It’s May at Stanford, and Greek life has taken over the spring calendar. Pledge retreats at country homes. Special dinners. Digging moats at three in the morning.
I’ve never been fond of fraternities at universities: too many stories abound of alcohol poisoning, hazing and even death. And sure, alcohol and hazing exist here, but if there’s one Greek system that I feel does a pretty good job, it’s the one here at Stanford.
It’s not perfect, of course. There was an awful lot of heartbreak a month ago when sorority rush ended — many smiled broadly, announced what sorority they were a part of at brunch, and you could just tell they were dying a little inside. The same can probably be said for fraternities, though I witnessed a lot less of it because Sigma Chi tapped Burbank’s entire third floor.
But a lot of it has worked out since then. Some sorority sisters I talked to admit that they weren’t too thrilled at first with their new families, but more for lack of information than anything else — they’ve found camaraderie and great pledge peers in their current classes. Near-miss fraternity rejects have gotten over their “we-like-you-but-not-enough” messages.
But it’s not always rainbows and lollipops. Some aren’t happy with their pledge classes, or even with the system. And considering they’re going to be (and already are) surrounded by those people for a year, the best they’re doing is grinning and bearing it.
Fitting, because that seems to be what a lot of rushees I know did during their entire rush process — “man flirting,” you could say. “It was just so shallow,” one told me. “I’m so into this, that’s so cool, so nice to see you!” It seemed like even the most prideful of men were willing to — for a couple weeks at least — parade themselves and their talents in front of a panel of upperclassmen.
And the looks on prospective sorority sisters’ faces when they would come back from their events! Clutching their blistered ankles, rasping to me in hoarse voices. “We were in there for hours!” one complained, describing a social scene where women were supposed to sell themselves over loud music.
And I will spare you the horror of being with rushees at the Stanford Shopping Center, searching desperately for a sundress for a “rush event” the next day. As if shopping weren’t stressful enough.
It’s kind of a shame, really, if it’s true that lots of current pledges had to sell themselves in order to gain entry into a social club. It would be an even greater shame if they had to be someone they’re not — after all, it’s kind of hard to fake it for a full year, around people you will be forced to live with.
Of course, this is all hearsay, because I never bothered to look at the fraternity scene, partially because of the stigma of “Animal House” and a couple damning Rolling Stone articles.
But again, while it’s not perfect, Stanford does do a pretty good job. People seem by and large happy. There’s a lot of PDA on Facebook, on the sidewalks in front of our dorm and at parties. “Sister” and “brother” have become major parts of students’ identities in non-biological ways.
It sometimes makes me regret not giving Greek life a shot.
But then again, how many of our new happy Greek families are just grinning and bearing it?
Want to do some man flirting with Ed? Send him an email at edngai “at” stanford “dot” edu.