Is Greek Life a Social Necessity?
This year’s rush numbers hint at a larger campus theme in play.
Given the somewhat desolate social scene at Furman, is it inevitable that Greek Life appears as a social lifeline to freshmen?
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Furman freshmen undergo several “rites of passage” during their first months on campus. While most of these events rarely make a lasting impression, one such experience tends to leave an indelible mark on a new student’s psyche—their first Saturday football tailgate.
For freshman girls, this event is branding. After dressing in fashionable clothes and blister-inducing shoes, newly formed friend groups excitedly scurry down to the circle outside the football stadium only to wander aimlessly about once there, struck by the realization that freshmen have nowhere to go. For as far as the eye can see, Greek symbols dominate the landscape.
Nearly every student can picture it: the mall is lined with Greek tents, everyone wears Greek buttons, people are gathered according to their Greek identification and outsiders are few and far between. This combination of stimuli, coupled with the inherent unease one feels being an underage newcomer at such events, serves to sear in freshmen’s minds a single lesson: the primary way to socially thrive at Furman is to go Greek.
This ritualistic trip reveals Greek life to be a, or perhaps the, dominating social force on a campus known for being less-than-stellar in terms of weekend entertainment. Thus, freshmen are struck by a daunting, albeit somewhat ill-founded realization: go Greek and socially thrive or abstain from recruitment and face uneventful Saturday afternoons. Knowing this, can one really argue that it is the service aspects of sororities that compel girls to join?
Tailgates are not the only events that give off this air of importance. Pop-ins have almost an equivalent impact. The events feature sorority girls clad in matching T-shirts smiling and milling about, undeniably giving off the impression that finding best friends is a pre-destiny should one join a sorority. Homecoming floats, functions, heck, even intramurals help solidify the idea that going Greek is practically a social necessity.
Yet this year, those events were non-existent—Greek life was stripped of almost all social excursions, thereby losing countless opportunities to flex its prowess for freshmen to witness. And interestingly enough, rush numbers this winter were almost half that of a normal year.
A disclaimer is necessary here, as yield could have varied as a result of other factors. Virtual rush could have scared freshmen or, perhaps, less freshmen met fellow students involved in Greek life and were subsequently less inclined to rush. However, I think the above-mentioned observation is one too truthful to ignore—fewer Potential New Members rushed because less felt like abstaining from Greek life would socially ruin them.
On the one hand, this trend could be seen as beneficial. The girls who rushed this year were inclined to do so for reasons other than the typical ones of survival, which in turn could strengthen aspects of sororities. 2021 pledge classes could be more involved and passionate about the philanthropic or sisterhood sides of the groups, rather than mildly interested in the organizations solely for the reasons many rushed in years past.
On the other hand, the small rush class this year hints that Furman’s delayed rush is problematic. Delayed rush has long been a controversial topic. While some promote that it allows freshman to get their bearings before opting into recruitment, others have pointed out what I alluded to above—waiting only sways freshmen into thinking Greek life is a necessity on campus. Not to mention the other glaring drawback of second semester rush; dirty rushing is a real possibility in the five months supposedly considered a “safe haven” for PNMs.
Surely not all freshmen feel the social pressures as described above. Not all freshmen rush, so the sentiment is hardly ubiquitous. But the relationship between rush numbers and fall social events is interesting enough to warrant some serious discussion, whether it be by those at Panhellenic or even sisters within organizations. Should Furman’s rush schedule be rethought? Do other social organizations need to challenge the monopoly of Greek life? Or is this sentiment rather a natural phenomenon on Furman’s campus, a status-quo not to be challenged or brought to light?
Being in a sorority can produce feelings like no other. Sisterhood has brought me a sense of belonging, friendship and solidarity. However, the choice to rush should not be one made from desperation or obligation. Right now, it seems like the Greek system is set up to make it so.