Wide-eyed with naïveté, the first-year girls toil away to create the sought-after, flawless sundress-and-slingbacks combination. Choruses of “Does this skirt make my butt look big?” ring throughout the residence halls. These newly minted 18-year-olds painstakingly experiment with every detail right down to the flavor of their lip gloss, all in hopes of finding a home to call their own.
Sound like a pack of fastidious Russian mail-order brides? Think again. This is a peek inside sorority recruitment at USC.
There are definite benefits to joining a Greek organization at USC, such as the opportunity to make friends, network and participate in community service. But, often these positive characteristics are overshadowed by the overwhelming and emotionally damaging process of recruitment.
Greek recruitment, known nationwide as “rush,” is an archaic process based on superficial standards that often requires students to put themselves at risk as a part of dangerous “group bonding” activities.
Regardless of the fact that Greek life is a long-standing tradition at USC that contributes to the campus experience in many beneficial ways, the Greeks have received abundant censure from university officials, parents and students alike in recent years because of questionable recruitment and pledge-period traditions.
In order to strengthen USC’s Greek system and restore its respected position on campus, recruitment must be reformed. Making changes by standardizing a less superficial recruitment process and cracking down on frightening practices such as alcohol hazing, will be for the betterment of our campus as well as the psychological and physical health of our undergraduate population.
For the women on campus, sorority recruitment is an emotional disaster. It is almost as if the Panhellenic Council used a research squad to discover when the most women on campus would be menstruating so as to inflict as much pain as possible by also scheduling sorority recruitment the same week.
The Janes are told what to wear by Panhellenic, which encourages the gals with such pearls of wisdom as, “Wear a nice dress — such as one you might wear to an afternoon wedding,” based on which day of the circus is taking place.
Dressing to impress is key, because when the unsuspecting girls arrive — eager to enter the promised land of “sisterhood and character development” — it is undisputed among the ten houses that physical presentation is a key component when deciding which girls will receive bids to join a sorority.
The process is different for men, but the dangers of emotional damage posed for the women are replaced by life-threatening physical concerns.
During the men’s pledge period, hopeful members are often forced to chug unhealthy amounts of alcohol while completing exhausting weight-lifting exercises, be at the beckon call of active brothers to complete humiliating tasks and essentially quit all academic and personal pursuits that might rank higher in importance than the fraternity.
In Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, author Hank Nuwer notes that during 2008 alone, six students in the United States were victims of hazing-related deaths. It is imperative that USC’s Greek organizations revamp their halfhearted efforts to abolish hazing before the same tragic fate befalls a member of the Trojan Family.
These alarming possibilities were presented to the primarily freshmen boys on Aug. 23 and to the girls on Aug. 26, their respective first days of recruitment. Ultimately though, one week is not an adequate amount of time for these young students to adjust to the foreign aspects of college life before beginning a process such as Greek recruitment that so critically evaluates individuals. The harsh realities of rush would best be saved for another time, after students have become accustomed to life on campus and developed stronger senses of self-awareness and confidence that have become necessary to survive USC’s rush process.
Many colleges have seen the merits of these ideas and mandated that Greek recruitment be moved to the beginning of spring semester. At these schools, students who choose to rush return from winter break one week early so that recruitment can take place during a time free from the added stresses of a new school environment and new classes. At the very least, USC Greek life should follow suit by transferring Greek recruitment to the spring to allow for a healthy transition into college life that is void of the judgmental and emotionally draining time that is recruitment week.
In the meantime, Greek recruitment has officially ended as of Sunday evening’s Bid Night. We can only hope that this year’s crop of inductees were satisfied with their experiences, but — until recruitment undergoes major renovations — the USC community continues to await a revised process that is fair and beneficial to the health of our students.
Kelsey Clark is a sophomore majoring in chemistry. She is a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority.