Chapter Five: Formal Recruitment Day One, or My Father Owns a Yacht… Does Your Father Have a Seven Figure Salary Too?
Remember the last time someone told you high school was hell? They were lying through their teeth! High school is nothing like the crap that is fraternity formal recruitment at RMU. But maybe I should back up.
In case you forgot, here is the situation I am currently living with:
One of my roommates, Morgan, is in the sorority Delta Delta Pi. She likes to flaunt her money and the fact that she’s rubbed elbows with Hollywood’s hottest stars. Her favorite phrase is “Like Ohmygod!” And she lives by the theory that blondes have more fun. While I agree, my idea of fun does not include the local mall. At some point this past semester, she convinced both our other roommates that they belonged in the Greek system. I have yet to forgive her.
My second roommate is a guy named Blake. We met in the dorms a year ago, but since he’s an engineer, he feels like he lacks a social life, even though I’m one of his best friends. And I’m one of the coolest people you will ever meet, I promise. So, for his lack of social life, he is currently putting himself through the hell of fraternity rush. I secretly hope it kills him.
And then there’s Amy. She’s the reason I’m in this mess in the first place, all because going Greek turned her into Little Miss Mega Bitch. She’s been nicer since our bet, but I’m still weary of when she’ll bear her fangs again.
And then there’s the matter of the bet that got me into this mess. I had to sell my integrity as a human being for a set up. But I still think I got the better end of the bargain. Amy didn’t want money or anything, so her loss!
Because of all of that, here Blake and I are going through the motions of RMU’s fraternity recruitment. Here’s what I understand so far:
One, the Greek system is really into cattle-like tendencies. “Impartial” members of the fraternity system group their fresh meat into smaller herds at the student center and hand them a name tag with their name and a number. Then these “impartial” members lead these herds in a cattle drive to the various houses. Once the herds are taken inside the house, they meet a herd of frat guys all dressed exactly alike before they are herded to the next house. Moo.
Two, the Greek system is full of posers. You get herded around a meet-and-greet only to find out no one has anything in common with you, or that they might, but, like I said, they’re total posers. “Would you like to meet my brother? He climbs mountains too.” “That’s right, why just the other day, I climbed Mount Vesuvius.” Mount Vesuvius is a volcano half-way across the world, genius… Even I know that.
Three, the Greek system is full of cover ups. That means, you can hear about as many alcohol-related and drug-related incidents in the paper as there are frats on campus. Ask them about it in a rush party and the answer you get is, “Speaking of parties, did anyone tell you about our Formal yet? We always go away from the RMU area and rent out a hotel for the fraternity and our dates. We have crazy nights in the hot tub before Formal.” “With alcohol?” “Well sure, if you’re over twenty-one. And there’s a really nice dinner before the dance. Some of the most fun I’ve had with the other brothers is at formal.” The more daring ones will go a step further, and instead of telling you about a nationally supported party called “formal,” they will proceed to twist your questions about their blatant alcoholism towards their philanthropies and the good they do for the community. Why can’t they just come out and say “We help people so no one cares about the riots at our parties.”
Four, the Greek system is clearly filled with closet homosexuals. While I was getting herded around a party, one member came up and licked the face of the member I was talking to, at which point the member I had been talking to hugged the licker. I tried to resist saying something, but Amy didn’t say I had to be nice when I went through rush; “You just licked a guy…” The licker rolled his eyes, “It’s not being gay; it’s brotherhood!” With that he walked away and I continued to stare blankly. Come on, that’s so gay.
Five, the Greek system is full of its alleged stereotypes. You know what everyone thinks of stereotypes. You hear them and laugh. All African Americans are good at basketball. All women can cook seven course meals. Everyone from San Francisco is a crazy Liberal. Florida is full of old people, except during Spring Break. Everyone in New York talks with a Brooklyn Accent. Everyone from Texas is a redneck, a cowboy, or a redneck cowboy. And why do we laugh at these stereotypes? Because some of them can be true. Because sometimes, some of them are true… So the drunken frat boy? The slutty sorority girl? Walking STDs? Some of them are true.
And I’m sure you’re thinking, “You’re being such a jerk, Nick!” Either that or you’re saying “Oh man, that is so true, Nick!” Or you’re in the Greek system and you’ve officially stopped reading. Screw you. I bet it’s because you recognized all the fakeness I’ve pointed out and you’re offended. Well, good riddance to you.
So, where to begin on this process? There’s really no incident worth mentioning in detail so far, so I guess I’ll just run through the RMU fraternity system.
Kappa Epsilon Gamma (ΚΕΓ), or K-G, is the frat with the parties that get overrun with cops in two hours flat. Their Greek letters should be a good indication of that. The perks of being a K-G include a house with a few single occupant rooms, an intramural soccer team, and pre-game parties with beer that isn’t Keystone Light. It could be Milwaukee’s Best for all I know, but I was assured it was not Keystone Light. Oh, and apparently the K-Gs are the only frat that openly talk about their alcohol use, so I guess they get points for honesty. The K-Gs also like to party with the girls from Delta Sigma Zeta.
Rho Lambda Lambda (ΡΛΛ), or Lambda, is synonymous with hippies. Are you in need of a marijuana fix but your dealer is out of town? No problem, the Lambdas have you covered! It’s the only house where a frat boy would be caught dead with dreds or long hair. I like to call them “the brothers of Pot, Liquor, and Love.” A few of the brothers had interesting things to say, but I’m sure they were high out of their minds. Most of them date girls in Rho Omicron Tau, but that might be because they’re the only Greek girls that are into dreds.
Beta Beta Beta (ΒΒΒ), or Beta, is the wealthiest fraternity on campus. Morgan and her Delta Delta Pi sisters frequent their parties because they have the most expensive alcohol. They were quite thrilled that I knew her, actually. I like to call them “the brothers of Bush, Bills, and Bibles.” More than one conversation began with a political comment—is this The Future Congressmen of America? I also overheard another conversation that began, “My father holds parties on his yacht.” (Greek-speak for “So how does your father spend his seven-figure salary?”) And every brother was a bible thumper from the Bible belt. It actually came into conversation that a rushee was Jewish, to which a brother calmly replied, “Does that mean you eat Chinese food on Christmas?” (Greek-speak for “I’d hit you with my Bible, but I’ve heard your roommate is the shit.”)
Xi Tau Mu (ΞΤΜ), or Xi Mu, is pretty indescribable. In their free time, they snowboard, climb mountains, skateboard, surfboard, and so on. I think my group’s Rho Chi said it best when he shouted “EXTREME!!!!” as we walked into the house. Though I’ll admit my day got a little better when I started talking to some of the brothers about surfboarding. This is also where the “I climbed Mount Vesuvius” conversation originated, though not with me. That brother in particular was a skateboarder himself; so I’ve gathered the “meet my brother” move is pre-choreographed. These guys only go for Sigma Tau Delta girls, who I’ve heard can be pretty athletic themselves.
Delta Iota Kappa (ΔΙΚ), or the Delt, is synonymous with drunken douche bags. I’m almost certain that this is where the image of the stereotypical frat house originated. So, basically, if you’ve seen Animal House, you’ve seen Delta Iota Kappa. And yes, this is the house where I witnessed the brother licking. Now I don’t know about you, but I happen to have a biologic brother, and we definitely don’t act like that. Or maybe there’s something that changes when you get brothers that aren’t actually related to you. I still think it’s gay, though. You can often catch the Delts cavorting with the Alpha Sigma Sigma girls and the Kappa Upsilon Mu girls. But a few of the brothers also go with the Sigma Tau Deltas and the Beta Lambda Deltas.
Theta Eta Theta (ΘΗΘ), or Theta Eta, is the “smart” fraternity. It’s comprised primarily of engineers, pre-med students, and pre-law students. It’s the perfect place for Blake really… Lots of smarts… Not a lot of personality. The reason? They’re zombies. Even their name proves it: Theta Ate-A Theta. That’s what happens when you become an alumni, the collegiate brothers eat you! It makes perfect sense. Anyway, they like to talk in SAT words, so be forewarned. And when you see them at the library, the girls they’re eyeing over their books are probably Phi Lambda Alphas.
Sigma Epsilon Chi (ΣΕΧ), or Sigma Chi, is the Playboy mansion of the RMU Greek system, except comprised of men and appealing to women, instead of the other way around. Oh, and they don’t dress like Bunnies. Pick an STD, any STD, and they’ve probably got at least one case of it in the house, usually more. Women like to frequent their parties because the brothers look like models. But I’m not sure if women are a good trade-off for being the human version of a pigeon. They run with the same sororities as the Delts, which may or may not be a good thing for the girls.
Iota Phi Chi (ΙΦΧ), or I-Phi, is the backbone of the Greek government system. Their members are usually the Presidents of IFC, and they tend to win the Student Government elections as well. They live by the motto that Greeks will rule the world. They are out-spoken and boastful. The topics at their Rush parties are limited to what the Greeks can do to dominate the world. I’m surprised world peace didn’t come up. To them, parties mean business. What an oxymoron. They would never be caught dead with women who aren’t Pi Alpha Nu girls. Though one brother told me under his breath that he was dating a girl who had been a legacy at Pi Alpha Nu, but she ended up pledging Beta Lambda Delta. He told his brothers that she transferred schools. It’s actually a little sad.
Nu Rho Alpha (ΝΡΑ), or Nu Rho, is the house populated with southerners. Some are gentlemen and some are rednecks, but they're all southern. It was actually funny, because at the party the fraternity president had a cowboy hat and a bolo tie. One of the other rushees joked that his boxers were probably a confederate flag pattern. No one had the balls to ask, but I’m pretty sure it was true. They were probably the most hospitable members of the Greek system I’ve ever met, even when I admitted I’m not southern. Unlike the Betas, I feel like they were still being genuine in their conversation. It was a nice feeling and the first time I really felt glad Amy forced me into this process. But enough with that sap. No Nu Rho is complete without a Theta Epsilon Chi girl on his arm, even when he’s wearing confederate flag boxers.
Chi Alpha Lambda (ΧΑΛ), or Chi Lam, represents the west the way Nu Rho represents the south. The house's theme song is undoubtedly anything by the Beach Boys. And yes, this is despite the fact that they're a fraternity. Not that the Beach Boys fit into this category, but fraternities play more bad top 40's hits than any group I know. Seriously, only fraternities could get away with playing crap like 5ive. Only fraternities. Who? Oh you're right; they were a flash in the pan. And why the hell do I know them? Maybe I do belong in this system. Anyway… A typical brother in this house is tall and blond. Most of them surf too. The house is, unfortunately, divided between the NorCal and the SoCal factions. But at least they all go for Beta Lambda Delta girls.
Alpha Theta Omega (ΑΘΩ), or ATO, is the disciplined fraternity. Every member of the house is in RMU’s ROTC program. Big and Little brother pairings are based on which sect of the armed forces brothers intend to serve on. The house even plays a sort of inter-house war game. It all sounds intense. And I don’t even know why they participate in formal fraternity recruitment anyway. They don’t even consider taking a pledge unless he’s a member of the ROTC anyway. That’s just a little petty, don’t you think? And no, it’s probably not any better than recruiting based on money, possessions, or political views, but it’s open rejection based on a stereotype. Not cool. The fine Psi Sigma Beta girls the ATOs hang out with, however, are very cool.
With all of this in mind, you can understand my apprehension as my group approached our last Greek house. It looked the same as all the other houses on Greek row. Large columns rising to the second floor overhangs of looming mansions. Metallic letters hanging over the ornate door frames. But there was almost something eerie and sinister about this house…
I’m just shitting you. It was totally normal. But there was something about this house.
Our Rho Chi led us to the steps and rang the doorbell. The other groups of rushees gathered around nervously. That reaction didn’t really make sense to me. I mean, this was the last house everyone here was going to. They visited eleven houses before this, so what was the issue? It’s not like this party would be any different from the others. Everyone here would have pointless conversations with the brothers about formals and sororities and living in the house. I have yet to talk about anything that really mattered to me in these houses. That’s just Greek life, I guess….
The door opened and a brother in a suit appeared in the doorway. “Hi, welcome to Beta Sigma Beta.”
Beta Sigma Beta… I started my mental run through in my head. The brother who answered the door didn’t look at any of us as we walked in. That’s poor form. I surveyed the house. It was too tidy for a fraternity… Maybe that was only because of rush….
“Hey, I’m Jason.”
I turned my head slightly. A tall brother stood in front of me and a guy next to me. He gave both of us a warm smile.
“Mark.” The guy next to me extended his hand. The two shook.
The brother turned to me with that obnoxious warm smile.
“Nick…” I fumbled over the words and gave him a weak shake.
“So you’re both freshmen? Do you know any brothers?”
“My roommate pledged last semester.” Mark interjected quickly with a smile.
“Oh yeah, who?”
“Jacobson? He’s my roommate’s Little Bro! He’s the shit!” They high fived.
The brother turned back to me, “You’re a freshman too, Nick?”
“Sorry,” I shrugged, “Sophomore.”
“Hey, me too! High five!” I gave him a weak high five as well. What an annoying frat guy….
He put his hands behind his back as the two of them discussed how they were both from California. What an awkward way to stand. Why would you put your arms behind your back? It looks uncomfortable… But that’s when I caught it out of the corner of my eye. Another brother was trotting over to us, quickly, with a large smile on his face. I’d only been standing here for a few minutes, so it wasn’t time for the choreographed brother switch yet… And they think the rushees don’t know about that. I laughed to myself slightly. I see… I’m being difficult. A small smirk crossed my face.
“Hey, Jason.” The second brother smiled when he reached the three of us. His speech drawled in a southern accent.
Jason turned to the brother who had just approached us, “Brian! I thought you might like talking to Nick, you have a lot in common.”
“Do we now?” he smiled. His voice drawled again.
“That’s right,” I continued smirking, “We do.”
“Well, then let’s go chat over here.”
I followed him a little farther away from the brother I had been talking to. Once he was sufficiently far from other brothers, he stopped.
“So, which house do you really want?”
He let out a short laugh, “You don’t want to be here, so which house do you want to pledge?”
“I don’t know…”
He laughed again, “Then you aren’t really in a position to be difficult, don’t you think?”
“So the awkward hand position basically meant ‘Get me away from this obnoxious person’?”
“I’m impressed you noticed that. So, tell me why you’re here Nick…”
I recounted a short version of the fight Amy and I had had, conveniently leaving out the terms of our bet. I also explained that Blake was going through rush too and that Morgan was a Delta Delta Pi. Throughout my entire explanation he nodded, as if he understood.
When I was finished, he gave me a smile. “It sounds like you’ve got a pretty complex reason for rushing.”
“Is that Greek-speak for ‘stupid’?”
He laughed and shook his head. “I’m not allowed to judge your reasons for going through this process, they’re not mine to judge. And I actually find it pretty commendable that you’re at least trying, when it sounds like your opinion of this system is pretty... sub par.”
He sounded really… sincere…. Just like the southerners at Nu Rho… I crossed my arms slightly, “Why did you rush?”
He smiled, “Well, I’m from Kentucky and it’s a pretty big thing in the South. Anyone who’s anyone is Greek. My father was Greek, my Grandfathers were Greek, my Great-Grandfathers were Greek, and so on and so forth down the line since fraternities were founded. My mother was a debutante and a sorority sister too. It’s just the way things happen in the South, even if you don’t really want to be Greek.”
“You didn’t want to?”
“Not especially.” He smiled, “But my cousin, Kevin, came here to RMU and pledged here at Beta Sig. When I transferred up here the next semester, he told me to at least go through for him and the rest of my family. In the end, I did end up going Beta Sig too and it’s probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
“Even though you didn’t want to go through…”
“The thing about the Greek system is that it’s interlaced with all these rules and stereotypes. But in the end, you join because of something you felt in your heart. There’s something very welcoming in this house, even without Cousin Kevin.”
I looked down at the floor. Something in your heart, huh?...
“So, tell me, Nick, if you weren’t going through this right now, what would you rather be doing?”
“Well, some friends and I are trying to get together an intramural basketball team.”
“Only intramural? You’re tall enough to be at least club.” He laughed again.
Is it weird for me to say that I was becoming obsessed with this guy’s laugh? I’d heard a few brothers at other houses laugh, but it always seemed stifled and forced. He was… really laughing…
It made me want to laugh too. “Height isn’t everything. You do need skills too.”
“Don’t tell me you can only try one new thing a year. It’s the Greek system this year? Then club basketball next year?” He laughed again.
He was… making fun of me. This was new for the choreographed, serious parties I experienced before.
I couldn’t help but laugh again, “Sure, and senior year, I think I’ll be really daring and try changing my major or something.”
“That close to graduation?” he smiled, “What a waste. I’ll bet you’re great at whatever it is you do.” He chuckled.
“Music,” I smiled, “My major is music.”
“Me too,” he smiled, “There’s a lot of us here, actually. Are you voice too? Or an instrument?”
“Voice… But I play the drums.”
“I’m a guitar man myself.” He strummed an air guitar.
“You can’t strum an air guitar! All air guitars are electric!” I couldn’t help it. I burst out laughing.
But, then again, so did he. A few brothers and rushees near by turned slightly to stare at both of us holding our sides as we laughed. After a few disapproving looks from his brothers, particularly one fairly tall one with bushy black eyebrows, Brian calmed himself with a quiet chuckle.
“We’re not being very Rush party appropriate.”
“Laughing is taboo? Well that’s no fun…”
“Well, parties are a way for brothers to get to know rushees, so it is pretty obnoxious if we’re over here laughing our lungs out.”
I started laughing again. Laughing our lungs out? He was slowly becoming one of the funniest people I knew and I didn’t really know him at all.
The other brothers were slowly performing the choreographed dance where they switched rushees.
Brian gave me a disappointed look, “It looks like I’ll have to give you up to another brother soon.”
“What is this, speed dating?” I laughed.
He gave me another smile, “It does seem like that, doesn’t it?”
“How about I give you my phone number then and you ask me out on a date.” I gave him a wink.
He laughed again, “How scandalous! I’ve only known you for five minutes.”
He received another disapproving look from the brother with bushy eyebrows. They looked like caterpillars… I could almost swear they were alive.
Brian shook his head, “You don’t miss a thing, do you?”
“Huh?” Man, he interrupted my train of thought about fuzzy caterpillars on that guy’s face.
He laughed quietly, “I get a disapproving look and you go and stare at the people giving them to me.”
“Sorry, he just… gave you a really stern one… twice actually.”
He laughed, “Tall with living eyebrows?”
He read my mind! How the hell did he read my mind?!?
“Your face tells me yes. He does that a lot actually…” He laughed, “You’ve managed to pick out our President, also known as my cousin, Kevin.”
“Shit, you’re related to the President?!”
He crossed his arms, “He was related to me before the Beta Sig presidency ever crossed his mind.” He smiled again.
I was inclined to actually give this guy my cell phone number so we could be friends when I gave up on joining a fraternity. I sound like a woman.
“So… You like basketball, music… What else?”
“Video games. I own every game station ever made!”
“And it works?”
“Why wouldn’t it?”
He let out a low whistle, “That’s pretty impressive… I like Mario Kart Racing myself.”
“Me too! I’m always Yoshi.”
I couldn’t help but stare at him in awe. We were a match made in heaven. And I sound like a woman again….
“Wipe the drool off your face.” He laughed.
Out of the corer of my eye, I noticed some brothers walking rushees to the door. I turned back to Brian, “Are they getting kicked out?”
“No, the party is over.”
He laughed, “All good things must come to an end, Nick.”
“But I was…. having fun.” My answer surprised even me.
He smiled, “Me too. At least you can carry on a conversation outside of dues, formals, and parties.”
I laughed, “I was about to say the same thing.”
He laughed again as he stole one last glance at my name tag. He ushered me toward the door. “Thanks for the chat, Nick.”
“No…” I smiled, “Thank you.”
I was about to step out the door when he addressed me again, “And Nick, don’t give up on the Greek system so easily. You might be surprised.”
I stared at him for a moment. He gave me a smile and blended back into the house. The door shut in between the two of us.
Maybe I had been wrong about the Greek system…
Nick’s cheat sheet of the Greek houses on campus:
Kappa Epsilon Gamma
Rho Lambda Lambda
Beta Beta Beta
Xi Tau Mu
Delta Iota Kappa
Theta Eta Theta
Sigma Epsilon Chi
Iota Phi Chi
Nu Rho Alpha
Chi Alpha Lambda
Alpha Theta Omega
Beta Sigma Beta
Sororities (More on all of them later):
Delta Sigma Zeta
Rho Omicron Tau
Delta Delta Pi
Sigma Tau Delta
Alpha Sigma Sigma
Phi Lambda Alpha
Kappa Upsilon Mu
Pi Alpha Nu
Theta Epsilon Chi
Beta Lambda Delta
Psi Sigma Beta
Pi Pi Pi
And more Greek insight from Nick.
Keystone Light/Milwaukee’s Best-Of course you know that these are beers, their significance is that they are really bad beers often served at fraternity parties. Why? They are cheap and easy to purchase in bulk. The consistency of Keystone Light is similar to water, with beer flavoring—often referred to as “Keystone Water.” Milwaukee’s Best is often lovingly referred to as “Milwaukee’s Beast,” if that’s any indication of its taste.
IFC-The acronym for the North American Inter-fraternal Council; it’s the governing body for every national fraternity. On campuses, it is also the forum for members of the fraternities to come together as a community and discuss things like recruitment or PR.
Big and Little-When men first pledge into the fraternity, they are given a sponsor (called a Big Brother) who effectively is there to show the pledge the ropes and help him through the pledge process. The pledge becomes the Little Brother to his Big Bro. These lineages form families as Big Brothers have their own Big Brothers and Little Brothers have their own Little Brothers. Some members have multiple Little Brothers, so their Little Brothers’ Little Brothers may even have “Uncles” and “Cousins” in their family lineage.
Greek row-Many campuses have all their Greek houses on one street, called “Greek Row.” Some have separate “Sorority Rows” and “Fraternity Rows.” And then others have houses spread all over the University’s off campus student residential/bar/restaurant area.
Rho Chi-A Greek version of the term Rush Counselor. Although, a national honors fraternity also used the same Greek letters and banned the outside use. The new term for the same position is Rho Gamma, or Recruitment Guide. The Rho Chi’s job is to help recruits through the recruitment process.