and social style are the primary charac-

Daily Photo by LISA UDELSON

0Editor- Nnote: Daily-reporter Amoy Sulr nan spent one night in Septeinher as a
member of a sorority rush group. Ihis is her report on thut nithand the rest uf
fallf sorority rush. The gir/s identified yfirst/ name n re quete,,,. miy.
USH. NO ONE seems to know how the word
originated or exactly what it stands for, but
most agree that it characterizes the hurried,
blatantly superficial process of joining a soror-
i y. or wo weeks in September, hundreds of rushees and
sorority sisters try to get to know each other as quickly as
possible. Each side whittles away at the other, looking for
the perfect match. Their tool is a string of up to 30 short par-
Most rushees, sorority members, and Panhellenic of-
ficers share an acceptance of this process, which is called
"Formal Rush." They readily admit the faults of the
system, but in the same breath contend that rush is the only
Sept. 13 was a Thursday and the first day of this fall's
sorority rush. Six hundred girls crowded the stuffy
Michigan League Ballroom, standing in packs, mingling
self-consciously, fanning themselves in vain with neatly
manicured hands. Some of the girls appeared ner-
vous-their make-up was a little too thick, their outfits a bit
too contrived, their heels a shade too high.
A barrage of presidents, chairwomen, representatives,
advisors, and alumni began taking turns at the podium.
They explained and re-explained the rush process. The
quirks in the system were acknowledged, but the presen-
tations usually ended with a corny pep talk. "When you
meet friends in a sorority, they're your friends for life," one
sorority veteran told the eager girls. Then the rush groups
were herded off into the damp September evening. The
rushees were divided into groups according to current
housing-one group for each dorm, and one for those living
off campus. We spilled onto N. University Ave. in packs of
up to 60, headed for the first mixer at Alpha Chi Omega.
When we arrived the girls were lined up at the door,
looking anxious to meet the evening's first rush group. "Hi,
Amy," one girl said, glancing at my name tag. She lead me
to the green-carpeted living room, where we sat on the
floor, munching celery and vegetable dip and exchanging
small talk: "Where are you from? What's your major?
Where do you live? What year are you in? What are your
hobbies? What activities are you in?" When it was time for
this sorority sister to quiz another rushee, Sharon moved in
with the same set of questions. She was followed by Shelley,
then Lisa, both equipped with virtually the identical
The stock questions were repeated throughout the two
nights of 20-minute mixers. This summer, using a new
computer system, sororities signed up 703 girls to go
through rush. Six hundred of them showed up at the mass
meeting, and eventually 548 attended the first round of par-
ties. As rush continues, the number of houses a girl visits
diminishes through mutual elimination and the parties
become longer and more extravagant, culminating in 45-
minute parties and either pledges or rejections. The rushees
choose or prefernce" a house-indeed, sorority housestgo
to lengths to attract potential pledges-but in the end, the
house must accept the girl. If a preferred houses passes
Amya man i sfatures editor of the Daily.

over a hopeful rushee, the result is bound to be hurt and
Each girl has specific reasons that prompt her to risk
that potential rejection. Laurie is a senior who lives in
Alpha Chi Omega. We talked just before my rush group left
that house, and she reminisced about her own decision to
join a sorority. "I wanted to have roots," she explained. At
the time, her friends at East Quad couldn't understand why
she rushed. In East Quad, Laurie added, "most people are
very anti-Greek." She said she cried every day.
Laurie's desire for roots is a common and understandable
one. Rushees are usually freshwomen or sophomores who
have not yet found a niche in the complex and often imper-
sonal University community. For the most part, girls who
rush describe their social lives as "stagnating," "dull," or
"lonely." They are searching for something outside their
dorms, classes, and apartments. Sororities are a readily
available alternative.
.Before Laurie and I had a chance to finish our conver-
sation, the rush group was off to another house. Outside, the
humid September air had turned into a steady drizzle. As
we crowded under several umbrellas, our group of some 37
rushees already appeared to be dividing into factions. One
group seemed confident and aloof-one of them had men-
tioned at the outset that she planned to join Kappa Kappa
Gamma, generally considered one of the most exclusive
sororities. In contrast was a group of shy and awkward
rushees who literally clung together under one huge blue
umbrella. Then there were the "moderates," a set of
modestly dressed girls who seemed slightly amused, but
realistic, about rush. It seemed to them like a good way to
meet people. Finally there was a motley assortment of in-
dependents: A girl who had to be home by 9 p.m., under
threat of parental punishment; a transfer student who
thought the whole thing was stupid and was certain she
wouldn't get into a house; another girl who was rushing
only under pressure from her mother and sister; and an
undercover Daily reporter.
As the evening dragged on, the plush, colorful
houses-the scarlets and olive greens, the light blues and
golds, the wine reds and silver blues-became a blur. The
conversation was banal, the lemonade always too sweet. At
each house we were greeted by smiling girls proudly waling
their sorority song for the fourth, fifth, or sixth time that
evening. And at each house we trailed into the living room
for more lemonade and chatter.
A scattered few of the sororities made attempts to be dif-
ferent. The girls at Alpha Epsilon Phi, one of two primarily
Jewish houses on campus, dressed as ushers. They offered
us popcorn and licorice, and showed a movie of their house
By the time we visited the last houses, however, most of
us were drained and not easily impressed. We were soggy-
from the rain, our feet ached, and, worst of all, the pink
lemonade had run its course. We all had to go to the
bathroom. But no one wanted to take out the time necessary
to empty her bladder. "I didn't want to spend five minutes
going to the bathroom when I only had 20," one girl ex-
claimed. As we stood in the rain outside the sixth and final
sorority of the evening, one tired rushee declared "Ldon't
care if my hair is wet. I'll just have to impress them with
my personality."

c %.
teristics used to judge rushees. It is possible, then, for some
girls to interpret rejection to mean they are socially
inadequate. Panhellenic officials counsel the girls who are
not accepted into any sororities, trying to ease any hurt
feelings. "I tell them not to take it personally. It doesn't
mean the house doesn't like you," said Seiler. "It's hard for
girls to buy that-I hate it-but what can you do?"
In spite of the potential hurt and the necessity of playing
along with the system, rush holds an attraction to some 550
girls who attended this year. Sue Robinson, a neophyte
Kappa who I spoke to during the second night of mixers,
said that she still has some reservations about the rush
system and sorority life. But, she added that the hassles are
worth it. "I can't stand it when people say 'Oh, a sorority
girl,' she said. But, unlike many girls she knows, she ex-
plained, she tries not to get "all carried away and worried
about her reputation." Sue shares the predominant
feeling that sororities provides social security. "It's a long,
drawn-out process, but, God, does it give you a social life,"
she said.
The key word is "give." Sororities present social life on a
silver platter-plenty of parties and companionship for any
member who choose it. This built-in security, more than
anything else, drives girls to go through rush and join a
sorority. Once the standards are set, most of those girls are
willing to try-to adhere to them._
As the second evening of mixers wore on, the super-
ficiality of the parties became more evident, and some
rushees grew bored. Searching for alternative ways to
amuse themselves, two girls hastily switched name tags in
the doorway of one house.
While the process of rush was tiring and tedious for us, it
wasn't much easier for the sorority members. "I'm fading
fast. I'm running out of things to say," said Chi Omega
member Margret Speck as she leaned against the wall, her
head drooping. At Delta Gamma, junior Kathy Conley's ex-
pressed a similar view: "Mixers are the worst. They're hard
on everybody. They're grueling." We were at the ninth
house that evening for only 15 minutes, instead of the allot-
ted 20, when the rush chairwoman slowly stood up and said
unenthusiastically, "It was nice having you. I hope you had
a good time."
One sorority member, Julie, still carries a negative at-
titude about rush. Her first experience with rush occurred
more than two years ago, during her first year at the
University. After visiting four houses she dropped out of
mixers and went home crying. "I find it even worse on this
side," she said. "You're stuck in your own house. Hordes of
girls come in, and yo'u have to be sociable, which includes
everything from questions about why they want to join a
sorority to geography games," she said.
The sorority members also spend days just getting ready
for rush. "We worked hours putting together cute skits,
preparing food, and trying to sell ourselves," Julie said.
And this tedious procedure is mandatory for all house
members. "A sure-fire way to loose friends in the house is
not to go to rush and rush meetings," Julie continued. The
few girls who do skip out on rush are fined.
The next step is HASH, which, according to Julie, is like a
"bitch session. . . After each party the girls are instructed
to take notes on anything they can remember about the
rushee. Then, during HASH, the good and bad points of each


rushee are discussed at length, at
person." The atmosphere during
secretive. "You need special pern
any time, even to go to the bathroo:
Rush is open to all freshwom en,
However, since juniors have onl
sorority house, most houses are pic
"A lot of houses are taking junic
frank, they have to display a specie
houses will consider exceptional ju
President Clark. Clark added tha
accepting juniors this year.
Second Sets-a round of 35-minut
Sunday following mixers. The rusl
eight houses this time, and th
them-few people were cut after
that if you got cut after the first ro
the wrong last name, or were too
stein, a sophomore rushee.
UT KAREN expressed ct
competition of the sets
getting that we're getti:
going to be a lot of hur
women who are hoping to be Ka
really going to be blown away."
Even for those girls relatively sa
cuts from only one or two sororitie
sonal rejection. "It's very frustrati
I do wrong that they didn't like?"'
Mesh, who was asked back to six
houses. "Not that I really care. I d
want me, but on the other hand, I k
did I do that they didn't like? The w
For some sorority members, the
side is equally frustrating. "If I ha
wouldn't have gone through witi
moved into her sorority at the begi
Kappa Sue Robinson said her hot
fair." Behind it "there's nothing e
"But we can't tell you how it's done.
According to Panhellenic Advisc
handful" of girls are not asked bat
fourth set, Final Desserts. To make
those who don't receive invitation
call them before the formal bid pic
courages girls who don't fare well
try "Open Rush." Open Rush i
sororities that do not meet the qu
during formal rush. Fraternities us
rather than Formal Rush, to choose
Messmer said the question of reva
never come up to the National I
meetings. "The system works b
reason to change it," she said. "The
done in a limited amount of time.
through rush if she isn't intereste
should try Open Rush,"- Messmer
dislike the system can't imagine a
system and the majority feel that w
haven't come up with a better one."
See RUSH, Pa

Daily Photo by MAUREEN O'MALEY

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