Edit desk: The problem with the process


Emma Satin

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].

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  1. “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.”

    You owe the readers of your opinion piece the facts. And the fact is there are not a significant number of PNMS who are entirely released from the process; rather, they declined bids (invitations to membership), or declined invitations to rounds of recruitment events because they were not willing to consider all eight sororities who participated in Lehigh’s Spring 18 formal recruitment. And in doing so, they rejected sororities filled with wonderful women, classmates at Lehigh and chose to forego a sorority experience that provides lifelong friendships and an excellent collegiate experience. Every single NPC sorority at Lehigh offers that, yet the “girls” you speak of choose to reject them. Panhellenic can provide you with the precise “unmatched” PNM data, but let’s not pretend that the girls you described above — with very few exceptions — had zero options. That is fake news.

    • Robert Davenport on

      AFFILIATED on FEBRUARY 22, 2018 12:20 AM: What is a PNMS, NPC or PNM?

      Emma writes: “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.” I truly believe that the quoted statement is true. If even a single person feels that way the feeling is significant to that person.

      Emma asks: “Why do students advocate so strongly for a process despite all of the damage it does?” Peer pressure and power in the hands of damaged people.

      Emma also writes. “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.” God bless her for trying to make the world a better place than she found it. I hope she has like minded sisters that will help her.

      You may also look at the experience as worthwhile practice in the next great rush; wherein Lehigh is hazing you for recruitment into the American work force where you will probably be rejected by several companies despite help by the university and its Greek Societies. Unless you are very perceptive or lucky your work experience will involve peer pressure and power in the hands of damaged people.

  2. Robert Davenport: A PNM is a prospective new member(s); NPC is the National Panhellenic Council, the governing body of all the NPC sororities represented on Lehigh’s campus; all the sororities abide by unanimous agreements that govern how recruitment (rush) operates as set forth in the NPC Manual of Information. For a primer, visit http://www.npcwomen.org

    Fraternities participate in the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) http://www.nicindy.org. NIC is not entirely analagous to NPC however.

  3. Amy Charles '89 on

    Can somebody explain why Greek defensiveness is always so off the charts? Why are you like this?

    Robert: the whole idea of rejection and nonparticipation that get set up here is so intentionally destructive that there’s no point porting it to later life. The idea is to make people feel that if they’re not in, they’re terrible or defective somehow. There’s no room for the idea that people are fine, in or out, if you suit each other that’s great, have fun living together, and if not it’s just not a match, that’s all. Because these institutions are rooted in fear, not deep friendship, as the author accidentally points out. The idea is you’ve got to have a pack or the world will destroy you, you’ll never get a job because god knows you’re not good enough to make it without these people, you’ll be unbearably lonely, etc. (Or, long ago, you’ll fail because you won’t have access to the exam and homework files, you’ll be disadvantaged on the curve.) Once you’re in a pack, your pack is the best pack, and if you don’t think so they’ll feel obliged to beat you up for it and call that a virtue. Totalitarian countries use the same setup, and so do gangs and abusive relationships. It’s a dumb mindset in the end (not only is the world unlikely to maul you like that, esp when you’re starting out this advantaged, but your Greek sibs are unlikely to prove all that stalwart when chips are down — though your real friends may) and I don’t see that it’s got much to do with the current moment.

    Maybe in the end this is why we keep seeing all this terrible behavior, criminal and just socially destructive, coming out of Greek life. Decade after decade. It’s not enough to just live and be friends with people whose company you enjoy, people you like — you have to warp people with this whole loyalty/fear/secrecy/propaganda thing.

    As for powertripping bosses and peer pressure, if you’re not greedy and you’re bright enough to be at Lehigh, I think it’s actually not that difficult to avoid the problems. I’ve had a lot of wonderful bosses, and I find that in any arena, if you get pressed to do something rotten and you say no, people back right off. And become a little scared of you. The price is usually that you don’t get some of whatever they’re stealing or recruited upchain, but that’s just as well.

    I should say that I’m a member of a professional fraternity, but I was surprised when I joined to find that parts of the initiation ceremony were profoundly thoughtless, childish, and offensive — you could see the roots in an actual fraternity. I refused to play, and, I guess not knowing what else to do, they inducted me anyway. I was also in my 30s at the time and I don’t think they were going to argue much with me; a younger person might’ve had a much harder time saying no. I’d be happy to see all such things barred from campuses. If your initiation involves more gamified cruelty and pressure than a Girl Scout fly-up ceremony, it shouldn’t be part of a university. We can talk next week about how that pertains to the PhD itself.

  4. “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.”

    I always hated the sentiment that the name GDI implies. The contempt is baked in.

    The writer very barely touched on another problem with Greek organizations at Lehigh, and that’s the class barrier. I rushed in my freshman year for several fraternities, and when it got down to the details of requirements for joining, the frat dues were completely prohibitive for me. Not sure how other frats do it, but one was requiring $700 per a semester (which were mostly for party costs and rush events, don’t act like they weren’t). I had a work study job, but otherwise, I was relying entirely on my meal plan with my financial aid money, and whatever my parents were willing to let me borrow.

    I was excited to come to Lehigh as a new student because of the Greek life, but I had no idea I was essentially going to be locked out from participating because I couldn’t afford it. I suppose that was my naivete. As all of my friends joined a frat, I was implicitly locked out of even some of their conversations because rituals and politics were to be kept a secret. There were events that I could go to to join them in the fun, most that I couldn’t. By the time I left Lehigh, I definitely didn’t feel like I belonged there, but at least I walked away with a valuable degree.

    • Amy Charles '89 on

      You learned something important. They’ll likely always be like that, too. Thoughtless, classbound. Had you been able to scrape the money together you’d have been sorely disappointed after college, when they were suddenly living much more expensive family-money-fuelled lives than you were, and it turned out that those fraternal bonds didn’t actually mean so much when you didn’t have, say, the thousands for rounds of destination weddings.

      As for the contempt, it’s a put-on meant to induce fear. And it’s also rooted in real fear of independence. Nothing blows apart a society like a fraternity faster than people who don’t take their inside-outside distinctions seriously. It’s why they have these endless rituals and club rules and bodies of pointless knowledge to memorize: it’s basically all a test to see how seriously you’ll take that line, and they need compliant people.

      May I recommend something, if you haven’t already thought of it? When Lehigh comes around wanting money, as I’m sure they do, don’t give them any, they don’t need it; but do give money, if you can afford it, to your nearest state-U campus. The money will go unbelievably farther there — tuition’s a fraction of what it is at Lehigh. And work with and mentor the recipients.

    • Robert Davenport on

      Were there any opportunities to be in a living group or were you forced to live off campus? Did you choose to live off campus? The term GDI did not exist in my years at Lehigh. I would think it was more a term of “endearment” used by self proclaimed GDI’s rather than a term coined by GDI haters. Those who have been rejected you tend to have a chip on your shoulder or negative feelings, I don’t think most people give much of a thought about those they reject. If they do care a little, they would not be prone to rub it in. Consider the gold medal winning Curling team who called themselves the “rejects”. You got your degree, you did belong at Lehigh.

      • Robert: “GDI” has been around for decades, and no, it’s not a term of endearment or self-affixed. It’s surprisingly hostile — there someone is, minding his own business, and out of the blue he’s getting called this. The first time you have to ask what it means.

        This guy has an accurate take, is what I’m saying. Please don’t try to turn it around and make him the problem.

  5. Fraternity Advisor on

    While this post was focused on how going through sorority recruitment felt, I believe that statistics are relevant here. Here is data from nine semesters from Fall 2013 to Fall 2017, which on page 2 provides a breakdown of the number of men and women interested and eligible to join a Greek organization and the number bids extended, accepted, and declined: https://studentaffairs.lehigh.edu/sites/studentaffairs.lehigh.edu/files/offices/ofsa/docs/trendanalysis/Statistics%20and%20Trend%20Report%20Fall%202017.pdf.

    • Amy Charles '89 on

      Oh, by all means, Fraternity Advisor, let’s have some more Greek rushing to Greek defense. Because more defensiveness is always in order for fraternities and sororities.

      You know what prefatory phrase always makes me laugh uncontrollably? “To be fair to myself….”

      • Amy Charles: Why leap to “defensiveness” when the data supports the fact that very few women interested in sorority membership go without an invitation to membership? The statistics are very much relevant, especially because it refutes the author’s premise that that the “process” shuts them out from any membership option.

        • Amy Charles '89 on

          See below, Alumna.

          In the rush to self-defense (“We’re great! No, really, we’re really good people! Look look! That girl’s wrong about us! Discredit her view immediately!”), what Frat Advisor’s also done is to strip those who didn’t get any bids of any hope that, well, it was tough for everyone, lots of people didn’t get a bid, just luck of the draw.

          If almost everyone got a bid, but you didn’t, how are you supposed to feel about yourself, particularly at a place where there’s such a tremendous social premium on being in a secrets-bound society of moneyed people, and where the Greek orgs themselves — half the student body, no? — make it clear that they consider “GDIs” inferior?

          So at one stroke, Frat Advisor up there’s publicized fodder for making a couple hundred people spread over — what, five classes? — feel terrible about themselves. In the name of polishing your shine. Well done.

          You and Frat Advisor are no more thinking about those people than GDI’s friends and their fraternity brothers were thinking about people who don’t have $700 a semester or whatever it is for social dues. For throwing booze and booze-cleanup at other moneyed people. Who don’t just have the money *lying around somewhere*. And that fantastic selfishness is, I think, at the heart of the Lehigh experience. Oh, sure, now and then you go do charity work. How nice. And then, on the non-special-charity-work days (which, btw, should also be fun and personally rewarding, otherwise really it’s unreasonable to expect participation), you go around shutting out people who haven’t got money and just aren’t…a good *fit*.

          Whatever that means. I’d actually very much like to hear what it means. I think we’d all like to hear what it means, without recourse to “we only have so many slots”. Because you have to be making those decisions on the basis of something.

          I think it’d be awesome if you had to make those decisions publicly, and justify them in writing.

          It seems to me there’s all sorts of opportunity here in a Title IX sense, too. After all, it’s secret “who’s a good fit” deliberations like these that lead, now and then, to civil-rights violations lawsuits. And while this isn’t about employment, given the way that Greek orgs advertise themselves as being endlessly helpful in business after school, I think it’d be quite interesting if it were to turn out that there was skew in the “nope” pools at each house.

          • Amy: My comments are confined to sorority recruitment; and as Affiliated stated above, albeit more subtly, is that virtually all the women participating in sorority recruitment had opportunities for membership that they chose to decline: they were invited to join XYZ sorority, but declined. Or they wanted to join only XYZ or ABC sorority and didn’t give the other sororities any consideration. They rejected the 100+ Lehigh classmates in those sororities and said, “nope, not for me”. “Those women and that organization can’t offer me what I want in a sorority.” Which is ridiculous on its face as they all offer the same activities, opportunity for friendship, etc. etc. And, if you’re talking about all the feels, those sororities had women they wanted to share membership with reject all 100+ of them. Those declined bids hurt those women too. I’m your era, albeit a few years earlier. Sorority recruitment is designed now to maximize the # of women matched to a sorority, but it doesn’t mean that you will match to any specific one, or the one you think is the “only” one that is worth joining, or cool enough, or whatever else is limiting a prospective new member’s ability to see the that each sorority is outstanding. And, that’s a shame because I think we can all agree that Lehigh women are generally pretty damn great.

      • Fraternity Advisor on

        Amy, I’ve seen you comment all over articles on The Brown and White and your self-righteousness is really astounding. All I suggested was that, since the data is available, let’s take a look at the statistics to contextualize Emma’s article. I never discounted Emma’s experience, nor did I cut down her argument. I offered an additional resource directly relevant to her assessment. Get off the soapbox already.

        • “Contextualize,” I love it. When are you getting your law degree?

          I’ll get off the soapbox the minute frats and sororities stop being routinely, predictably horrible. When it’s a shocker to see them in the news for doing awful things. When they stop twisting kids up with peer-pressure fear and sending them to the hospital with alcohol poisoning — or not, and just letting them die. When frats stop being rape central and when sorority sisters have rape stats that look at least not worse than most women’s.

          Start there, and see how fast I shut up.

          Any other women you’d like to shut up now? You’ve had a go at Emma, now me. Who’s next?

    • Amy Charles '89 on

      Actually, frat advisor, I’d like to know about your purpose in posting that link here. I’d like to know how you think people who rushed in the last five years and did not receive bids are supposed to feel, looking at these stats.

      Did you think about this, or were you just concerned with running to get out in front of Emma and show everybody what a wonderful and inclusive bunch of folks you are?

      Please, I’m all ears for whatever it is you have to say about “competition” and “not a good fit”.

  6. GDI is not necessarily a state that is inflicted on someone. The process seemed so flawed to me compared to fraternity rush, that I refused to get in line. Maybe it was different in the 1980’s, but my lack of Greek letters never kept me out of anything I wanted to do.

    • Amy Charles '89 on

      Me either. I went to a couple of rush events because people kept insisting that I absolutely had to or I’d be missing *so much*, but then I got to these parties and they were…well, at least when your grandma’s friends are smiling and making conversation at you, you know they’ll be bored in a minute and go back to talking to your grandma, and you won’t have to keep the company smile pasted to your own face for the next 45 minutes, making super-energetic small talk. After that I just kind of peaced on the rest of the process. I do remember the envelopes, though. Nice stationery quality.

      I also just didn’t get the housing-choice thing you were supposed to make on the basis of nothing. A bunch of girls you’ve just met and don’t really know say they like you, so you should give up all your housing rights on campus and…hope it works out with them? As I write this, the closest analogue coming to mind is “arranged marriage”. I hope the housing-rights thing has changed.

      • Fraternity Advisor on

        Amy, the level of contempt you have for the Greek system, both displayed in your comments on this article and others on The Brown and White, suggests that you do feel like you’ve missed out on something and that you have this deep-seated hate on all fraternities and sororities. I put forth statistics to add clarity to Emma’s position, and you jump down my throat and accuse me of perpetuating a culture of cisgender, privileged elitism and attacking Emma and all non-Greeks as loser GDIs. I never said or even suggested that. I had PLENTY of friends at Lehigh who were not Greek affiliated. Get a grip.

        • Amy Charles '89 on

          See above for source of oppo. You’re true to form, though, in reaching for “you must be sore because you weren’t in a sorority”. After all, what could be worse? Actually my first moment of real revulsion about frats came when I was a freshman covering a hazing death for the B&W — I think it was a drunken balcony fall, though I might have that wrong — and I went to the Panhel guy wanting to know what would be done. I will never forget his helpless shrug. I’d never seen a grown man do something like that about anything so serious. And then he said something to the effect of “that’s just how it goes.” And you know what? He was right.

          The sexual assaults and, eventually, rape I experienced at the hands of frat bros didn’t really improve my view, and I remember a friend trying to get out of her sorority and being savaged by her “sisters” for doing it. It wasn’t easy to explain to my grandma that no, I wasn’t going to hang out at the Jewish frat and look for a husband because (a) it wasn’t 1960 and (b) they were a bunch of sexually assaultive cokeheads. My friends who coalesced around a fraternity, had boyfriends there, and did nice things for the guys were repaid by being called “little sluts”. I stopped going to the Hill altogether by about halfway through my time at Lehigh.

          I was very surprised, later, to find that Greek life wasn’t so oppressively pervasive at other schools, and nonexistent at some, and that the social life ticked along just fine, often in much healthier and rather more adult ways. Not too many students appear to miss the frats that aren’t there. I sure don’t.

          Your “clarity and context” business is laughable — come on, dude, you’re on defense and you know it. I know it’s tough for a frat advisor to do, but try cutting out the baloney. I also hadn’t formulated the charge of perpetuating a moneyed cisgendered little slice of privilege as neatly as you just did, but yes, I’d agree wholeheartedly. Nicely said.

          • Amy Charles '89 on

            Correction! Not pledge death. Pledge almost-death. Four pledges hospitalized with alcohol poisoning, spring 1985. One lucky to have made it to the hospital, since his SAM bros did nothing to help, and he’d been in a bad way. B&W Feb 22 and Mar 1 ’85.

            I want to thank Pete Trumbore ’86? for editing those stories — beyond the seriousness of the situation, they’re pretty funny in how the admin and frat guys Keystone Kops it all over the place in front of this reporter girl who was just writing everything down and, shocker, not playing ball. (Back then I had no idea why they were so mad at me.) The Sammy prez might take the cake, all outraged, not because what the admin guy said about Sammy was untrue, but because it was supposed to have been a secret. Plus ça change.

            Reread across a span of 30 years, though, it’s a bit sad and sobering, watching the kid-glove treatment go on, palace-tutor admin to frat boys. You can see how they turn out so radically entitled. And what a job, catering to generations of children of wealthy men. But they were all paid well enough, I suppose.

            • Robert Davenport on

              One wonders if the faculty should have a vote to outlaw fraternities/sororities as being detrimental to the university.

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