Every year on college campuses across the country, women spend ridiculous numbers of hours learning chants, practicing chants, making name tags, decorating bulletin boards, decorating doors, making table decorations, singing songs, creating skits, performing skits, practicing smiling, practicing handshakes and greetings, cleaning their rooms to impeccable standards, talking about classes, talking about sisterhood, talking about philanthropy, and doing their best to make sure that impeccably groomed freshman/first year women who are 40% terrified, 40% nervous, and 20% excited think that their sorority is THE best. Yes, I’m talking about recruitment (not rush, though yes, it’s the same thing).
Today was the first round of formal recruitment at DePauw, my first year observing as a non-student. Yes, I was in a sorority at DePauw. When I was in high school I NEVER thought about joining the Greek system. I wasn’t blonde (most days), a size two (ha!), or incredibly wealthy (and I’m still not), and therefore I believed that the Greek system and I would never be a good match.
But then I chose to go to a school with a very different Greek system. With well over half of the student body participating in Greek life, I thought going in that I might consider joining a chapter. By October of my first semester I was positive that I would. And so began my ridiculous journey in the Greek system. Sometimes it was good, sometimes it was terrible, and sometimes I just pretended I wasn’t living in a house with 60 other women by putting on my headphones and pretending to do my homework while really Facebooking instead. (Sorry professors, I probably did 40% of my assigned reading the whole four years. There, I said it.)
I only participated on the house side of recruitment one year. My first year I was going through recruitment (an exhausting, emotionally draining, at times exciting experience). My second year I participated as an official recruiter (an exhausting, emotionally draining, at times exciting experience). My third year I was off campus for a semester long internship, and my fourth year I served as a rho gamma, or recruitment guide who leads first-year women through the recruitment process.
Recruitment for women is an incredibly structured process with timing down to the second and a plethora (yes, a plethora!) of rules to be followed by all parties and a serious list of consequences if they are not followed. It is stressful and regimented but yes, it does generally run smoothly and the end result is every chapter excitedly welcoming a group of some excited-some devastated (not everyone gets the bid of their choice) women into their chapters. The last part of the four day (at least at DePauw) event usually includes some type of planned party-like event with lots of music, cheerfulness, chanting, photos, and food.
Yes, I have some fond memories of recruitment and bid day, but I have to say that my favorite memory was not exactly about sorority recruitment, but instead men’s recruitment my senior year. And yes, this is where the story about naked people comes in.
After the final round of recruitment last year I retreated to the on-campus bar (yeah, DePauw is cool like that) to have a drink with one of my best friends and unwind from the tiring process. At DePauw, the night before women’s bid day is men’s bid night. This process consists of many ritualistic mysteries that I probably don’t want to know about. There are strict rules about sorority women and men’s bid night, mostly that women going through recruitment or who are members of chapters cannot participate in men’s bid night in any way. When I was a freshman, my rho gammas put fear into us, actually telling us not to even look out our windows because we didn’t need to see any disgusting thing they are doing.
When my friend and I finished up our beverages and order of spinach artichoke dip (yum), we ventured through the chilly February air toward her dorm, where we were to hang out. But as we left we started hearing the telltale sound of male bonding at its best–grunting, chanting and other gutteral noises.
The curious, fearless senior women we were, we decided to make a trek around the campus to check out the mysteries of men’s bid night we had been forbidden to see for so many years. We walked past one house where we saw through the windows a man dancing around wearing, of all things, a wizard’s hat, and a few other random guys joining him. One guy shouted at us to come party with them, to which we politely ignored. The next house we passed had a small gathering of men on the front porch, singing a fraternity song.
The excitement fizzled as we made a quick square around campus, but upon reaching an iron gate entrance to a pathway directly across from my friend’s dorm we found a group of my fellow rho gammas and seniors out to see the action. (Yes, this means that following a day of telling first-year women to stay away from guy’s bid night OR ELSE, we were out to see what was going on ourselves. To my rho gamma floor, I am sorry, but you’ll be seniors one day and can check it out yourselves). It was then that we learned guy’s bids had not actually been given out yet due to an error, meaning that that dude in the wizard’s hat? He was that drunk before the pledges even showed up.
Within minutes the campus erupted in more sounds of male bonding as the men started taking to the streets, running to collect their new found pledges. I should mention that at this time the temperature was huddling in the 20s and the roads and sidewalks were still somewhat questionable following a bad ice storm just a few days before. But alas, snow and ice does not a drunk fraternity man stop. They ran past in everything from undershirts and American flag printed shorts to more normal jeans and fraternity t-shirts and some dressing smartly in a sweatshirt or coat. We watched the scene unfold for a few minutes before leaving the group of fellow seniors and walking around campus more to see one fraternity traveling in mass to pick up all of their new pledges at their dorms. Following their loud and drunken pick-up, they decided to make rounds to the yards of all sororities. We stayed back as we watched them stand in the yard of my chapter and chant its name over and over before deciding it was time to move on. They ran in mass, half on the sidewalk, half on the street while one poor guy–obviously sober, dressed sensibly in coat and winter gear, and most likely their risk manager–trailed behind, shouting orders to his drunken brothers to “GET ON THE SIDEWALK! GET OUT OF THE STREET!” It was like watching the captain of the chess team trying to coach the football team. Whoever you were, poor lad, my condolences and I hope you had a good drink afterward.
By the time we made it back to my friend’s dorm we were in time for the main event: the arrival of the new pledges to the fraternity that happened to be right next door. We stood on the sidewalk watching the poor freshmen run to join their new brothers while the entire chapter stood on the lawn, drunk and sloppy with lots of cheap beer to spray them with as they reached the door. We stood half laughing, half mortified as this forbidden peak at male bonding.
At this point in time we were half frozen and decided to take a break from the excitement and head to her room. But alas, our excitement would not end there (I promised you naked people, right?). While de-thawing from the cold we sat and plotted our next part of the adventure: hanging out by the iron gate we had previously stood at in preparation for the masses of naked men that would be running/strolling to the boulder, a crazy looking rock on campus that somewhere along the line became a symbol of acceptable public nudity. On guy’s bid night whole pledge classes (heck sometimes even whole houses) like to show the world all they have and run through the cold from their house to the boulder and back. Any people who just happen to be out on the street get a free show. It wasn’t that we were particularly interested in seeing lots of people who we would probably have a class with the next week or purchase a sandwich next to in the dining hall naked. We solely wanted to make fun of them.
Before our fingers reached full non-frozen, working potential, we heard shouts from outside the window, the telltale sign that the men had lost their clothes and were taking it to the street. My friend looked out the window. “Oh, oh! Yep! They’re running!”
She stood watching for a few seconds and I stood to join her in our gawking. But before I made it tragedy struck.
“Ooooooooooooooooh!” she said, making the face you make when you see someone get hit in the groin with a baseball bat while watching America’s Funniest Home Videos. “We have a man down! I repeat, we have a man down!”
I made it to the window where I witnessed the sorriest–and funniest–sight I have ever seen. Two naked college guys strolling over to the middle of the street where their fellow naked fraternity brother took a very unfortunate naked fall on the remnants of the ice storm that won in the battle of naked man versus nature. The two helped their fallen man limp back to house, where he was most likely too drunk to even care and probably tried the boulder run again later. My guess is the injuries weren’t pleasant the next morning considering the, um, exposure.
We eventually made it back out to the gate, but the men had not yet decided to bare all to the world and I left out of sheer exhaustion before anything interesting happened. I went to bed, where fortunately visions of my fellow male students did NOT dance in my head.
So alas, that is my lasting and favorite memory of the whole ridiculous Greek recruitment experience–watching two naked men in the middle of a pot-hole filled and icy street at the beginning of February help their fellow naked comrade. That, my friends, is true brotherhood.