Greeks are on the prowl for new members. Just two weeks into the school year, fraternities are already scouting out potential pledges in the process commonly known as “dirty rush.”
Dirty rush gives fraternities the opportunity to look for freshmen they feel fit in well with their chapter, and it allows freshmen to get to know some of the fraternities before formal rushing begins at the start of second semester.
During the same time, fall recruitment takes place, allowing upperclassmen to join Greek life if they did not previously join a fraternity. While official fall rush focuses on upperclassmen specifically, dirty rush targets newly-arrived freshmen.
One student involved in Greek life said that fraternities tell members not to use the word rush when interacting with freshmen.
Brothers place notes under freshmen’s doors or send them email invitations to various events. Potential new members are often scouted through current brothers’ extracurricular activities or other commitments, the student said.
“What I’ve noticed [in my fraternity] is that invitees are often from the same places, ethnic or religious backgrounds or specific academic programs as the brothers who invite them,” said one Penn student, who is currently part of his fraternity’s effort to find the next pledge class.
The student went on to say that about once a week, the fraternity will host freshmen they want to get to know better through social events involving food, music and drinking games.
In order to keep track of potential members of the next pledge class, the fraternity — like many others — keeps a document of freshmen, the fraternity brother said. The document includes basic information as well as comments on how the current members believe the new recruits will fit in. Even recent alumni add recommendations and comments about new members.
“Some people feel that there is no future for the organization without a budget for dirty rush,” the student went on to say. “While some of the comments are funny, and it’s all been harmless, I do see that this system is a bit wrong,” he added, noting his own experience dirty rushing his current fraternity.
Another Penn student spent the earliest part of his first semester socializing with various fraternities before he stopped receiving invitations to their events. “Dirty rushing is so fun. You feel like the best, until you get cut and it’s all over. Then it sucks,” he said of the process.
This student recalls getting envelopes with wax seals under his door. Sometimes, the fraternities signed the invites, but other times, freshmen were just given an address and a dress code, he said.
The same student shared an anecdote of his friend, who complimented a brother’s Rolex during one dirty rush party. Afterward, the brothers took him and a few other freshmen on an all-expenses-paid bar and club crawl in Center City.
“The environment was chill. You got to meet the brothers and get a general feel for the environment. Often, the events are parties they invite you to, or date nights,” the student said, adding that many of the events were planned so that potential members had to bring girls.
“They were definitely judging you based on the girls you brought,” another student who participated in dirty rush said. “They were always watching.”
He estimated that well over half of the pledge classes of the two fraternities he dirty rushed decided their pledge classes during first semester, before official rush even began at the beginning of the spring semester.
“The entire relationship [between a freshman and the brothers] is based on engaging you as a freshman, not getting to know you as a person,” said another student who dirty rushed for his entire first semester, only to receive no bids during formal rush.
During formal rush, the student said he tried to reach out to an older friend from home who was in a fraternity where he hadn’t dirty rushed. “My friend told me I had messed up because they had pretty much finalized the pledge class first semester,” he said.
A student currently dirty rushing fraternities said that the events are already beginning this year.
“Some people on my floor, myself included, were given a letter to join a frat for a barbecue. I also know that two of my hallmates were invited to watch Monday night football with a couple different frats,” he said. He added that none of the invitations used the specific phrase dirty rush to describe the events.
Director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life Scott Reikofski said that while fraternities cannot hold rush events for freshmen in the fall or promise bids for formal rush, they are allowed to invite potential members to come listen to a visiting speaker or participate in community service activities.
“I’m not going to regulate who’s friends with whom,” Reikofski said.
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