Rush! C'mon, You Know You Want It!

A "welcome" speech from the very top...

Members of the Class of 1999,

Welcome to MIT! And welcome to an exciting new phase of your lives-a
time of independence, growth, and intellectual challenge.
	Your first major task now that you are at the MIT campus will
be to choose a living group that is right for you. MIT's residence
selection system is different from that of most other universities in
that we let you, the first year students, freely choose the living
group in which you will spend the next four years! That is right, we
leave in your hands all of the responsibility for choosing where and
with whom you will live while you are here at MIT.
	Did I say "choose?" Well, maybe that word is a bit
misleading. After all, even though you may choose to visit the
fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups (FSILGs), they
are the ones who actually end up choosing if they want to live with
you. That is what the process of "rush" is all about-traveling from
living group to living group to be paraded in front of the "brothers"
or "sisters" along with countless other first year students. Once you
are out of earshot, those "brothers" or "sisters" will gather behind
closed doors to discuss you, to rate you on numerical scales that they
have devised, and to decide on whether they wish to give you an
invitation to live with them (a bid), or if they wish to get rid of
you by "flushing" you out of their house, like unwanted sewer
waste. You see, if you want to live in a fraternity, but none of them
want you, you can hold your breath until you turn blue, but they still
won't hand you a bid. If you want to be in a sorority, but you aren't
the type of woman they are looking for, then you will be shuffled away
to where they think you "belong." There isn't too much choice in this
process at all, is there? Well, at least there is little choice for
the first year student, and especially not for the first year student
who has been deemed "unwanted" in the greek system. For those of you
who are not among those chosen by the FSILGs, I hope that lady luck
treats you well in the dormitory housing lottery...
	But, I digress... As I was saying, remember to be yourself
during rush and check out all of your housing options and make the
most informed choice [sic] possible. You should keep in mind that
where you end up living will have a huge impact on your next four
years here at MIT. We believe it is one of the most important
decisions you will make in your life! In fact, this is such an
important matter that we have devoted all of 3 days for you to examine
your housing options.
	Did I just say 3 days? My gosh, that seems like an awfully
short period of time for 1,100 people to carefully examine 10
dormitories, 5 independent living groups, 5 sororities, and 30
fraternities. And 3 days is far too short a time for someone to find a
group of fraternity or sorority members to whom, if you pledge, you
will be expected to devote your time, energy, trust, and unquestioning
loyalty in the ritual they call "brotherhood" or "sisterhood." It is
quite a task to make a good friend over a period of months and years;
it seems nearly impossible to find a group of soul-mates in a hectic 3
days time.
	Gee whiz. No wonder we spend so much energy, time, and money
on making sure those 3 days will hype you up for rush, rush, and
nothing but rush. We plan those 3 days very carefully, so that only
pro-rush events will be a part of your schedule. Each day you'll be
given a schedule of official rush events, called the "Daily
Confusion," that is designed to keep you busy with rush during your
every waking moment. As you'll see, practically every minute of the
day has a scheduled rush event to fill your time-no time to slow down
and take a break, or go off on your own and do too many non-rush
things! And its not as if you could do very many non-rush things
during the rush period, anyway. Every event that you will see over the
next 3 days has been approved by the MIT administration, and very few
non-rush events are allowed to exist, since that might interfere with
the rush process. We certainly don't want you to be distracted by
other interests, and we try our best to make sure that no one clutters
up your thoughts with criticisms, non-rush opinions, or thoughtful
questions about the rush process.
	Not only do we limit the amount and variety of events that you
can attend during the next 3 days, we even try to limit the kind of
information you can hear from upperclassmen. The FSILGs enforce a
special "badmouthing rule" that prevents people from saying anything
"bad" about living groups, even if it is the truth. Thus, you won't
hear which fraternity's brothers vandalized a house and sprayed
homophobic graffiti in front of it; you won't hear which fraternity's
brothers shouted racist epithets from their window at black students
passing by; you won't hear which living group's members have a habit
of raping their female party-goers. You won't hear that fraternities
tend to be elitist clubs that have traditionally served the interests
of white, straight men to the detriment of others. You won't hear
about the hazing that happens at MIT, the branding of pledges, the
physical and verbal abuse, the humiliating acts that many who join
greek letter organizations are forced to perform. After all, during
rush, we live by the motto: "If you don't have anything nice to
say... don't say anything at all... at least until we have managed to
fill all the vacancies in our house." At MIT, we try our best to make
sure that you get through these 3 days quickly, with little
information on which to base your decisions, and with little time or
space to slow down and think about anything but rush... or even think
at all.
	Wait! I have to be honest with you. The longer I go on, the
more it occurs to me that this whole rush thing is a bad idea. I mean,
we tell you when you get to MIT that you get to make an informed
choice about your living group, but the scenario does not allow for
such a choice. There is a short, high-pressure period of time in which
you can only briefly look at the numerous living groups. You have not
been on campus long enough to have made friends with whom you can
truly weigh and discuss your options. The information you are given
about the living groups you look at (and about rush in general) is
candy-coated and neatly packaged so that no critical thoughts or other
viewpoints will enter the picture. And, finally, your "choice" isn't
really a free one at all. Other people have already done most of the
choosing for you-they have chosen what you will hear, when you will
hear it, who you will hear it from, and, for the many of you who end
up rushing, those same people will eventually have the last say on
where you will live-by choosing whether or not to hand you a bid. And
they will choose you only if you best fit their criteria, which time
after time is defined as white and straight, or someone who at least
aspires to those aesthetics and values.
	For the love of God, why? Why do we go to such lengths to put
on this sickening show? Oh yes, now I remember! There are a couple of
reasons. You see, a certain number of you have to live in fraternity,
sorority, and ILG housing. We just plain don't have enough room in the
dorms! In fact, if we were to fill the dorms to their normal capacity,
there would be about 47% of you left out in the cold. We have to put
you somewhere... and we don't want to spend money on any new housing!
Not only that, there are a number of powerful, money-donating white
male MIT alumni out there who belong to greek letter
organizations. The MIT administration does not want to upset the
delicate balance of privilege, high-power connections, and old-boy
atmosphere that the fraternities represent by postponing or even
getting rid of rush altogether. In other words, MIT has a vested
interest in having you continue the traditions of rush, bids,
pledging, and elitist brotherhood.
	And the sneakiest part about the way we conduct our housing
system at MIT is that we lead you to believe that you are able, in a
mere 3 days time, to obtain adequate information, carefully weigh it,
and come to a well-thought-out conclusion about where you will
live. We convince you that it is possible, in 3 days time and at
breakneck speed, to find a solid, non-superficial basis for lifelong
friendships and blindly loyal "brotherhood." And, perhaps most
impressively, we manage to convince you, through all our hard fought
efforts, that when you rush you are actually making a free and
informed choice. Everyone loves to hear those words: freedom and
choice. But for many people, those on the margins of society, those
who are excluded from bastions of white male privilege, the world is
not free, nor does everyone have access to the same choices. And MIT
rush is no different... we just do a good job of making it look as
though it is.

	Ahem. Again, welcome to MIT! Enjoy your ride...

Cluck M. Vest
Head Rooster, MIT

The preceding was a first draft of Cluck M. Vest's R/O welcome
speech. Its remains were found near the IFC paper shredder. Cluck was
forced to fire his speech writer, Kristen K. Nummerdor, '94, for
attempting to sabotage the Rush process. "Shame on her!" Cluck was
quoted as saying. "Shame on all of those liberal bleeding-heart,
violin playing whiners! Cock-a-doodle-doo!"  

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