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Rush Week: A Warning

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Guest blogger Michelle Kemper Brownlow: Some colleges do Greek rush in the spring; some in the fall. Don't know what "rush" is? Here's a quick tutorial.

woman with markings
Rush week is when a college's Greek organizations pull out all the stops in an effort to entice freshmen and sophomores to join a certain fraternity or sorority. At the end of rush, each house in the Greek community sends out "bids." Bids are formal invitations to pledge. "Pledging" kicks off a semester of hazing practices designed to prove that those who've pledged are worthy of wearing their Greek letters. Of course, then there's "Hell Week" and initiation ....

My scenario was quite different from most. My junior year at Penn State, two new sororities were invited to join our large Greek community. I rushed, received a bid and pledged one of them. However, these new sororities came with national representatives running the show. Everything was done first-class and by the book -- no bitchy prima donnas calling the shots; not a single ounce of hazing; no scary "Hell Week" rituals.And there was something else I thought was cool: If I ever had a daughter, she would be a "legacy." A legacy receives an automatic bid, because her mother is a sorority sister.

My situation was atypical, but I had numerous friends who pledged other sororities and fraternities. Beyond the obvious mass alcohol consumption, there was both physical and mental abuse. Although some Greek organizations are respectable and focus more on service than submission, I heard my share of "secrets" -- and I now know what to warn both my sons and daughter against. I lived it. I've seen it. It's real!

One sorority would take its pledges to a fraternity and then parade them around in front of the men in only their bras and underwear. As if that weren't bad enough, Sharpies were then handed out, and the men were encouraged to circle the fatty areas on each woman's body.

Once I noticed that all of the pledges of a certain fraternity were walking funny toward the end of the semester. A brother breaking his code of ethics told me that their interesting swagger was due to the fact that the tendon on the top of their right feet had been cut during Hell Week.

The fraternity house right next to my dorm would cover all their windows with newspaper during Hell Week. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I could hear screams coming from that house when I was walking home after dark.

Keep your kids safe. Talk to them about self-respect, and help them see why behaviors like the ones described above are ridiculous. Don't wait until they are IN college to have that conversation.

next: Signs That You Are Getting Older
37 comments so far | Post a comment now
ModernGreekExperience September 11, 2010, 8:42 AM

I would love to know when the blogger went to college, as this Greek experience is not reflective of the modern one I atleast know.

Melissa September 11, 2010, 2:37 PM

This is nothing like my experience. I agree you should talk with you kid about self respect. I have heard of some crazy things happening among aviation majors and drum line members, so college students should be wise about who they hang out with no matter what.

Brenda September 12, 2010, 12:07 AM

I would really like to know what TV movie of the week you watched to get this story.
I am in agreement with Melissa, there is no reason to not talk to your children about self respect so they can make their own choices between right and wrong. However I’ve known so many people that have experienced Greek Life from one coast to the other and from Large schools to small rural schools and no one I know EVER had any story that even remotely resembled what you stated.
Greek Life is fantastic for those who want to join and our sisters and brothers can become life long friends and connections.
Are you simply jealous because you didn’t receive a bid to your top choice sorority or were you one of the ones who judged us without ever getting to know us?

Michelle Kemper Brownlow September 12, 2010, 6:50 PM

I wanted to address the comments, as I usually do when there has been some misunderstanding or assumption…

ModernGreekExperience - I was in college in the mid-90’s

Melissa - agreed! There are definitely things you don’t want to get messed up with and knowing WHO you are will help you make the wise choices in friends!

Brenda - I was not referring to a movie. I received a bid from my #1 choice sorority and lived the GREEK life proudly. And in doing so I got the INSIDE scoop on what was going on on and off the campus from very reliable sources…I lived it. None of what I spoke of was fabricated. Just because you didn’t have the same experiences does NOT mean it doesn’t happen. Be careful with a mind that closed…could spell trouble.
Oh, and I have remained lifelong friends with MANY, MANY of my sisters so I DO agree with you that it can be a fabulous experience - mine was, completely FABULOUS! But, unfortunately not everyone’s experience is…and THAT is what I was warning parents about.

Robin September 13, 2010, 5:58 AM

Wow. Worst thing that happened to me was I got “counciled” for leaving the dorm with wet hair or without makeup. (Not holding up the right image, you know. lol)

Jennifer September 14, 2010, 10:35 AM

Oh please! I went to college in the early ‘90’s and this in NO way represents my experience. I think you watched too many after school specials many many years ago.

Michelle Kemper Brownlow September 15, 2010, 3:32 AM

I am glad you didn’t experience this… but please don’t be do closed minded as to think that just b/c YOU didn’t, no one else has… we need to be open-minded to keep each other safe.

GoGreek September 17, 2010, 7:11 AM

While I agree that there are some chapters out there that do inappropriate things, I’m SO tired of seeing articles that only enforce the “Animal House” stereotype of Greek culture. While parents and students should be aware of what hazing is and what to do if they encounter it, I think it would be great to see an article that for once promotes the BENEFITS of Greek life, not just the horror stories. Greek or not, you can find horror stories on college campuses. Instead, tell parents/students why Greek life might be a GOOD choice (lifelong friends, future networking, etc.)

Michelle Kemper Brownlow September 18, 2010, 7:23 AM

Then you will enjoy PART 2 of my GREEK experience posts.

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Anonymous October 17, 2010, 2:24 PM

For that matter just because someone doesnt have a “horror story” to tell about greek life doesnt always mean it’s good either. When one joins a Greek house the costs are not covered by tuition or financial aid. Each students gets to figure that one out all by him or herself. Thats an extra few thousand on top of tuition every term. While that does cover food as well only one thing is served at the meal and if you don’t like it oh well. As well, if you pledge and find that house isn’t a good fit for you you are, well, SOL. Once out of one Greek you are not allowed to join another. So all that money you paid for dues goes to waste. And each person in a house has to do things they are not always comfortable with, whether it be hazing practices or sleezy dance contests for the Kentucky Derby. If you don’t participate once you are a member you are fined. As well, there is some close minded in some of the houses. If you don’t go along with what one sister or brother says they can make it very uncomfortable for you.
So yes there are great benefits but not always

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