Coming into college with images of Animal House, Old School, and American Pie running through my mind, I no doubt had pre-conceived notions about fraternities.
Looking absolutely clueless, there I was standing in J&H, tray in hand, looking for a seat that was surrounded by empty ones, to avoid the awkwardness of sitting next to a stranger. Eventually I found a clear area and before I even popped a French fry into my mouth, I heard some guys at the end of the table asking if I wanted to sit with them. Having no reason not to, I picked up my tray and moved down a few seats.
The first thing I noticed was that two of the four guys were wearing T-shirts bearing Greek letters. They asked the usual questions: my year, my major, where I lived. I decided to cut to the chase and asked if they were in a frat and what the letters stood for. They invited me back to check out the house and meet some of the brothers. I declined at the time, but we exchanged phone numbers.
OK, I thought to myself, this is a pretty cool way to meet some new people, yet I was slightly apprehensive because I didn’t know much about fraternity business. A week or so went by and I hadn’t heard from any of the guys, so I figured that he had just forgotten about me and I did the same.
Then I received a text message inviting me to a party at “the house.” Being a freshman, I’d never been to a frat party and didn’t know many people around campus, so I called my two friends up and told them they were coming with me.
We navigated our way to the house. None of us knew how the whole scene worked and we were kind of caught off guard by the $5 cover charge, especially my friend who actually started walking away because he didn’t have any money on him. Since my other buddy and I had already gotten in, I fronted him $5. And so we proceeded to stand around inside like awkward wallflowers.
We made our way downstairs to a strobe-lit dance floor. We met up with another guy from our high school and saw another that we didn’t even know went to Temple. I’m not exactly a social butterfly and my friend yelling “loosen up” in my ear wasn’t exactly helping. As the night went on, I relaxed and ended up having a good time.
I awoke the next morning with a slight headache, but I didn’t mind because I made some new friends and learned a little bit about fraternities. Another week went by and I didn’t hear from them much until one day I was strolling in the Student Center and I got another text inviting me to an “event.” I had no idea what rushing is all about at the time, so of course the concept was a foreign one.
My frat contact told me the days to show up throughout the week, day by day, almost on a need to know basis. To my surprise, all of the rush events were strictly dry, standing by Temple’s guidelines.
However, the rush events – that included things like a BBQ, Ultimate Frisbee, watching football and a non-alcoholic version of beer pong – were pretty fun. I got to know the guys a little better and talked to them about their fraternity lifestyles.
No one really talked about the partying that is often associated with frats.
“I wanted to surround myself with a great group of guys that I really thought were going somewhere,” one brother said.
“I love living in a frat,” another said. “I come home and there are people at my house… and food.”
Of course there are parties obviously, but people don’t seem to know how close these guys are and often overlook the true core idea of a fraternity. As another brother told me, “You get back what you put into it.”
It seems like the other rushes’ reasons for coming were a lot like mine – we wanted to see what it was all about, meet some people and have a good time. And for the most part, we did. In the end, I wound up getting a bid – as did my two friends who I roped in with me. It turned out they liked it so much they actually decided to pledge themselves.
I deliberated on the bid for a few days, but decided not to join. Not because I didn’t like it or fit in, but because of my newness to college and commitment restraints. So I didn’t join. Not yet anyway.
John Dailey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.