Sep 4, 2008
The Other Side of Fraternities
Posted in: Life & Culture
I know that the instant I saved this entry as a draft and it showed up as a pencil on the Entries page it was probably red-flagged by half a dozen people. Their brains probably went "NOOOO! Snively's going to bring the wrath of higher-ups raining down on the admissions office again! He doesn't possess the self-control to write honestly about a sensitive subject without stepping half the Institvte's toes!"
Here's the deal. I'm going to be honest. BUT, I'm also going to try really hard to not make everybody mad at me. If, while reading this, you find yourself
b) Scared about repercussions
c) A member of the MIT faculty
d) Tempted to e-mail Matt McGann and complain
I urge you instead to just e-mail me at snively [at] mit [dot] edu and we'll discuss content and I'll go ahead and make changes as needed.
Ok, so, now onto content. For the last week, fraternities have been actively recruiting new pledges during "Rush," a chance for new freshmen guys to get a chance to meet as many fraternity members as possible and decide whether or not they'd like to live in a fraternity. It's also a wonderful excuse to go paintballing, F1 racing, eat the obligatory steak and lobster, and throw golf balls attached to some string at a horizontal piece of PVC.
At the end of Rush the fraternities make bids and invite freshmen to join their fraternities. The statistics say that 50% of freshmen guys are members of fraternities. The statistics don't say that nearly every freshmen male participates in Rush. This is totally expected. In fact, if you don't do any Rush as a freshman then YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG! But, when all of the guys Rush and only approximately 50% get bids (maybe a bit more, accounting for multiple bids to the same person and people refusing bids), you're left with maybe a little less than 50% who don't get bids. These are the ones you don't often hear about. What happens to them?
Paul's actually not the one to talk about this, because Paul did get a bid and consequently did join a fraternity.
@mom'13, who asked
Hi Snively, unrelated question, but wanted to know a bit about fraternities...how many boys choose not to join one and what do they miss out on. How many get rejected by fraternities and what happens then?
There are couple of things I want to touch on when answering your question. The first is that it's really frustrating when people tell you to "visit as many fraternities as possible in order to really figure out which one is for you." Here's the deal, every time you walk into a fraternity you sign a piece of paper. I can only guess what happens to those lists of names, but I'm pretty sure that you're a bit more likely to get a bid if you appear on one list 20 times as opposed to 20 lists one time. The amount of time you have to spend with a single fraternity in order to get a bid is almost prohibitive, eliminating time you could be spending with other fraternities. In my experience I found that people found a fraternity on the first day or two of Rush and then just stuck with them the whole time, the people who got bids at least. There are exceptions, of course, but people who "Did Rush right" and visited a bunch of fraternities didn't get nearly as many bids as those who practically lived at a particular fraternity. A flawed system, but unfortunately, one that doesn't really have a good solution.
I spent all of my time at a particular fraternity in hopes of securing a bid. Paintball, six flags, food, I was there. One day a bunch of my friends all got calls inviting them to a steak and lobster dinner. I realized that this fraternity didn't have my number. Since I had been there just as often as many of the people who had received calls, I figured they just couldn't get a hold of me so I showed up to the dinner anyway. To this fraternity's credit, they did a very good job not caring that I was there, even though I was probably the only one who didn't end up getting a bid.
That's right, I spent 2 weeks with this fraternity, doing most everything with them, and then bid day came and nothing happened. Well, not nothing. My friend received a call and an invite to the fraternity. We were both pretty certain this was a bid, so I tagged along since they STILL didn't have my phone number, I figured at the very least I'd just sit there while he did whatever and got his bid and one of two things would happen:
1) I would get a bid as well
2) I'd sit there, he'd come out, and we'd leave, me sans-bid
Neither of these happened. Instead, I was taken into a room and specifically told that I would not be receiving a bid. The subtlety was over now. There was no more miscommunication or confusion. I had placed all of my fraternity eggs in one big basket which had been crushed as I sat in a dark and air-conditioned room with a brother from the fraternity.
That was it, Rush was over. I would not be moving into a fraternity. I wouldn't be one of those people who "met their true family" or "all of a sudden felt included." This bugged me, a lot. Another friend who had visited about three times DID get a bid and I just couldn't figure it out. I've heard things now about why I didn't receive a bid, which make a fair amount of sense, but are also the result of a flawed Rush system.
So, what happened? I Rush, am rejected, and am no longer welcomed with open arms by the Greek community because, to be honest, after Rush they really don't beg for you to come in and visit them.
I live on Conner 2, English House, and love my floor more than any fraternity I could have pledged. Jared is standing here dual-wielding lightsabers, Sara is threatening him with a Nerf gun, Jordan's teaching nun-chuck technique, a large inflatable penguin is wearing a race for the cure shirt, a life-sized paper zombie graces the wall across from me, and soon I'll go to bed in my awesomely painted room. Looking back I realize that I would have regretted joining any fraternity. There's just so much I would have missed out on Conner 2. Many people wouldn't trade fraternity life for anything. I wouldn't take it for a million dollars.
You will always hear people say how much they love their fraternities. You will always hear people say that the companionship is all they ever wanted. You will always hear about people losing their pledge pins and using its deep-rooted tradition as an excuse to spam all the dorm e-mail lists in hopes of getting it back. You will always see Rush shirts, rooftop parties, and Rush girls. You will always hear people boast proudly about their brothers.
I don't have brothers. I don't have a house. I don't have rush girls. I don't have Greek letters on my shirts. I don't do house chores.
I have friends. I have my floor. I build water war weapons. I have sporks on my shirts. I chip in to buy our cleaning lady, Rosa, chocolate every couple of months.
Rejected from a fraternity and stuck in a dorm? More like protected from fraternities, embraced by 30 individuals who make my college life something I wouldn't trade for the most lucrative of offerings.
E-mail concerns directly to snively [at] mit [dot] edu, not the admissions office.