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Roll Tide? The darker side of #BamaRush

| Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Kerry Schneeman | The Observer

Search #BamaRush on TikTok and you will find a huge collection of videos that have amassed over 439 million views as of Tuesday. Many, myself included, have found the trend entertaining and have closely followed along as thousands of young women try to be recruited into one of the University of Alabama’s 17 sororities. The recruitment process, also known as Bama Rush, is a weeklong series of events in which these women “rush” for the sororities by getting to know the organizations and putting their best selves forward in hopes that one of the sororities will invite them to join or offer them a “bid.” The culmination of Rush Week is Bid Day, in which potential new members, also known as “PNMs,” officially accept their bid to join a sorority. But before receiving that coveted bid, the freshman women dress up according to a dress code or theme. Many of these outfits were showcased on TikTok by the women sharing their “OOTD,” or “outfit of the day,” and telling viewers where they bought each item using the hashtag. #BamaRush has not only been used for showcasing outfits, however. Many women have published TikToks sharing both their great and not-so-great experiences in a sorority at Alabama, and at other schools with Greek life. These bad experiences range from women sharing that they were “dropped” or kicked out of their sorority, to expressing the social-anxiety nightmare of Rush Week, and more.

However, the “darker side” of Bama Rush that I wanted to explore is not limited to the unfavorable experiences of these women. The most troubling part, in my opinion, is the classism and elitism that a Greek system unfortunately perpetuates. First, according to the University of Alabama’s website, 35% of their undergraduates participate in the university’s fraternities and sororities. Besides not receiving a bid, many students are excluded from the Greek system because of its hefty price tag. Members of sororities and fraternities have to pay dues to be considered an active member. Dues range by sorority and fraternity and by university, but usually add up to more than a couple thousand per semester. This does not include the cost of outfits for rush week, and the registration fee that freshman pay to even be involved in the recruitment process, along with other miscellaneous costs.

Since sororities and fraternities create a strong social network for students that can be leveraged for networking and finding a future career, the price tag of Greek Life excludes low-income students from these opportunities. Not to mention that sorority and fraternity recruitment favors “legacies,” or students with a parent who was once an active member. I am far from the first person to call out Greek life for perpetuating cycles of wealth and privilege; however, Greek life at Alabama has also been called out by its own students for perpetuating a discriminatory and racist system. In 2001, the Crimson White, Alabama’s own student-run newsletter, reported that a female freshman was trying to be the first black student to join an all-white sorority at UA. This student, Christina Houston, did in fact join a sorority in 2000, Gamma Phi, but was only considered an active member for one semester. In 2013, only 10 Black or African American students participated in Greek Life at UA, and in 2018, that number had increased on to 92, just 3.9% of Black or African American students at UA Fraternities are even less diverse than sororities. Despite the fact that African American and Black students comprised about 10% of the student body in January 2018, only 0.8% students in traditionally white fraternities were black or African American. The data speaks for itself here.

Now why should you, someone who might be somehow affiliated with the University of Notre Dame, which does not have a Greek system, care? The Greek life system, not just at the University of Alabama, should force us to think critically and reflectively about our own residence hall system and social scene. Many agree that residential hall life at Notre Dame actually mirrors a Greek life system, just one that does not involve rushing. Perhaps many of you came to Notre Dame for that exact reason: to experience a deep sense of sisterhood or brotherhood without participating in the less desirable aspects of Greek life. After all, if you are an undergraduate enrolled at Notre Dame, you have no choice but to participate in residential life at least at some point in your academic career. Zahm Hall, which was highly criticized for having a fraternity environment before it was disbanded, and the controversy that ensued when the University officially disbanded it, highlighted the good and bad of residence hall life. Meanwhile, my own positive experiences in residential life inspired me to write a Letter to the Editor last spring titled “Dear Flaherty Hall.”

Whether your residence hall is deeply attached to your identity at college or just a place where you sleep, it is important to analyze and consider both the positives and drawbacks of it. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Roll Tide, but mostly Go Irish.

Claire Miller is a junior majoring in political science, with a minor in Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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