Rush, Sororities and the Stanford Social Puzzle

April 4, 2014, 12:32 a.m.

When I was home for spring break, I was sitting around with two of my closest friends, one of whom is in the same sorority as I am at Colorado, and the other who is not involved in Greek life at all at her small liberal arts school. Offhand, I jokingly mentioned something about one of the initiation traditions for our sorority. To my surprise, this was met with a quick shushing and comment from my sister about how that tradition is “sacred” and should not be spoken of in front of our third friend—a reaction that served to remind me just how different our lives in the same sorority are.

Stanford Greek life is unique from that at other schools. And it should be. In a place where some manifestation of a “work hard, play hard” motto seems to be the mantra for many, the Greek system fits into an existing, diverse and multifaceted social and academic culture, rather than the other way around. I have found that Greek life is one piece in the social puzzle. But, like everything else, it isn’t perfect and the decision to join shouldn’t be made flippantly.

Above all else, I value my experience in the Greek system for the community it has provided me. It’s kind of a strange concept—Bid Day hits and all of a sudden you have 120 people who supposedly have your back just because of a label, but you’ve never met a large portion of them. At the same time, it set a tone, and that kind of enthusiasm and investment (even if initially obligatory) made the ensuing community with those 120 girls stronger in my case.

To be clear, that isn’t to say I’m best friends with everyone; it just means I know everyone cares about me. It means that when I’ve gotten a bad midterm score back, or something is going on at home, I can walk down to our lounge and can trust whoever is there to support me. In the face of a sophomore year that has been far more slump-y than I could have ever imagined, being a part of a group and, in my case, in a house such as this, has made all the difference in my own well-being.

For me, rushing was about finding a group of people who I not only got along with, but who would help me make the most of my Stanford experience and inspire my own personal growth. It would be a vast oversimplification to say that any individual in any chapter is exactly “like” every other member—one reason why sorority stereotypes serve no real purpose. After all, in any group of such a size, there are bound to be a variety of perspectives and experiences. I had never met most of the people in my sorority or even my pledge class before I joined, and being exposed to these perspectives and getting to know those who hold them has changed the way I view my own life—and this extends outside of my particular Greek organization as well. Greek life has reminded me just how amazing the students of Stanford are because it has allowed me to meet so many other people in different chapters, each of whom has their own story to share.

So yes, I’m glad I rushed and I do love being in Greek life, but to be perfectly honest, all of these things I’ve come to love about it can be found in a lot of places. There are a million communities on campus, and everyone has a niche. I also happened to get very lucky in my rush experience, and I know that it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and new perspectives. Perhaps because rush is somewhat exclusive and based on relatively arbitrary terms (as opposed to other exclusive groups on campus that are based on specific qualities for a job, such as tour guiding, RAing or Camp Kesem), there are far too many questions of self-worth that arise from the process. That feeling also leads to some of the common impressions and stereotypes that are thrown around today.

I walked into rush sure that I would drop the sorority that I ended up joining on the first night, based solely on the stereotypes I heard beforehand. And it is for that reason that I encourage people to rush if they’re even just thinking about it. I happened to find a community that was right for me, one that I never would have found if I hadn’t gone through the full rush experience and had gone just based on what I heard, and I think that’s true for many people. Rush is also kind of fun—it’s your job just to talk to people.

But at the same time, it’s easy to forget along the way that only 15 percent of Stanford students are involved in the Greek system. Stanford is not a Southern school and Greek life is not the be-all-end-all. It’s one piece. One evolving piece in a massive, diverse and ever-changing puzzle.

Contact Amanda Brockbank at [email protected].

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