Those living rooms, which belong to the Kappa Alpha Theta and Alpha Chi Omega sororities, were the settings for four rush parties aimed at recruiting new sisters. Although a rush party is carefully disguised as a social event with a roomful of women making small talk about classes and cute guys, don’t be fooled. There’s a job to do. Each sorority sister must mingle with enough rushees to decide which should be invited into the year’s pledge class (as the annual batch of new members is called), and each rushee must chat with enough sisters to figure out whether she and they are a good fit. All of this must happen in exactly one hour.
The atmosphere, naturally, has to be just right: comfortable, friendly, and inviting. At their rush party on Wednesday night, the Thetas hosted a chocolate feast. (Who can resist chocolate?) A fire crackled in the fireplace, frilly slipcovers clung to the sofas, and perfume-scented brochures rested unobtrusively on the table. Deployed about the room, the sisters sparked conversation with as many of the forty-eight rushees as they could, making good on a house rule that no guest should stand uncomfortably alone. If a sister hits it off with a rushee, she’ll introduce her around and follow up later, inviting her to coffee or dinner.
An hour later, the party ended and twenty-one rushees shuttled over to Alpha Chi, which was hosting an international food festival. (The events are not allowed to overlap.) Inside the living room a sister gave a rundown of the house’s community service programs. In another corner two sisters and a rushee chatted about green contact
lenses and cute British guys. “Do you ever go to Viva?” one sister asked. “Oh, you’ve got to come out with us!”
“I’m relieved!” confided rushee Amanda Wallace ’05 halfway into the party. “People are a lot more friendly than I expected. I think a lot of us think about Animal House and we’re totally turned off.”
The final parties are invitation-only events, after which each rushee can list her first- and second-choice house on a bid sheet and each sorority compiles a selection list. Alpha Chi usually adds about ten new members a year while Theta picks up fifteen or twenty.
Officially, the houses are looking for women with such qualities as leadership potential and high character. “But it’s more just the feeling you get,” says Nina Mongendre ’04, president of Alpha Chi, “if you think you could be friends.”