OPINION: Deferred rush can have upsides for freshmen

Shideh Ghandeharizadeh | Daily Trojan

Come fall semester, USC is overrun  with wide-eyed freshmen. But as the school year begins to run its course, these students will not be able to participate in a number of social activities. That is because students are now prohibited from participating in Greek rush until they’ve completed at least 12 units at USC. While this newly effective policy may have detrimental repercussions for Greek organizations, freshmen may now have more opportunities to engage in other facets of campus life during their first semester at USC.

There are some drawbacks to Greek life that are important to note no matter which semester one decides to rush, but that’s not to say all Greek life is bad. Overall, waiting a semester to rush might actually be a good thing.

Most new freshmen have probably just become independent from their parents for the first time. Some are only hours away from home, but others may be multiple time zones away. Regardless of distance, now that they are free of parental supervision, it’s the perfect time for freshmen to reinvent themselves by getting involved in new groups or throwing themselves back into tried-and-true favorites. USC has a plethora of clubs and organizations for anyone to join, and no matter one’s passion, there is probably already an established club for it.

Now is also the time to branch out and meet new people everywhere. The friends you make this way may even be more natural and genuine than the ones made under the semi-forced circumstances perpetuated by rush. That’s not to say Greek relationships are less genuine, just that they result in a different kind of bond. While Greek organizations market themselves as “families” and “homes” and claim spring rush will be a detriment to incoming students’ sense of loneliness, the reality is that friends can really be found anywhere on campus. Further, with rush beginning the first week of the semester, the “grouping-off” or alienation of those in different houses or those who are unaffiliated becomes apparent very quickly. With an extra semester to lay down roots and make other friends before rushing, one is likely to have a community of individuals who cares about them across all reaches of campus if and when they do decide to rush.    

While at USC, one’s primary goal should be to be a student. The intensity of rushing while adjusting to a new academic schedule can be a harmful hindrance to one’s college transition. Having a freed-up first semester to work on one’s scheduling and academic workload is more important than most people think. Learning how to prioritize and still make time for the fun things will be vital later on in life. Sure, one might not get this practice down to a tee by the end of their first semester, but they may have a good enough grasp of it to take on the time commitment of rushing in subsequent semesters.

One might even reconsider rushing at all. While Greek life isn’t inherently tainted, there are many negative aspects to think about before heading down to 28th  Street. The first thing to be wary of before going to any fraternity party is that while they are “pro-consent” organizations, Greek life is notorious for sexual violence.  At USC, on average, just under 30 percent of women report having been sexually assaulted. Granted, not all of them are associated with the Greek system, but both men and women involved in Greek life are more likely to be involved.

 Another factor in the argument against rushing is the cost. While initiation fees at public universities start as low as $20, initiation at USC can cost up to about $100 at a minimum. With fees commonly reaching $4,000 a semester, Greek life is another indicator of the class divide at this University. While USC may abide by blind admissions when it comes to a family’s financial need, the University still upholds this tradition that puts in stark contrast who is paying full tuition and who isn’t. And while some of our letter-clad classmates mean well or they just really don’t know why anyone wouldn’t rush, making everyone wait a semester gives those same classmates a chance to assimilate with the rest of the student body and get along as if it were the real world.

Lastly, propaganda aside, realistically only about 15 percent of the school’s population actually  successfully rushes and is accepted into a Greek house. In 2010, out of an incoming class of about 8,000, only 1,800 people rushed with only 1,200 receiving a bid. Of course this year will be different, but even given those previous odds, the slim statistic is pretty disappointing. Moreover, the exclusivity those in the system so often tout can only be partly attributed to their own the discriminatory nature of the process. In reality, they should fess up and admit that not that many people are interested in Greek life. The real world isn’t Animal House. By waiting a semester, one can decide if a “family” that is this small and selective is really one they’d like to join.

However, Greek life has its merits. If someone does decide to rush, they will potentially gain lifelong friendships and professional connections. In the meantime, they will have built-in social relationships and plenty of activities to pass their college days. Moreover, and on a very promising note, according to a study by Cornell University, of the approximately two percent of Greek alumni in the U.S., 80 percent have gone on to be Fortune 500 executives, 76 percent serve in Congress and 85 percent became Supreme Court Justices.

Despite all these merits, freshmen should still consider waiting until later semesters to reap the benefits of the Greek system. Ultimately, the University made the healthiest decision for everyone involved, even those not involved.  

A viable alternative to Greek rush is to join a fraternity for special interests such as film, community service and law. These organizations offer many of the same social and professional benefits to their members.

But with regard to Greek rush, the University has already spoken — and its decision is a good one. Freshmen will now be able to take extra time to find themselves, their friends and their independence before deciding which Greek letters to don, if any, instead of feeling swept into the system from day one. Thus when freshmen do rush it will be on their own volition and they will have adapted enough to college life to be prepared to take on the extra challenges of rushing and (if they’re lucky) pledging.