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The Changing Structure of Rush Week

The following is by Kyle Scott '11, a MetaEzra contributor.

The Cornell Daily Sun reported recently that this year’s rush week schedule will be altered to bring the week’s events in line with new university policy requiring a dry rush week:

This year, for the first time, smokers will be held at night from 6 p.m. to midnight on both Tuesday and Thursday. Contacts — an event where chapters visit potential members at their dorm rooms — are scheduled for Wednesday night from 10 p.m. to midnight, said Michael De Lucia ’12, vice president for IFC recruitment.

The schedule for both Saturday and Sunday will stay the same from previous years, and bid signing will occur on Tuesday after rush week, according to the release.

To partly compensate for the decrease in nighttime events, fraternities will now also have the option of having a dry daytime event on Thursday.

These changes to the structure of rush week are part of the IFC’s effort to conform to the University’s new policies that rush week be completely devoid of events with alcohol. Though the University initially allowed the changes to be implemented over a span of two years, the IFC voted to accelerate the changes to one after the death of George Desdunes ‘13 in February. 

I have friends who argue this new schedule destroys the Greek system at Cornell, and to a degree, they are right. Rush week is a defining experience of what it means to be in a house at our university. It’s a week of free food and partying for the rushes and a week of very hard work and stress for the brothers in the house. But, there’s something magical about it. I think that’s because it’s the only time the entire year where everyone genuinely wants to be there. There is no schoolwork to be done. There are no other extracurricular commitments. Who wouldn’t want to hang out, play games, eat food, and meet new people?

The old schedule is a tool for brotherhood bonding. As a former VP of Operations for my fraternity and the person responsible for the success (or failure) of rush week, I can claim from experience that there is no time for anything but the fraternity during the week. The day would often start as early as 10AM for pre-smoker setup and run well into the next morning until all the rushes left. That’s 16+ hours a day of fraternity work. It was grueling and stressful, but it brought the brotherhood together and made it stronger in anticipation of welcoming new members into our house.

The new schedule changes it all. There is less to be done and fewer opportunities to bond with the new rushes. Rush week becomes “watered-down.” But, there is an upside besides the obvious of less drinkning. The events now need to be better events to encourage the rushes to stay for the duration of the night. There’s no beer pong game to fall back on if the conversation runs dry and the entertainment becomes stale. This effectively reinvents rush week strategy.

When I was in my house we had $12,000 to work with over the course of the week. That $12,000 had to be split between four smokers, four night events, a Turning Stone trip, paintballing, a dinner, and a party. That $12,000 can now go much further. There can be catered dinners, live entertainment, more money to spend at Turning Stone, and perhaps even a trip down to New York City one evening (yes, I’m aware that would be a long trip, but nevertheless doable). These are real bonding events when the guys can get to know the rushes more as people and less as partiers and drinkers.

One of my favorite events during my time in the house was our annual Thanksgiving dinner because it was a formal and sober affair. It was a sit-down meal during which everyone got to carry conversation and get to know one another. We pledged some of our best brothers as a result of that dinner. There will be plenty of opportunities later on for the partying. Houses can recruit higher-quality guys if the brothers get to know the rushes on a quality level.
I’m not saying that the old rush week prevented brothers from getting to know quality rushes, but it’s foolish to declare the alchohol didn’t get in the way on some level. The change is good for the respective brotherhoods and is good for the university’s culture as a whole. There’s also something positive to be said as well for bringing rush week in line with the national drinking age.

The new structue destroys the Greek system at Cornell to build it back up again. Rush week will never again be like it was when I was rushing, and it is important to maintin rush week traditions as a point of connection for fraternity alumni across class years. Yet, the changing rush week is a sign of the changing times and the reduced tolerance by universities and fraternity national organizations across the country to underage drinkning and the culture surrounding it. As future leaders in society, Cornell students need to adapt. In the long-run, the changes are good because they work to create the right culture focused much more around what a fraternity is built to be: a band of brothers with similar interests and values.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on October 03, 2011 (#)

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