No all-campus parties for two weeks, freshmen plotting how they’re going to take over the Row and girls dressed up at ridiculous hours for reasons none of them can really explain, I think it might be RUSH season. I don’t really care if you RUSH, but if you do, join Kappa Sig.
The totality of my Greek experience was one Theta Delt rush event freshman year, but I’ve often been told that the Band is like a fraternity. If so, then our commonality would stem from a history of the University dicking us over. Back in 2006, when the Class of ’14 were wee ninth graders just learning how to hate mainstream pop and I was a high school senior obsessing over my Stanford application, four band members wrecked a trailer they thought was going to be destroyed. Because some other band members drank a lot at inappropriate times two and three years prior, the University banned us from doing halftime shows and traveling to tournaments. They thought we needed a significant cultural change.
Much in the same way, ResEd, everyone’s favorite Stanford administration, has decided that Kappa Sig must undergo a “significant cultural change” in order to get its house back. Fear these words, bros, for they are the work of the devil. They mean that you are too stupid/incompetent/morally bankrupt to govern yourselves, which is why Mama ResEd needs to step in and tell you how to run your student-run organization while all the time insisting it’s a partnership. I can tell you that the only significant cultural change to come out of the Band’s ordeal is an organization-wide disdain for University administrators.
According to Deborah Golder, Dean of Residential Education, Kappa Sig’s mandated “significant cultural change” is that it needs to go from identifying “just as a group of tight-knit friends” to being a “true fraternity by Stanford’s definition.” That’s stupid and possibly evil. Fraternities and sororities are noxious organizations. They take personal racism/sexism/heterosexism and make it institutional. They formalize the “old boys network” that is responsible for perpetuating much of the economic inequality in America, and they create literal spaces of privilege and entitlement on college campuses. The only redeeming factor is the actual people. The most redeeming part about the Greek system at Stanford is that everyone is smart enough to call out the bullshit parts for what they are and recognize that it’s just a friend group.
But ResEd wants Kappa Sig to downplay the social aspects and see themselves as an organization first, which means wearing more coats and ties to chapter meetings and talking about the frat and the chapter and the importance of leadership in somber tones and doing more community service (even though they already do plenty), or at least that’s what they’ll tell them. In reality, what they want is for them to stop raging and become the type of organization where “nobody’s really into that sort of thing” and looks down on the people that are. Then, they’ll be a model fraternity true to Stanford’s definition. Sacrificing interpersonal bonds for the sake of an impersonal organization at the behest of authority figures, that’s how people perpetuate injustice in a society.
RUSH (always written with caps lock) is a weird process. It’s a formal audition process for making friends, an institutionalization of high school clique mentality. Each arbitrary group of letters carries a distinct personality that you are going to mark yourself with but which, like, totally doesn’t define you. The parent website may talk about promoting kinship or leadership or something like that, but those are just the same buzzwords that reside in corporate mission statements around the world, and what’s more, there is no discernible path for achieving them. Even the Band has teleology; we come together to play music and try to get better at that. The end goal of joining a fraternity/sorority is to be in a fraternity/sorority, which is to say, ResEd, that there is only one true definition of any Greek organization at Stanford or anywhere: the list of people in that Greek organization.
But this year is different, because ResEd made it different. Kappa Sig is not just the roster of its members; it is the frat that “has had patterns of behavior that go beyond what I would call shenanigans…to a level that was dangerous” and that got off easy by not being suspended for four years. Couched in fake benevolence, ResEd is using its authoritarian mission to publicly shame Kappa Sig into being “a true fraternity.” There would be no greater middle finger to ResEd, paternalism and anti-fun authoritarianism than for Kappa Sig to have record numbers of pledges this year. And so, I say to all RUSHing freshmen and sophomores, even the ladies: RUSH K-SIG. For freedom.
Peter McDonald, ‘11