Penn State's University Park campus has 46,000 undergraduate students and 17% of these students are involved in Greek Life, according to the official Penn State website. When the new rules implemented within the Penn State Greek system were announced they were seen as shocking and extremely unprecedented by not only the remarkable number of students in Greek life but also myself, someone outside the Greek life. These new rules include the cancellation of the fall recruitment process, or rush, for the 2017 fall semester. This new restriction that is being placed upon students is, without a doubt, untimely. Also, it says in the proposal that this decision is in response to the tragedy within Greek life that happened this past February, which fall rush did not have anything to do with.
I may not currently be a part of Greek life, but, this past fall, I went through the recruitment process for the formal Sorority Rush here at Penn State. Initially knowing almost no one within the Greek system, let alone the university, as an out-of-state freshman, the whole process was extremely daunting and nerve-wracking. However, I felt that the Greek life at Penn State would be the right group of people to join since the system embraces so many aspects of social and philanthropic experiences. I, like many underclassmen, committed a significant amount of my time to immersing myself into an objective position to try to meet new people. One thing that Greek life has done a good job at is successfully making a large school much smaller for a significant amount of our student body. This is something that appealed very much to me, so I decided to pursue this opportunity.
My experience throughout rush was somewhat disappointing, but I continued to participate since I was reassured by fellow sorority recruitment members that I would be given the opportunity to go through the spring rush during the next semester or fall rush of then next school year if I dropped before taking a bid. Most notably, I was also told that if I did take a bid and then decided that the sorority was not the right fit for me before being initiated, I could drop out of Greek life this school year and re-rush next fall. I had decided to take the bid after learning this information, but I dropped soon after since I felt it wasn’t a comfortable placement. I believe that not being directly involved in Greek life has helped me to adapt to this new life in college and to discover new interests at this incredible University.
These new experiences and achievements have helped me feel very confident and excited for the fall rush of 2017. I also know that there are many other students who have gone through the same experience and feel the same way as me. In the future, spring rush would be an ideal situation for the sake of adjusting to campus life and college in general, before pursuing Greek life. However, this should have been announced prior to the school year to let students know, before they rushed this fall, that if they would like to rush or re-rush the following year, they would have to wait until the spring semester of 2018.
This past Thursday afternoon, I heard the shocking news that I would have to wait yet another year to rush. I want to make it clear that being in a sorority to me isn’t all about the social aspects of social drinking and fraternity parties. My biggest interest in being in a sorority was being able to dedicate my time to a group of girls who hold events and volunteer in light of a much bigger incentive, philanthropy. All this year, I have been fortunate enough to have met friends within several different sororities, which has helped me explore the different options of sororities.
With this being said, I’m not complaining that I will be missing out on parties where I can meet friends and drink by not being in a sorority. This is a public university where alcohol and parties will always be available off campus no matter what restrictions are implemented. My point is, I won’t be able to participate with friends to raise awareness for philanthropy, including THON. This is what disappoints me the most about Penn State’s inapplicable decision to cancel fall rush; They are essentially taking away an important staple in the Penn State community that comes with beneficial opportunities to participate in not only specific charitable events but THON itself as well.
THON has a whopping student participation of 16,500 students, according to the official THON website. As I stated before, there are 46,000 undergraduate students on campus and 17% of them are in Greek life. That’s almost 8,000 students. In conclusion, each sorority and fraternity participate in THON. That makes up almost half of the student participation in THON. In response to this lack of acknowledgment of the THON cause, Penn State will face a long set of consequences among supporting figures of the university, most importantly past, current, and future students.
Not only has the THON preparation of those who are already part of Greek life been disturbed, but their systematic style of rush, which includes training current members to carry out rush events, has been discredited as well. A majority of the junior class each year leaves campus to study abroad. The sophomores this year, the future juniors next year, are a majority of the members who conducted the recruitment process this past rush, but since large numbers of these students will not be present for the spring rush, sororities and fraternities cannot efficiently prepare the new recruitment members. I may not have firsthand experience in conducting the recruitment processes, but I know how dedicated the members are to perform this very difficult process. In light of this, the hard work and enthusiasm of Greek life members are being misrepresented as this cancellation of fall rush brings even more negativity to them.
Penn State has taken too much to account for one tragic situation that happened within one fraternity. It is not at all my intention to disregard the sadness and serious consequences that surrounded the Penn State community from this tragedy, but I don’t agree with the idea that fall recruitment should be canceled without forewarning. I agree even less with the idea that the sorority fall recruitment should be canceled since sororities are completely irrelevant to this event.
I’m not asking for pity due to the unfairness within this decision and I’m not begging to recall the cancellation of fall rush. I ask the administration of Penn State to realize how much distress and trouble this has caused and will continue to cause throughout the entire Penn State community and to consider a possible decline in prospective students. Greek life is and has always been a staple in this amazing school. Greek or not, I stand with the students who feel passionate, good-willed, and dedicated enough to protect the good that Greek life brings from anyone who wants to limit their incredibly significant contribution to a good portion of Penn State pride, the awareness to some incredible causes, and the ability to embrace many students into a more comfortable, intimate community.