September in Ann Arbor signals the arrival of the Black Pants
Brigades — legions of mostly freshmen girls who, in their
alphabetically organized troops, storm the University’s
campus. They travel from sorority to sorority, holding up traffic
as they cross busy streets in single-file lines like obedient
ducklings following their mother.

This group’s odd behavior can be attributed to only one
age-old tradition: sorority Rush, or Recruitment, its official
title.

A disclaimer is necessary here. I’m not knocking aspiring
sorority girls, or Rushees, as they’re colloquially termed.
In fact, I rushed my freshman year. My black pants-clad legs
shuffled to sororities in the rain; I answered questions about my
hometown, my major and which dorm I lived in about 200 times; I was
a hair-flipping gum-chewer. Having experienced Rush firsthand, I
feel free to comment on it.

It’s no secret that Rush is obnoxious. Even if it was a
secret, the secret would be out five minutes into Rush’s
opening night when sorority girls can be heard from virtually any
spot on Central Campus, screaming their houses’ names to the
tunes of bad 1980s one-hit wonders. A word about the music: If the
student body was collectively seeking a Depeche Mode revival, there
would be a showing of VH1’s “I Love the
’80s” in Angell Hall. Unfortunately, no one wants to
hear repeated screeching by girls thrashing around like headless
chickens to “I Just Can’t Get Enough.”

During Mixers, the name given to the first round of Rush, girls
briefly visit each of Michigan’s 15 sororities. The
earsplitting effects of Mixers result from windows being pounded
on, pots and pans being clanged together and the impact from
hundreds of girls jumping up and down at the same time, which
probably registers at least a two on the Richter scale.

The noise emanating from sorority houses isn’t the only
aspect of Rush that makes non-Greeks want to stick their fingers
down their throats. During the weeks that Rush takes place —
typically from mid-September to the beginning of October —
one is likely to witness multiple crying scenes transpiring on the
steps of the Michigan Union. The melodrama usually follows the
ranking process whereby each girl orders her desired houses by
preference. A long, drawn-out exercise in ScanTron etiquette
— you’re screwed if you can’t properly fill in a
bubble and if you forgot your No. 2 pencil, forget it — this
practice invites indecision and inspires tearful phone calls to mom
about not knowing which houses to select. No one should have to
push through a maze of sniffling girls just to get a Wendy’s
Frosty.

Though the Rushees largely contribute to the spectacle that is
Rush, the most controversial aspect of this ritual is the rules
that govern it. Regulated by the Panhellenic Association, an
administrative body that monitors sororities to ensure compliance
with its constitution, Rush is taken seriously. Very seriously.
There are guidelines ranging from how long each Rush group can
spend in a sorority house to what, if anything, the Rushees are
allowed to take out of the house when they leave. Violations of
these rules are notoriously termed “Rush Infractions”
and are punishable by Panhel law via a fine for the offending
house.

Sororities’ desires to avoid the long arm of the law are
evident in frantic last-minute hunts for napkins, cups or other
paraphernalia a Rushee might have accidentally removed from a
house, and in incessant bell-ringing signaling that time is up and
the Rushees must leave.

If, upon exiting a sorority, a Rushee is discovered holding the
napkin into which she spit her gum, an infraction awaits the
unlucky house. Similarly ill-fated are the sororities in which a
girl is using the bathroom when the timekeeping bell sounds. Too
bad if she doesn’t have time to pull up her pants;
she’s thrust out the front door faster than Bill would have
pushed Monica under the desk had Hillary walked into the Oval
Office.

If indiscriminate bathroom removals aren’t convincing
enough, an anecdote from my Rush experience exemplifies the
stupidity of the Rush process. I was one of the abhorred napkin
holders — a Rushee who vacates the sorority premises while
unknowingly smuggling paper goods. Lucky for the infraction-doomed
sorority, a sister spotted the crumpled tissue in my hand. With an
urgent response reserved for “code blue” situations,
she seized the napkin as I was walking out the door, saving her
sorority from the wrath of Panhel.

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