Teens begin to consider Greek life in high school, social media sheds light on toxicity
As senior girls sat in the Bell Theater on Jan. 31, a slew of information about the ins and outs of sorority recruitment was presented with a slideshow detailing all the do’s and don’ts of rush: the process of joining a sorority. While the presentation excited some, the profusion of unknown information brought apprehension and anxiety to others.
Senior Hannah Scheel entered the meeting thinking that she might want to rush next year since many of her family members were in sororities, but after the meeting, she wasn’t so sure.
“I haven’t given much thought about rushing until this year,” Scheel said. “My mom, aunts and older cousins all rushed in college, so it just seemed like something I may want to do. But after the meeting, the whole process seems intimidating and stressful, and there are other organizations on college campuses to join that are not affiliated with Greek life.”
Though the recruitment process can be hectic and stressful, the long term payoff can make it worth it. For many, sororities not only provide instant friendships that last a lifetime, but also academic support.
“I am still in close touch with my sorority pledge class, and we’ve been in each other’s weddings, networked for jobs and been a support group throughout our adult lives,” ESD parent and Greek Recruitment Chair Ashley Young said. “Sororities also have a huge community service focus and allow college-aged young adults to continue to serve their community. Finally, there is also a huge focus on academics, so whether it is help with classes, tutoring or guidance, a sorority can help you navigate the academics of college.”
The process of rushing begins in high school for many, as detailed digital recruitment packets are required to be sent to sororities by May 1 of senior year. The packet includes a resume, transcript, test scores and pictures. Senior girls who plan on rushing also have to fill out recruitment forms and get letters of support from alumnae.
“Some of the schools I applied to have delayed rush, which is when you rush second semester,” Scheel said. “If I do delayed rush, I will have a semester to adjust to the new environment and not worry about rushing right away.”
Greek life is not just a popular conversation among ESD students right now, however, Greek life, specifically sorority rush, has become a popular topic in recent years because of its increasing presence on social media. TikTok videos of girls showing their “outfit-of-the-days” grossed millions of likes and thousands of followers, especially on “Bama RushTok,” which refers to all of the videos on TikTok made by girls rushing at the University of Alabama. According to Fortune and U.S. News & World Report, around 2,500 girls rushed for approximately 2,000 spots at the University of Alabama, and 40 percent of female students at the University of Alabama are in a sorority, making Greek life significant to many Alabama students.
This past August, throughout the week of recruitment, girls rushing at sororities around the country, including, but not limited to, University of Alabama, University of Oklahoma, Auburn University and Ole Miss uploaded videos on TikTok explaining their outfits and day-to-day routines. However, the colorful and lighthearted videos came with a conversation about the history and controversy of Greek life. Despite the controversy, many view Greek life as providing leadership skills and an opportunity to make lifelong bonds with sorority sisters or fraternity brothers.
“I wanted to join a sorority because going into college I didn’t really know anyone and wanted to find an automatic group of girls to hang out with,” current University of Oklahoma student and member of Kappa Kappa Gamma Lauren Egger ‘20 said. “I wanted to find a community within such a big school. Joining a sorority gives you a community of other girls that support you and become your best friends.”
A recent obstacle Greek life faced was the fact that, due to Covid-19, rushing went virtual. Traditionally, potential new members would go to the houses of the sororities that they were interested in and have face to face interactions with active members, but the pandemic forced the conversations to move to video chat platforms.
“Covid-19 forced the rush process, like everything else, to be re-imagined and virtual to keep everyone safe,” Young said. “Instead of going to each of the sorority houses for rush parties, the parties were held over Zoom. It was a huge shift to meet and connect with actives in a virtual setting and make a decision about which house was right for the potential new member without going to the houses. It forced the potential new members to be direct and express what houses they liked.”
The heavy costs of sororities and fraternities, ranging from $500 to $1,500 per semester, according to Vox, can dissuade college students or high school seniors from choosing to rush. Like the substantial dues, sororities can also be particular about potential new members’ behavior on social media, steering girls away from going through the rush process. Posts deemed trashy or a bad look for the sorority can result in a potential new member being dropped from sororities. In the presentation given to the senior girls at ESD, a slide titled Pro Tips instructed girls to clean up their social media accounts and “make sure all posts are appropriate” [including] no alcohol in any posts. Additionally, the slideshow said to “maintain a low profile for the week of recruitment.”
“I was conscious of my social media during recruitment because I wanted to show the ‘right’ image to the houses,” Egger said. “But, I don’t think you have to change who you are on social media to rush. I think it’s kind of a misconception about rushing.”
Along with discourse about social media’s role in rushing, the “Abolish Greek Life” movement has grown among university students with a focus on racism and misogyny. At Duke University, the independent student newspaper, The Chronicle, wrote an open letter to the Duke community about abolishing the National Panhellenic Council and the Interfraternity Community, claiming that Greek life was founded on ideas of classism and sexism. Additionally, the letter condemned the history of sexual assault from fraternity brothers and said that a fraternity member is three times more likely to commit sexual assault than a male college student not involved in Greek life. According to Teen Vogue, the Interfraternity Community and National Panhellenic Council have proposed reforms to the Greek system like making it free to rush, but few reforms have been effective.
“Greek life is not a broken system; it’s exclusive because it was built to be exclusive,” a sorority member at Washington University said in an interview with Teen Vogue in 2020. “Birds of a feather flock together. You end up breeding these groups of people that are predominantly white and predominantly wealthy that are going to inherently exclude people of color.”
Since the first sorority was founded in the late 19th century, according to Town and Country Magazine, the culture and dynamics of sorority life and recruitment—and Greek life in general—are constantly changing; gone are the days where you have to be a legacy to be accepted into your top choice. However, many minorities still struggle to find their place in the historically white institutions, as 71 percent of the Interfraternity Community and National Panhellenic Council are made up of white students, according to a 2014 Daily Northwestern article. In the 20th century, the “Divine Nine” sororities and fraternities were formed by black students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities like Howard University. According to HBCU Lifestyle, the Divine Nine created a community for black college students to fight for equal rights.
“I love [that] academic scholarship; community service and campus involvement have remained a huge focus in Greek life,” Young said. “The rush process has become much more accessible to all students. The parties are not as formal as they used to be, and you now have a chance to see and consider every house on a college campus. Sororities now use their platform and involvement to lift service organizations to a national level, making significant contributions to charitable organizations. And, the accomplishments that women in sororities have achieved are recognized at a national level.”