Nothing spells the beginning of a new semester at college like an emerging Rush campaign. Weeks before William and Mary started in the fall, my inbox was full of tips, schedules and anecdotes our Rush Chair was sending us, exhorting us to lay out a strong ground game for recruitment. I read them all avidly, being a zealous sophomore who was excited to be on the fraternity’s side of Rush for the first time. When college began again, my friends and I were enthusiastic foot soldiers.
But the older brothers were leaving nothing to chance. In the fall of 2010 there were many meetings we held at the fraternity house, with me and my sophomore friends still wearing ties and jackets in accordance to tradition as the youngest members. Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors all filed into the hallway, where Danny, the brother in charge of Rush would be waiting for us.
“I’ve been talking with Travis, going over the names of incoming freshman you all personally know, and we have a strategy to win Rush,” Danny said, pausing to take note of the reactions to his proclamation. The veterans of older Rush crusades appear interested, while the sophomores are downright excited.
“First, some general guidelines. We all know the importance of parties; we need to show these newcomers we know how to have fun. I’m going to have to ask you not to hit on girls for two weeks, and focus on getting numbers from guys,” he says, smirking a bit. “It’s not enough to be ourselves; we have to be on our best behavior. If you see a dude standing alone at one of our parties, go up and introduce yourself. If there’s a connection, get his number.”
“But Rush isn’t just parties. Rush is a two-week long battle for a year’s worth of fraternity men. It’s a strategy we’ll need to carry out in classrooms, lunchrooms, and even at the gym. Sit next to random freshmen in class; strike up conversations with them. If they’re cool, invite them to hang out during the weekend. Always be on the lookout for a potential pledge. Think of everyone as a potential brother who could end up in the Sigma Pi or Lambda houses if we don’t take the initiative.”
“One final tip. This is obviously an intense competition. The other fraternities will be just as determined as we are, and some of their brothers will inevitably be talking shit. Stay out of that. We’ll just try harder, party harder and lobby harder than they do. And if any freshman asks you about them, don’t trash talk them. Give them a neutral answer. Something like, “Oh, SAE? I don’t know many of those guys.”
There’s a brief silence as the brothers nod, whether or not they’ve heard the speech before. A sophomore, Mason, speaks up.
“I emailed you the names of three guys coming in from my old high school. There’s only one I know well enough to honestly like, but I’m inviting them to our mixer tomorrow.”
“Great work,” Danny smiles. “The rest of you should follow suit; I have about twenty names of guys you already personally know. We’ll invite them all to our Tri-Delt mixer tomorrow. Partying with those girls should be major propaganda, so get the word out. Andres, do you know anything else about that?”
Andres, our social chair, speaks up. “I confirmed with Tri-Delt’s social chair this morning. It’s on tomorrow at nine at the off-campus house Little Tokyo. And please guys, don’t be late. It’s the first Rush party, we need to be there in force.”
The next brother to speak is the student in charge of housing. It is his pleasure to inform us that Phi Kappa Tau has secured leases on three off-campus houses, which will be good bases for meeting rushes in addition to the fraternity house. With this information, Danny explains the strategic importance of each one, along with pros and cons.
It’s as if he were giving a detailed analysis of a military operation-but that’s exactly what I think Rush resembles sometimes. The excitement, the competition, the thrill of knowing you’ve secured another solid guy in your team’s corner are all motivating forces. It’s not always easy, and sometimes discouraging, but Danny and his Rush agents are encouraging and exhorting us every step of the way. Confidence, friendliness and initiative are all it takes. “So just remember that trifecta for a successful Rush,”Danny concludes. “Those three things, gents, and in two weeks we’ll be running this campus!”
The Rush campaign is draining and demanding, but there are times when you’re reminded why you do it. For me, the moment when the bid is officially extended, and the new pledges shake our hands is the moment where I know it was worth it.
Until that moment comes, my brothers and I will be wearing our Rush shirts, advertising around William and Mary and establishing a forceful presence on campus. We’ll be inviting new students to lunch, going to the gym with them, even playing sports. And the next time I see a lost-looking freshman anywhere, I will smile and show him the way.