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Elite for whom?

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Good evening,

After lengthy and careful deliberation, we regret to inform you that we are unable to offer you an invite to the second round of rush. Even though we have only interacted with everyone briefly on Zoom, we have gathered enough information to make a conclusive decision. We want to reassure you of your academic and social potential so know that this result is by no means a knock at you, we just don’t think this club is right for you. 

Best, 

Duke’s Premier Pre-Professional Society 

For those of you who don’t know, many pre-professional clubs at Duke require students to undergo a rush process to join their organizations. If you have rushed these clubs before, you will recognize that the excerpt above is a slightly modified version of the rejection letters they typically send out. Outsiders often find it absurd that pre-professional organizations host selection processes at all, as they are in no way affiliated with Greek life or Selective Living Groups (SLGs). There are few benefits of gating off knowledge and resources to the undergraduate community, except to benefit their members at the expense of those deemed unworthy. This is consistent with Duke’s elitist, cut-throat culture reflected in perennial struggles against organizations with needless selectivity such as Greek life and SLGs. 

As once incoming freshmen, we all remember the overwhelming prospect of choosing a major and deciding what to do with our lives. Advisors often suggest for us to join academic clubs to learn from our older and wiser peers without the full commitment of a class. However, this simple solution is nearly impossible for students interested in the business world, as the majority of business organizations on campus require students to participate in a draining rush process. These rush processes are excruciating in that they force hundreds of eager rushees to endure weeks packed with events designed for rushees to get to know the organization, but which actually result in students fighting for a few minutes alone with a club member in a desperate attempt to get their name out there. For many, rush for pre-professional organizations is reminiscent of the college application process which everyone thought they had finally escaped when they were accepted to Duke. No one tells you that once you get here, you are still barred from advantageous opportunities and resources. No one tells you that you have to yet again prove yourself to be accepted by your peers.

The basis on which academic rushees are judged appears to be the same as that for Greek life and SLGs: loosely-defined social likeability. Although this metric can be argued for in regards to purely social organizations, a person’s social impression on the in-group should not matter when it comes to academics. The mission statements of several of these organizations are to “motivate and prepare young women in the Duke University community for careers in all types of business,” “to connect our members to peers with similar interests and provide members with mentorship,” and “to provide our members with guidance in the business world.” They all claim to want to help students on their career paths and to provide mentorship, but what they don’t tell you is that they’ll only do so for people they already know and like. Unless you are already well connected with current members of these clubs, it is highly unlikely that they will remember your name or the 5-second conversation you were able to squeeze in before the next overly-enthusiastic rushee interjects. 

Some academic clubs claim that their rush processes provide ample opportunity for rushees to get to know current members; for example, some clubs offer 10-minute coffee chats with current members. Events like these, however, underscore the competitive nature of academic rush as eager rushees fight for a chance to leave a lasting impression on members only a year older.  Furthermore, these events are particularly taxing for introverts, who should not be put at a disadvantage for an academic club because they are not as sociable as others. Rush only exacerbates the imposter syndrome that so many students struggle with already. 

If the only justification for this pseudo-elitism is that academic club cultures reflect the competition in the “real world,” then no place is safe from grind culture and the appeal of exclusivity. It is safe to say that our student body made difficult trade-offs in high school to brand ourselves to exclusive universities. Now that we’re here, we take weed-out classes that are designed to deter us from an area of interest. Soon, the pressure to network by applying to ultra-selective clubs builds. This unattainable idea of “good enough” continues to plague Duke students through the barriers in exploring academic interests. When will we be able to stop jumping through hurdles of exclusivity?

Instead of leaving students at the mercy of these subjective and often biased rush processes, we should put more emphasis on organizations with accessibility at their core, such as majors unions. Some majors' unions are currently more active than others, while some are nonexistent altogether—it’s hard for them to compete with the illusion of clout and exclusivity of the selective business organizations. However, if the Duke Student Government and the Student Organization Finance Committee provided more funding and publicity for majors unions for each major, all students would be guaranteed an opportunity to learn about the career implications of their majors. 

This divestment from exclusivity also requires support from the student body in the form of participating in majors unions—or any organization that isn’t built on barriers to entry. Figuring out what to do after college is one of the most daunting tasks for college students, and being a part of an organization of peers who are in the same boat can be an invaluable source of comfort and guidance. Furthermore, shifting away from toxic rush culture is a significant step toward eliminating elitism and imposter syndrome at our university. As Duke reexamines selectivity in housing, academic rush should be on the way out too. 

The Community Editorial Board is independent from the editorial staff of the Chronicle. Their column runs on alternate Mondays.

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