We have just completed the annual ritual of rush. Hundreds of students spent hours on end meeting with members of fraternities, sororities, and non-Greek selective living groups (SLGs) with the hope of being accepted to a tight-knit social communities. For some, bid day was the day where their dreams came true, opening the door to the exciting years ahead of new friendships, events, and a strong support network. For others, bid day represented the disappointing end of what appeared to be blossoming relationships and the shattering of your vision for the Duke experience that lay ahead.
I admire Lizzie Bond’s courage in writing about the exclusivity which has deeply permeated Duke’s social culture. I was particularly struck by her answer to what increased selectivity’ has led to: “More dejection, emotional distress and feelings of unworthiness among those hundreds of students who unsuccessfully rush these fraternities, sororities and non-Greek SLGs.” Reading this statement, along with hearing about the social stress many people I know are currently experiencing, I realized that I need to open up about the difficult struggles I faced because of rush.
During the first semester of my first year, I met a lot guys from a particular fraternity, and spent many weekends having fun at their parties. As winter break came around, I knew that I wanted to rush this group, but also decided to check out as many other fraternities and SLGs as possible to ensure I found the best fit. I went to dozens of rush events, but I couldn’t help myself from thinking about that one fraternity. I really enjoyed meeting the guys, and I felt like I could be myself with them. Seeing how well I clicked with the group, a friend of mine told me “you gotta have at least a 95 percent chance of getting in.” Sitting in my room on bid night, I waited for a piece of paper saying “congratulations,” but it never came. I hadn’t really considered the possibility of not getting a bid from what I envisioned as my future home. But, there I was, dealing with an awful mix of confusion, insecurity and rejection. These feelings were exacerbated by subsequently being denied a bid to my favorite SLG.
Fortunately, I made some incredible friends sophomore year, participated in an amazing living and learning community (LLC), and got more involved in the activities I loved. I found my niche at Duke and charted a path I’m really happy with. But, looking back, I wonder what it would have been like having a unified social community and the events, conveniences, and connections that come with it.
My goal of sharing my experience isn’t to criticize these groups, nor the rush process. Instead, I want every first-year and upperclassman to be able to find the community they desire, irrespective of whether they rushed or if they received a bid. Everyone should feel like they have a group for sports games, parties, and events in Durham. Nobody should be excluded from having these amazing experiences because a particular group didn’t think they were the right fit for it.
In light of this, I believe we should create different kinds of community at Duke. Our campus desperately needs all-inclusive social groups, where anyone can come to meet new people and have an amazing time. Imagine if you never had to plan your weekends, because you knew you could participate in something fun. Getaways, parties, break trips, and beach week would become more accessible to everyone. Going to Skyzone, Frankie’s Fun Park, Eno River, or the movies would be as simple as seeing a message in a group chat and showing up.
I was excited to find that this vision is already underway. Malcolm Brown, president of The Duke Student Group, “DSG,” founded the organization with the goal of making Duke a home for everyone. Every Sunday at 7 p.m., DSG hosts community dinners in Skillet that are open to every student. When I spoke with DSG Executive Communications Director Ryan Bergamini about the initiative, he said, “It’s on all of us to make our campus community. We are creating a space for anyone who wants to meet new people.” When I asked if DSG is an “actual” group, he responded with a question: “What really defines an 'actual' group?” He went on to say that the name attracts interested individuals, but the overall goal is simply creating a low-stress environment to make friends and for people to enjoy themselves.
These projects are just the start. Whether by our student government or individual initiative, we should create opportunities for students to grab meals or explore Durham with new sets of people. We can build the type of relationships that typify selective living groups without being selective or having a living requirement. Instead, the bonds will be come from a genuine interest in meeting new people.
I aspire to the day when people have as many accessible social events on the weekends as they do hours of homework. Not only would fulfilling this goal contribute to the experience of independent students, but it would facilitate new friendships and opportunities for everyone on campus. This is a call for community; let’s act upon it to make our campus a better place.
Elliott Davis is a Trinity junior. His column usually runs on alternate Fridays.
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