There was no shaving cream or pickup truck motorcades this time. But it wasn’t Waterman Tea either.
Fraternity pickup this semester combined the spirit of clamorous motorcades in years past with the formality of recently established ceremony.
“We tried to combine the energy of old traditions with the solemnity of the new ones,” said senior and Interfraternity Council President Victor Tenbrink.
This past Sunday, Feb. 12, 15 men pledged fraternities in a recently reworked ceremony designed to show the fun of brotherhood and the seriousness of pledging.
Delta Tau Delta fraternity picked up four students. Sigma Chi fraternity picked up six — not including four men who were unable to activate last fall for various reasons, and Alpha Tau Omega fraternity got five. Delta Sigma Phi fraternity did not participate.
“There where 35 guys who rushed,” said Associate Dean of Men Jeff Rogers. “Out of the four fraternities at Hillsdale, only three were allowed in the rush process.”
In comparison, 30 men pledged fraternities last spring. Sigma Chi picked up seven and ATO six, while DSP did not participate. Delta Tau Delta, however, picked up 17.
Out of the three fraternities that rushed, Delta Tau Delta picked up significantly fewer students this semester. Scott Rode, junior and fraternity president, said the fraternity looks for quality not quantity of men picked up.
“We don’t have a goal number,” Rode said. “We’re looking for guys who’ll be leaders in the school. Overall, we picked up four quality guys. We’re excited about what they can bring to the fraternity.”
He said that some years people are just not as interested in the Greek system as they are in other years.
Some students have theorized that the smaller rush numbers stem from a feeling on campus that the administration is trying to stifle or eliminate the Greek system.
Fraternity members themselves, however, do not think that impression of the administration is accurate.
“It’s easy to make the situation out to be a debate or power struggle of some sort,” said sophomore David Wilhelmsen, ATO’s public relations chairman. “It’s really important to realize that the administration cares very much about the Greek system and the Greek system very much respects the administration.”
Members agree that many different elements affect who rushes, from who attends the college, to how the Greek system is portrayed when students first set foot on campus, to how fraternities recruit.
“There are so many different components that it’s hard to pinpoint one,” said Sigma Chi President Ethan Smith, a junior.
“I think it’s a combination of things. With all the fraternity troubles last year and this year, there have been a lot of things happening,” said DTD senior Josiah Hersey. “It’s not that the entire system in trouble. Guys are just waiting.”
Students who pledged this semester participated in the rush process, which started on Feb. 5 with an interfraternity round table. The next day, men attended open houses for each fraternity.
“Guys have to go to each house during open houses to demonstrate that they’ve evaluated each one equally,” Tenbrink said. “This helps eliminate dirty rushing and false impressions of particular fraternities.”
Since Delta Tau Delta currently does not have a house, the brothers hosted their open house in the Formal Lounge of the Grewcock Student Union.
“The kind of guys that we’re looking for are not disenfranchised by the fact that we don’t have a house, but attracted to the fact that we are spread across campus,” Rode said.
Rogers said that fraternities can develop strong bonds but that shouldn’t be based on a physical house. They should be bound by something greater. He encourages men to look beyond the walls of their houses.
“I want you to uphold the principles of your fraternity across the hall, down the street, and around the world. I may not be around the world to watch you do it but you’ve given your word,” Rogers said. “That’s an old school idea. Saying what you will do and doing what you will say. How novel.”
Once the men attended open houses, fraternities hosted invite-only preference parties for students they were interested in picking up.
“After that point, fraternities vote which of the rushees to extend bids to,” Tenrbink said.
Over the weekend, students turned in their bid cards, fraternities made their choices, and the deans played matchmaker.
Pick-up on Sunday started when students were brought from their dorms by fraternity members. The day concluded with a formal ceremony in Phillips Auditorium.
“[An Interfraternity Council] decided to switch up the format a little,” Smith said. “Before the fall of 2010, we used to just do an informal pick up. Last year, in the fall, they made it more formal.”
The formal ceremony included speeches from Rogers, Tenbrink, the presidents of each fraternity, and John Lovinger, who is a local lawyer and Sigma Chi alumnus from the University of Arizona.
“The rush process this year is better,” Rode said. “The speeches and the ceremony were all great.”
Rogers said he wanted to use his speech to remind the men that they both chose their brothers and were chosen by them. That, he said, is a great luxury.
“I am expecting results, not excuses. The Greek system is a system that works when men come together and push toward their noble principals that make their particular fraternities shine,” Rogers said. “I admit what I said was sobering, but what did you expect? I wanted them to see the serious side of [fraternities], in the light of the current environment.”
The goal of fraternities is to pursue the truth as their missions statements say, Rogers said.
“You’re pledging yourself to be a man of noble character. 24/7,” he said. “In the classroom and out of the classroom.”