Her dress? Shein. Her shoes? Steve Madden. Her earrings? Kendra Scott. She’s one of the hundreds of women wearing sundresses and platform sandals walking around campus over the weekend in the hopes of getting a bid from her dream sorority.
As Purdue sororities open their doors to new members, some current and former members have accused the sorority rush process of sexism and objectification of its participants.
Rush has a myriad of rules regarding appearance and behavior during the two-week process, some of which may seem unreasonable to some.
“It’s frustrating when we’re taught ‘fratiquette,’ which explains what is and isn’t appropriate to wear to a frat only to show up in a swarm of boys that just walked off a basketball court,” one sorority member said.
The member, who will be referred to as ‘A,’ asked to be kept anonymous, fearing repercussions from the other members of her house.
"Fratiquette" refers to a PowerPoint presentation shown to members of the house, outlining a set of rules that women need to follow while in social situations like parties.
“We’re not allowed to wear sweatpants or leggings to frats,” she said. “It’s not something we’re checked on, but those rules exist.”
The social dress code is retained year round, but becomes especially pertinent during rush.
“We’re not allowed to party wearing our letters,” said Emma Wozniak, a junior in the College of Liberal Arts and a member of Kappa Delta. “When we are representing our house we have a reputation to maintain.”
Partying is ‘trashy’
Women are judged not only on what they wear to fraternities, but how they spend their nights during rush as well.
Abby, who was initiated into a sorority before dropping and did not want to share her last name, said that women can’t be seen going to parties during the two-week rush process.
“You will be seen as trashy for partying in the first two weeks,” Abby said. “You don’t want those types of women in the house, because they’re already messy. Who knows what type of drama they’ll bring to the house.”
Sororities are also dissuaded from talking about partying during rush, and members are taught to steer away from those questions, even if asked.
“We have a values-based recruitment system, and I think that not talking about parties helps make sure that we meet people who actually line up with (the house’s) values,” Wozniak said.
‘A’ said she felt the system is “disingenuous.”
“Why is it that we are to avoid questions about drinking and partying, but (fraternities) are encouraged to speak on these things?” she asked. “Whoever’s in charge of this is really sexist.”
‘(It’s) just really objectifying’
The sorority rush process takes place over multiple weekends, with each round based on a mutual selection process.
The first round is the open house, where each sorority submits a video highlighting their information and values. Every student rushing will watch these videos, choose their top 14, and speak to their representatives, Emma Swain said.
Swain, who is president of the Panhellenic Association, said students pick eight sororities that they like, then narrow it down further to their top two, while sororities do the same for potential new members.
On the other hand, director of public relations for the Interfraternity Council Andrew Eichmeier said fraternities have a more informal rush process compared to the Panhellenic Association.
“It’s much more up to the fraternities on how they want to have their rush process and get their new members. It’s much less rigid with the schedule,” he said.
‘A’ described the process as frustrating and objectifying.
“We have to rate the girls on a scale of one to three, which is just really objectifying,” she said. “You have to give them a rating based on character, presentation and advancement in the sorority based on a short conversation.”
Abby also said the recruitment process is fake.
“There are certain phrases that you know you have to say that they want to hear,” she said.
The ratings are compiled together in a "document," as some women referred to it, and sometimes women leave obscene comments on ratings.
“Some girls are so harsh, (they say things) ‘like this girl’s a b----,’” ‘A’ said.
“There’s definitely an emphasis on the comments that you make, and we have training for that,” Wozniak said. “I’ve heard that there are mean comments, and that’s both unfortunate and unacceptable.”
The Exponent asked several members, but were unable to get a hold of any of these documents.
Rules of rush
Wozniak said that as a woman in a sorority, she was required to follow a “traffic-light” schedule during rush.
“Red light means that you can’t leave the house at all, that’s usually when they’re going through the list to determine who will get an invite back,” Wozniak said.
“There’s no specific dress code for rush,” she said. “But current and potential members are asked to dress up a little more for each round, and members of a house are given specific colors to wear.”
Ultimately, most of the women end up wearing similar styled dresses, and a few choose to wear jumpsuits.
Aside from dress requirements, new members are also asked to submit their high school resume and grade point average. The required GPA for admittance is a 3.0.
Women in rush need to be aware of even the smallest perceived problems they may cause.
“There’s just so many little things you can be fined for, like wearing heels taller than 2 inches,” ‘A’ said.
Sororities aren’t allowed to give potential new members anything, for fear of being accused of ‘dirty rushing.’
Dirty rushing refers to when a potential new member comes into a house knowing other members, is promised a bid without going through recruitment or given gifts to entice her to join the sorority.
“The only thing that the women are allowed to leave with is a tampon,” Abby said.
Sororities can receive large fines from their national chapters for dirty rushing, and can even be disbanded.
Lack of transparency
Despite having existed for decades, the process of recruitment remains a mystery. The lack of communication isn’t helped by the fear women feel when speaking out about these issues.
Mary Schofield, a freshman in the College of Health and Human Sciences, said that her rush experience was overwhelming, but exciting.
While she was talking to a reporter, an older sorority member came over and stood with her for the entirety of the interview. Schofield looked at the other woman, seemingly for approval, before answering every question.
Two other sorority members who spoke to the Exponent also asked to remain anonymous, fearing retaliation from their sororities.
Wozniak said that her unconventional rush process made her experience feel more genuine, and helped her connect with the women in her house.
“I ended up actually dropping formal recruitment after the second round,” she said. “My goal was to find a group of people that I really connected with, and I didn’t feel like I had connected with anyone at that point.”
Continuous open bidding, a process where sororities can talk to potential members after bid day, was when Wozniak ended up joining her sorority.
“Since I wasn’t a part of the formal rush, I had more opportunities to talk to the girls and that helped me decide that I belonged in Kappa,” she said.
Not all members had such a positive experience.
Abby, who called the process “cliquey” and “isolating,” said being in a sorority made her more closed off from the rest of campus.
“I felt more isolated in my group than when I was alone in my room,” Abby said.
Despite the issues that the women note, most of them say they’re glad to have rushed.
‘A’ said she made lifelong friends, despite her belief that Greek Life is a broken system that is fixable if people fight to change it.
“We can make Greek Life truly inclusive and a beautiful system of friendship,” she said. “It can be everything it pretends to be. But first someone must admit that it’s flawed.”