What Recruitment is Really Like

It’s almost time for school to start, which means sorority formal recruitment has just ended or is just getting started for a lot of colleges. My own AOII chapter at TCU just gained 52 new members from the process. And I’m seeing a lot of social media posts mocking the admittedly crazy and over-the-top recruitment antics we sorority girls get up to.

Posts like this viral tweet:

I’m all for poking fun at silly songs and overly bubbly recruitment chairs, but I felt the need to clear up a few misconceptions about sorority recruiting. By the way, I’m in no way saying that formal recruitment is super awesome. I joined AOII as a colony member my freshman year, mostly because I didn’t ever want to go through recruitment. I thought rushing* would be a hellish process not unlike the movie Sydney White, where I would feel judged and excluded by a group of gorgeous, airheaded sorority girls.

sydneywhite

I wasn’t that far off, but sorority life in general gets a bad rap. That’s probably because NPC sororities are overwhelmingly made up of white, wealthy, and conventionally attractive women. The whole idea of having an exclusive society for only a privileged few members sort of requires snobbish, Mean Girl-like behavior. I’m not gonna lie, I love my sisters, but  I noticed those qualities surfacing in my chapter during recruitment.

And that ugly behavior is sadly understandable. It’s hard to promote yourself as an inclusive, diverse chapter when you’re held to the impossible standard of a school where the population is more than 50% Greek. You end up judging and selecting girls based on looks rather than character, and on ability to pay (the most common reason people drop out of Greek life) rather than their leadership skills. It’s almost a badge of honor to say, “She’s not the right fit for our chapter” — because you have the option to choose among the literally thousands of women who walk through the doors of the chapter house. If only we could all be as wonderfully supportive as the ladies of Delta Nu, all the time.

deltanu
Omigod, omigod, omigod you guys! / Looks like Elle’s gonna win the prize.

But I digress. The reason tweets like the one above bother me is that it makes bouncing and clapping seem like an exception, a digression from the norm. But at least in the south, where sororities go above and beyond to distinguish themselves during rush week, that ADPi doorstack is actually pretty normal. I’ve been in that doorstack, kneeling behind the first row of girls (without kneepads–it’s torture) and smiling until my cheeks hurt. I’ve been one of those identically dressed women with name tags and perfectly curled/straightened hair. I’ve sung the same four songs over and over for 13 long rounds until I lost my voice.

doorstack
Yay doorstack 2k15! I’m in the second row from the bottom on the left.

Speaking of, ever wonder why all the sorority women you met your first week of college had incredibly raspy voices? Yeah, it’s not their natural voice. They’ll get it back eventually.

Tweets like that one overlook the positive aspects of recruitment. And yes, I’ll admit that there are few. Recruitment is designed to be a “mutual selection process,” but we all know that it’s a heartbreaking and exhausting week for both the recruiters and the PNMs. Judging other girls based on one short conversation isn’t fun, and neither is being cut from your favorite house for some unexplained reason. But those two weeks every fall I spent practicing and decorating with my sisters are probably some of my fondest memories of AOII.

I should explain. I didn’t love the actual recruiting part (I was also horrible at it, since small talk is not my forté), but I did love the bonding part. Work week (the week before recruitment) is brutal, but it’s one of those experiences that creates a camaraderie that can’t be found any other way. You have to trust your sisters when you’re bouncing and clapping to catch you if you twist your ankle and trip down the stairs, or to dry your tears when you lose it because you’re just so stressed. Eating Chik-fil-A while sitting on a frat house floor** and singing along to Backstreet Boys or Miley Cyrus is a common occurrence during work week.

emilypopsicle
Or ridiculous photos like this one. Hi, Emily!

Rush week itself is much harder, since the pressure is on and we all have to wear heels instead of sneakers. The rounds are exhausting, and you end up forgetting the name of the girl you just spoke to if you’re not careful. They all blend together sometimes–captain of the soccer team, student council president, homecoming queen.

But the result at the end is what we all work toward. Bid Day is incredibly nerve-wracking, because it’s the day you find out if your brand new sorority overcame the inherent disadvantage of not being established or popular and convinced 50+ girls to join. Or it’s the day when you welcome your potential Little*** into the fam.

bidday2015
We had the biggest letters that year. Just sayin’.

This post is way too long, but basically I’m just asking you to consider the side of recruitment you haven’t seen. Not every sorority girl wants to bounce and clap and freak the poor PNMs out, but it’s tradition. And sometimes it can actually be fun.

What do you think? Did you ever go through recruitment, on either side? What was it like for you? Let me know in the comments.

* a dirty word according to the National Panhellenic Council, along with “pledge” (Potential New Member or PNM), “work week” (spirit week), and “party” (round).

** Because we were a new chapter and our chapter house didn’t have a real chapter room, a fraternity kindly lent us their house for recruitment. The walls were hunter green and they had an antler chandelier. Very sorority chic.

*** “Little” stands for “Little Sister,” and it’s a term for a younger member you take under your wing and mentor as a “Big.”

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Introducing… me.

senior photo fountain
Photo credit: Allison Armfield Photography

My name is Elle (yes, like the letter/magazine/fictional lawyer). I’m a recent December graduate of Texas Christian University with a BA in writing, which means if you question the value of a liberal arts degree I will fight you. I finished my Spanish minor in spring 2015 and left a piece of my heart in Sevilla. I’m an Alpha Omicron Pi (AOII), pronounced A-O-Pie. Because pie is good and so are pandas.

Although I’m out of school now, I’m currently working as a web editorial intern for DMagazine.com, the online section of a truly fantastic Dallas-centered magazine. It’s part time work and I make my own schedule – hence this blog. Look for a round-up of the pieces I’ve written soon.

On that note, I have no idea what this blog is about, or if I’ll even continue writing it. I’m like Ali in that regard. I’m hoping this blog will become a little bit of everything. I have loads of opinions, I like reviewing books, and I’m trying to learn how to cook. We’ll see how that goes. The title is pretty much nonsense, and I like puns with my name. (There are many.) Read into it if you like.

But what am I like, really? If I were a fictional character, I’d probably be a cross between Amelia Bedelia–I take things literally, okay?–and Jane Porter from Disney’s Tarzan. In other words, a total goof. I’m a perfectionist with a knack for English grammar and I enjoy helping other people improve their writing. (Need help on an assignment? I’m happy to tutor over Skype or email. I am an unpaid intern commuting to Dallas every day. Seriously, contact me.)

I read multiple books a week (mostly romance, fantasy, and YA, but I can switch it up too). I talk during movies and shows because I can’t turn off my inner editor. I once wrote a riveting 20-page paper on a Victorian feminist’s brutal takedown of marriage as a patriarchal institution. I think Wendy Davis is pretty great–and she was once a TCU English major, how about that, Neeley grads? I got to meet her one time. Oh, and be advised: my love for dogs runs so deep I will squeal with joy if one comes within 100 feet of me.

Want to hear my constant inner monologue? I thought not. My Twitter: @ellefaba

Please don’t go looking for me on Facebook unless you actually know me IRL. That’s just weird.