Guaranteed Bids and the Fall of Sisterhood

Emily Steiger

Each year at Colgate, we have everyone’s favorite two-week-long period in the middle of September: recruitment for the Greek or­ganizations. Complete with more excitement and tears than the Tickle-Me-Elmo aisle at Toys-‘R’-Us during the 1996 Christmas shopping season, “girl rush” and “guy rush,” to use the colloquial terms, are stress­ful for rushees and rushers alike. This year, with a record number of sophomores rush­ing and a shortage of Greek houses, was perhaps more stressful than most.

But everything I should be feeling now that the whole process is behind us, such as excitement for the new sophomore pledge classes and relief at having free time again, has been completely effaced by my anger at Colgate’s adminis­tration for suddenly decid­ing to enforce impractical rules that not only under­mine the very purpose of Greek Life but also imple­ment an alarming policy of institutionalized sexism on our campus.

I am a member of a so­rority and can honestly say that choosing to go Greek was one of the best decisions I’ve made at Colgate, on par with deciding to study abroad. The administra­tion’s vision for Greek Life, however, would effectively ruin everything I know and love about our Greek sys­tem. I’m speaking primarily of the newly-enforced policy that requires every person who participates in formal re­cruitment and who does not self-remove to be extended a bid.

On a campus where the administration has time and again refused to open new Greek chapters, this policy is only setting us up for failure. Each of Colgate’s three sororities must now navigate the difficul­ties of managing new member classes of 60+ members. It is downright impossible to have any sense of sisterhood or commu­nity when your organization is this large. I am deeply worried that in the coming months, I will see my sorority dissolve from a close-knit group of women who consider each other sisters and friends to one in which our sophomore class consists of various cliques who hardly interact or even have the chance to learn each other’s names. Colgate’s administration has all but spat in the face of Greek Life when we try to express these concerns.

As concerned as I am about the strain this policy has placed on the meaning of sisterhood and the infrastructure of Greek life, I’m nearly blind with rage at the institutionalized sexism Colgate’s administration now endorses. Theo­retically, the “everybody gets a bid” rule applies equally to recruitment for men and women. But there’s no way the administration can even pretend they’ll enforce this rule with the frats. Men aren’t required to rush every frater­nity the way women are with sororities, which means if a sophomore were to rush only one frat, that frat would be required to offer him a bid; on the other end of things, all a fraternity has to do to deny a bid to a sophomore is claim he never showed up for the rush parties. The administration knows full well this is an unen­forceable policy when it comes to fraternity re­cruitment, but will continue to enforce it with the sororities. Any time you apply one standard to men and another standard to women, it’s sexism. In this case, it’s sexism promoted by the administration of one of the most prestigious liberal arts schools in the country.

Why the double standard? For one thing, the frats have more deep-pocketed alumni than do the sororities, and heaven forbid the administration ever risk upsetting a potential donor.

Then there’s also the fact that, well, if a poor little college girl is denied a bid to a sorority, then her feelings are going to be really, really hurt, and everyone knows that girls just can’t handle that kind of disappointment. The men who rush fraterni­ties, though, can deal with the rejection, because they’re big, tough men, after all. I’d really like to have a word or two with the misogynistic trustee who thought he needed to look out for the feel­ings of Colgate’s women and proposed this policy in the first place, because I’m appalled at the gender stereotypes that must have gone into implementing a rule that infantilizes Col­gate’s strong, successful collegiate women to such an extent.

Of course, the fact of the matter is that if the administration doesn’t revise their stance and find a solution to the problems facing Greek Life soon, the students will do it for them. Un­fortunately, I’m not sure I trust the solution the students might come up with. The most common response I’ve gotten when talk­ing to members – especially men – of other Greek organizations on campus about how to deal with such a large class of sopho­mores? “Haze the sh*t out of them; that’ll make half of them drop.”