A discussion on the future of fraternity rush at AlabamaBy Tray Smith | 02/11/2013 11:00pm
This University values tradition. It provides some of our most memorable experiences as students, like Homecoming and Honors Week. Unfortunately, it also causes some of our largest challenges.
UA students are going to have to decide how to respect these customs as our student body grows and changes. This is particularly true for greeks, a major pillar of the student body that is especially bound by tradition.
For many fraternity members, at least, there is perhaps no greater tradition than rush – the series of parties held each spring and summer to select the year’s pledge class.
These parties are a consequence of Alabama’s informal fraternity recruitment process. While sorority recruits spend a week visiting chapters and attending formal events, fraternities recruit members by communicating with them directly and inviting them to informal events.
Sorority recruitment allows incoming women students to choose the sororities that appeal to them while simultaneously allowing sororities to identify the women who may contribute the most to their chapter. Students determine the sororities they like best, sororities determine the students they like best, and then they are paired.
That is the same way fraternity recruitment is handled at some other universities.
At Alabama, though, fraternity recruitment is handled differently. It is a much more flexible system but comes at the price of outreach. Many students choose Alabama at least partially because they are interested in going greek; they want to start the rush process before orientation. Indeed, many students start rushing before they graduate high school.
The more these students become involved with and connected to the greek community on campus, the more fondly they remember rush, their first introduction to it all.
Strong tradition and good memories make it difficult to find popular support for changing rush among fraternity members. After all, students who have succeeded in rush are unlikely to advocate changing it, and every member of a fraternity on campus today got there by going through the current rush process.
But will the same system work for a student body that comes mostly from other states? Under the current system, potential recruits are identified and rushed primarily by other people from their high school who are greek. That hinders the increasing number of students who come from high schools that have produced few, if any, other UA students in recent years.
Would a formal rush system work better? Are there any other options? What is rush’s role in the freshman experience?
There are passionate views on both sides.
Tray Smith is a senior majoring in political science and journalism and a member of Sigma Chi fraternity. His column runs weekly.
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