On our freezing January morning descent to Rauch, my roommate leaned over and whispered to me, “Doesn’t this remind you of the Hunger Games?”
She was right.
We stood waiting for the start of a process that would ultimately determine our future at Lehigh with approximately 300 identically dressed, perfectly polished girls in front of us.
After a grueling semester of waiting, formal recruitment had finally arrived. Months of dirty rush and hundreds of dollars on new clothing, haircuts and manicures later, we were ready.
The Reaping, so to speak, was upon us.
Each morning, following a day of vigorous competition against our peers, we would receive a small slip of paper determining our fate. Day by day, competitors dwindled but the stakes increasingly steepened. Countless tears were shed and morale was lost, leaving a select few still in the game.
As terrifying as this may have been, the Rho Gammas and Panhellenic executive board continuously reminded us to relax and “trust the process.” This motto was repeated so consistently that I eventually believed it to be true.
We would all end up where we were meant to be. Or so I believed.
A “God Damn Independent,” or someone who is not involved in Greek life at all, was an unlikely concept my friends and I would casually joke about. We whispered the term under our breaths like “Voldemort.”
With each passing day leaving us feeling more insecure and exhausted than the last, life as a GDI quickly became a terrifying, but realistic possibility.
With so much of Lehigh’s social life geared towards Greek life, it is shocking when a “normal” friend doesn’t end up in a house.
Some believe being a GDI is merely the way the process determines a student is not meant for Greek life. For many of my friends who wholeheartedly trusted a process that failed them, this is not the case.
Lehigh Panhellenic proudly proclaims the Greek community provides “access to invaluable resources and networks of people, additional leadership roles and opportunities, and experiences you otherwise never would have been a part of.”
The website reminds women, “If you choose to go Greek, you aren’t just joining a chapter, you’re joining a community; one that looks to help others find success and to hold each and every member to a higher standard. With nine different Panhellenic chapters, every person can find a place that celebrates their values and that welcomes them with open arms.”
While this does reflect some perks of joining a sorority, Panhel fails to acknowledge that these “open arms,” are not open to everyone. To access these perks, women must endure an emotionally draining and degrading process that ultimately may still leave them unaffiliated.
I have concluded this process to be about ranking girls against each other based on looks, social class and connections, more than anything else.
The excitement of Bid Day and overcrowded Instagram feeds may cause some to overlook the dirty process of recruitment. However, Bid Day leaves a significant number of girls without a chapter, questioning where they went wrong and what they could have done to gain sorority girls’ approval.
Lehigh neglects the damaging effects of sorority recruitment. Panhel preaches it is an organization that promotes female empowerment and support, despite the uniformity and exclusion that stems from joining.
I can say firsthand that the emotional and psychological impacts resulting from Panhellenic recruitment are anything but positive and empowering.
While I did happily join a sorority, I do not feel any less impacted by the process it took to get here. I entered my second semester distraught and insecure, feeling as though people I considered to be my friends, in the chapters that dropped me, did not believe I met the status that was expected of girls in their sorority.
I have learned since recruitment that each sorority approaches the rush process differently. The idea that the process is not a reflection of individuals, but more so a reflection of how each chapter operates, does not make the devastation associated with rejection any less personal. When so many of the logistics of the process occur behind closed doors, it is extremely difficult to comprehend what went wrong.
It is devastating to see my best friends reevaluating their overall happiness at a school they once loved after months of dirty rush and a week of degradation. They feel ostracized from a huge social aspect of our school.
As counseling center appointments pile up and plummeting self-esteem and mental health become increasingly prominent, it is crucial that someone starts asking: Why?
Why does Lehigh fail to acknowledge the emotional implications of this process?
Why do students advocate so strongly for a process despite all of the damage it does?
Desperate for answers I attempted to go straight to the source, hoping that I was capable of changing the system. Many unanswered phone calls to both Lehigh and National Panhellenic led me here, to an honest attempt to hold the school accountable for the damage to which it so blatantly turns a blind eye.
From my perspective, Panhel prides itself on female empowerment, while simultaneously excluding women for failing to meet peers’ expectations.
I am not saying eliminating recruitment is the answer. I do believe there are many amazing benefits to Greek life. I also acknowledge that while it is easy to blame the university for the issues I take with sorority recruitment, this problem is not Lehigh-specific. I have friends across the country who were similarly impacted by the nationally implemented process.
The rush process should be one that includes all students and celebrates their differences, instead of hindering confidence and individuality.
As I get accustomed to sorority life, I am continuously reminded I will have to partake in the recruitment process for three more years. Even if the process does not change immediately, I will continue to advocate for a change in the system and hope to provide comfort for the girls who endure recruitment in the spring.
And while you may see me smiling at recruitment next year, I can promise one thing for sure, you will never hear me utter the words, “trust the process.”
Emma Satin, ’21, is an assistant news editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected].