By Tom Collins
Imagine going through the University's informal fraternity rush as a junior. A second year junior at that.
I did it last week and, as stupid as it sounds, I think I learned a little something about me and maybe even about life.
When I was a freshman rushing just didn't seem like a viable option. Getting into the frat scene seemed too expensive and the thought of having to explain just who I am to intimidating strangers scared me. All strangers sort of scare me.
Thing is, if I had joined then, I'd be some kind of High Muckety Muck now.
Two Sundays ago I walked by the Gallagher Theatre and realized that the pre-rush meeting was about to begin. I got my rush card and walked in.
The room was already full and full of energy. So many boys in polo shirts all a twitter. So much testosterone. I hadn't felt that since I was in high school in the locker room and I never spent too much time there anyhow.
The 1997 rush class was more than 600, the biggest one in six years.
We got the drill.
Don't drink, go to every house, get your stamp, don't drink.
Getting your stamps is the most important thing. In an effort to make the process fair, the Interfraternity Council mandates that one attend open house at every house at least long enough to get the stamp.
Don't allow yourself to be intimidated. Don't allow yourself to be "hot boxed."
The word hung in the air as these teen-age troglodytes had all the thoughts of pseudo sexual hazing they could handle and probably didn't comprehend. I know, I had 'em too.
But IFC president Troy Zien, sensing the hormonal panic in the room, explained "hot boxing" was merely having five or six guys from one house corner you and pressure you to join. That's it.
No ass burns.
Dan Maxwell, director of Student Programs, came up and told everyone to behave and to take responsibility for their actions, as individuals. He really got the undivided attention of the room.
And everyone told us about the white vans available to take us to and from the various houses. It occurred to me again.
They're all freshman.
And it occurred to me I've never heard the word "men" used to address a group I was in so many times.
But looking at the map on the back of the rush card, it occurred to me just how far flung these briars of brotherhood are.
Truly, fraternities encompass most sides of the campus and were I a freshman I expect I'd have taken advantage of the van service to get from locale to locale.
Lucky me, I've got a car.
Not a Jeep, mind you.
And so I set out.
See, I guess, like a lot of you, I've painted the fraternities with one brush, in one color.
Now I think there may be a couple of shades.
The week was filled with hand shakes and bad jokes about my name. Until I lost my name tag.
I learned a few things.
I learned about Delta Tau Delta's "Venus Beach" where "Centennial" drinking activities take place. That involves a lot of drinking
They have a party every year that's rated in the Playboy top 25.
Proof you should read the articles.
Free food is the most important thing in life and a good reason to rush.
The fraternities know it: The way to a man's heart is through his stomach.
At Alpha Epsilon Pi I got to eat these really good nachos while I waited in line to get my stamp. I also learned I was very, very gentile.
I think it was when the girl who stamped my card asked me,
"What are you doing for the Jewish Holidays?"
Then she laughed.
Over on fraternity row that Sunday is where I first felt really weird, though.
I felt like a little boy in a land of giants. Like a white Smurf facing a stacked Gargamel.
I don't know what happens to all these boys that they go from a puny freshman to a hulking senior, but it happens.
Must be a lot of Charles Atlas.
I tried really hard to impress the guys at these houses because, well, I don't know.
It was like being in sixth grade and trying to convince someone cooler than you you're cool.
And I think that's the difference between a lot of the row fraternities and the smaller ones.
They know people want to join them.
Heard about the "Heaven and Hell" party they throw over at Delta Chi.
That's the fortress on Warren.
The top floor is heaven and they serve mixed drinks and play light music.
The yard becomes a hell of heavy metal music and shots.
A theme party an English student could love.
The guy taking me around also explained how much better it was to party when you live in the house.
Because when you want take a girl somewhere more private, you can just say "let's go back to my room."
Mom must be proud.
But, really this is what I expected. Getting ignored at Sigma Chi was no surprise, for example.
Some of these places felt like Lord of the Flies. Costume designs by Tommy Hilfiger.
What was surprising was going to fraternities where people asked what my major was and what I do with my free time.
I don't care if they cared or not, I felt wanted.
That's the hook for the whole deal. One wants to be wanted.
I'm 21 years old, I have my own friends, my own life, but somebody's interested and it's hard not to be interested back.
It's like that Rob Lowe/James Spader flick.
Even at the Alpha Gamma Rho house.
Not to be confused with the social club Aggie House, AGR is a fraternity, essentially for students interested in agricultural careers. But I found something to talk about with the guy and all of a sudden ...
As the first night ends, the fraternities begin to make calls to the kids they liked, inviting them to make a second trip.
You get that call and it doesn't matter who it's from.
Could be AGR, or Phi Delta Theta.
I wanted to got to lunch at these places. Hang out, see what was going on.
There was a lot of basketball played in the hot afternoon.
I also heard about the philanthropic things fraternities do.
Pi Kappa Phi has nationally started it's own charity organization that the chapters around the county contribute to.
Lambda Chi Alpha hosts a huge party every year as part of a canned food drive.
Every one has some charity function.
Chi Phi hosts a kickball tournament to raise money for the American Heart Association. It's named after a kid who died a few years back.
Personally, my charity giving is limited to change outside Circle K.
What it all comes down to is community and the different ways in which people see it.
This is my big point.
Freshman guys meet in dormitories in August. Some will rush, some will not. That decision and the decision to pledge that comes are early moments of truth.
You were all the same and now you are not.
It's the story of the Sneeches, on both sides.
We independents trash Greeks and they in turn stick their noses in the air and cry foul.
Just read the letters to the editor.
A guy at Kappa Alpha told me he couldn't imagine what he would have done if he hadn't signed up.
You would have lived.
You might have done less for the community at large, you might have had less fun, but you would have lived.
Sure, there's something great about tradition, but tradition doesn't get your hands in the stuff of life.
The dirt, the loneliness.
I guess that's why there are so many Greek business majors.