Getting Ready for Rush

Author: Christine Uyemera, SEAS ’13

Despite what the movies,  Legally Blonde and House Bunny might make you think, sororities are not all fun and games.  It takes a lot of hard work to keep an organization alive and vibrant for 150+ years. At the heart of that vibrancy are the influx of new members each year. Sorority rush, or “recruitment,” as we’re supposed to call it, is a crazy process that takes place for Penn at the very beginning of every spring semester. For four days of business casual and one day of formal attire, 500+ mostly freshmen or transfer students line up in the cold/rain/snow at each of the eight sorority houses and go through a speed dating process of girl flirting, where they are meant to make an impression in the 30/45/60 minutes they have. It’s pretty brutal on some people- many drop out and tears are shed – but, in the end, most participants find a place that is right for them.

Legally Blonde--the Hollywood version of sororites.

However, even crazier than recruitment itself is the behind the scenes preparation and processes that the current members of the sorority sisters go through. Sisters have to come back to school somewhere between four days and a week before classes start to begin workshops on how recruitment is going to be done at their house.

This was the schedule that my recruitment chair sent to us over our winter break for workshops and recruitment:

Workshops:

Day 1:  10 AM – 4 PM

Day 2:  9 AM – 2 PM

Day 3:  12  – 7 PM

Day 4:  2 -4 PM

Recruitment:

Days 1 and 2:  5 – 11:30 PM

Day 3:  9 AM – 6:30 PM

Day 4:  12 – 8 PM

Day 5:   6 – 11 PM

Bid Day: 7:30 PM onward

For fun, I totaled the time (not including Bid Day which has no end time indicated…) and that’s over 55 hours in about a week and a half dedicated to recruitment.Suddenly, I felt like I should be getting paid time and a half, not including the emotional damage I endured from missing meal times and NFL playoff games.

However, there is, in fact, a lot that needs to be done. In addition to the song-learning and decorating, figuring out how to move 40-60 girls at a time through a thin Philly townhouse that are built for 18 residents, and introduce them to some meaningful subset of girls  (about 130) is no trivial matter. There are processes, lists, numbers, strategies, formulas.

I remember when I went through recruitment, every other girl told me that our Panhellenic Council and all the sororities have it “down to a science,” and I always laughed because everyone knows sorority girls don’t do science  (I’m kidding, of course we do!). But I was so wrong.  Behind the scenes, it’s much harder to arrange it all than it looks.

So, at the beginning of second semester while everyone else is dropping in and out of all their classes, partying and just generally taking advantage of the fact that school hasn’t really started yet, sorority girls are hard at work trying to find young women that will be the future of their organization and help the chapter to prosper. Or something.

The Penn version. Rho Gammas, or recruitment guides, hand out calling cards and information packets to potential new members at the start of formal sorority recruitment, from The DP, January, 2011.

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