What’s the Rush? The Case for Deferring Panhellenic Rush Week

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By Lindsey Powell

In a few short months, thousands of teenagers will embark on one of the most daunting experience of their lives so far: the transition from high school senior to college freshman. While exciting, this change comes with an abundance of challenges. For most adolescents, the transition represents the first time in their lives they are given total responsibility for themselves and their decisions. Along with the practical aspects of living on their own (do lights and darks really need to be separated before washing?) students are tasked with learning to balance their academic and social lives, developing relationships with professors, joining as many student organizations as possible, and looking like they are having the time of their lives while doing it. After all, college is the best four years of one’s life, right? The first week of this transition is perhaps the most turbulent and stressful week a freshman will experience. How could this week be intensified to an even greater extent? Allow me to introduce…Panhellenic Rush week.

It is this Rush week that can cause feelings of anxiety and overwhelming pressure. Perhaps it is time to reconsider the tradition of allowing freshmen to rush. , and each one of these students has participated in the selection process known as “Rush week”. During this pivotal time, students interested in Greek life visit fraternity and sorority houses and participate in multiple rounds of interviews, informational sessions, and activities to determine which organization suits them best. For many students, this week will determine the course of their next four years. The friends they make, the events they attend, and the causes they champion will all be decided by the bids (offers of admission) they do (or do not) receive at the end of the event. Some sororities and fraternities have developed reputations for being more desirable than others, and many students stake their happiness on receiving a bid from the group they consider most elite. After spending countless hours agonizing over the perfect outfit and practicing flawless interview answers, is there any time left to focus on the first week of college classes? The all-consuming activities of Rush week can easily tempt students to miss the first, and arguably most important, weeks of class. Fondly referred to as “syllabus week,” this indispensable week of classes provides many opportunities to build relationships with professors and to learn what to expect from one’s courses– and drop them if necessary.

Academic inattention is not the only reason to consider eliminating Rush week from the freshman year schedule. Although underage alcohol consumption is not endorsed by Greek letter organizations, it is a regular, and sometimes deadly, occurrence. Dalton Debrick, a freshman at Texas Tech University, died of alcohol poisoning before his first day of classes while participating in Rush week. Though tragic, Dalton’s story is far from unthinkable. Greek organizations have significantly higher rates of alcohol and illegal substance consumption than students who are not involved in Greek life. Because Greek organizations hold many social events at bars,

Although many students have great experiences as members of a fraternity or sorority, the absence of the Panhellenic institutions from one’s freshman year could open the student to a world of new opportunities and avoid the sense of division that is commonly felt between Greek and non-Greek students. Chapter meetings, socials, and fundraising events can be great, but they are also incredibly time-consuming. While many freshmen are responsible, some students are still adjusting to life as an adult. The same students who were subject to their parents’ curfew only months before are now responsible for managing their own schedules. Freshman year is the time when a student should establish solid time management skills, and with so many compulsory academic obligations, committing to Greek life can push stress to unhealthy levels.

Many schools have recognized the detrimental effects Greek life involvement can have on freshmen. For example, Dartmouth College only allows students who have completed three full terms and are in good academic standing to participate in Rush week. Other schools have taken notice and have implemented similar policies. Undergraduates at Trinity University of San Antonio, Texas are not allowed to rush until they have completed twelve credit hours while maintaining a GPA of 2.3. The school believes that its policy of deferring Greek life involvement contributes to academic excellence and reduced stress levels for the school’s youngest students. Schools across the nation are taking steps to reform the Greek life system. University of Michigan’s Dean of Student Life, Laura Blake Jones, recently addressed sorority and fraternity leaders with a serious message, “I fear some of you have embraced a work-hard, play-hard mentality and that you may have taken to the extreme what has us on this downward spiral, and we know we have to turn this around,” she said. “It’s clear to me that if we can’t begin to make meaningful, student-led progress and change immediately on our campus, the future of sorority and fraternity life as we know it is in peril.” In an effort to rebrand Greek culture, the university and enforced stricter underage drinking regulation and has required greater communication between the school and the Greek organizations.

Everyone remembers the emotions of freshman year: the excitement, the anxiety, and perhaps most of all, the stress. With so many changes to adjust to, it may be wise to follow in the steps of some of the most prestigious universities and defer the time-honored tradition of Panhellenic Rush week until students have developed their time management skills, academic goals, and collegiate identities. Many look back on their time in a Greek letter organization with great fondness, but reserving the freshman year for focus and self-development provides a healthy sense of balance as well as a strong foundation of academic excellence.

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