Why not rush sophomore year?

Dartmouth shows that greek culture can thrive after freshman year

The rush debate could go on endlessly since thus far it has been based on opinion alone. Allow me to offer a concrete example: Dartmouth. Dartmouth, famous for inspiring Animal House, does not allow students to join Greek organizations until their sophomore year. Clearly, this has not negatively impacted their Greek culture. If a school with such a rich tradition of Greek life can wait to recruit, why can’t we?

Forty-eight percent of Dartmouth men are in fraternities and 40 percent of women are in sororities. Since freshmen are not eligible to join, those statistics translate into nearly 60 percent of the eligible population going Greek. For calibration, Dartmouth’s undergraduate population is approximately the same size as MIT’s. Despite the dire predictions about how delaying rush will harm fraternities and cause a housing crisis at MIT, Dartmouth’s delayed rush actually yields more members.

Back here at MIT, there is also the recurring issue of “fit.” During rush, freshman are expected to decide within a week where they will “fit” best by attending a whirlwind of events. There is simply not enough time for freshmen to visit each fraternity and spend quality time with brothers at all 27 organizations. If fraternities are truly concerned with “fit,” they would want to extend rush for as long as possible — say, a year? Fraternities hold social events throughout the year — why not use those events as an opportunity to gradually meet freshman? From the freshman perspective, there would be more time to visit all of the houses and ensure that an optimal “fit” was not missed in the insanity of rush. As Mr. Howland pointed out in his article, he found a good “fit” with a fraternity late in his freshman year, not during rush.

Mr. Yuan argues that freshmen who say that they will reconsider joining later in their MIT career never do. What about the freshman who come to MIT harboring negative stereotypes about fraternities, never participate in rush, and only discover later that MIT frats are right for them? The emphasis put on rush likely discourages these people from trying again later in their MIT careers.

Waiting on rush also gives freshman a chance to expand their social circle to the people in their dorms that they are “locked in” to with. Holding rush so early in freshman year creates “ghosts” who do not contribute to dorm life. MIT has a uniquely dynamic dorm culture which freshmen should have the chance to enjoy fully. I would also like to point out that it is short-sighted and silly to imply that people living in dorms don’t or can’t forge friendships that last a lifetime. Fraternities have not cornered the market on meaningful friendship, and freshmen should have the chance to meet and befriend a wide variety of people. To deny them that opportunity would be selfish and counter to their best interests. If fraternity life is far superior to dorm life, as both Mr. Howland and Mr. Yuan seem to believe, fraternities should not worry about waiting to recruit freshman. Freshman, being rational actors, will choose the best living arrangement available. Given that they can’t move out of dorms until sophomore year, it makes little difference when they are recruited. Perhaps the fervent protests to the mere suggestion of delaying rush indicate some insecurity about how superior fraternities really are to dorms.

If freshman and upperclassmen alike are seeking “brothers for life” as Mr. Yuan puts it, what’s the rush?

Mary Knapp is a senior in Course XVI.