Spring Rush ’23

Isabel Wesman iswesman@ursinus.edu

Ah, Spring. A time known for new beginnings, blooming flowers, vacations, and… rushing Greek life at Ursinus College? For the past twelve years rush has been a fall-season tradition reserved for students with at least 32 credits under their belts (aka full time sophomores and above), but Ursinus recently surprised both non-Greek students and Greek life members by reintroducing a Spring Rush Week this year. Not only was the timing a new factor, but this announcement now grants freshmen in their second semester the opportunity to join a Greek organization half a year earlier than normal. Throughout the years, the timing of rush has attracted a lot of discussion at Ursinus, as most other schools with Greek life start the rush process a few weeks before the first day of classes, but the potentially positive change came very swiftly and unexpectedly, prompting mixed reactions from the student body.

On one hand, a number of the school’s local Greek organizations have been waning in membership over the past few years due to COVID or other extenuating circumstances, and so for them, Spring rush will provide a second opportunity to gain new members. Ella McCarthy ‘24 holds an optimistic view about these new opportunities, noting that in terms of organization-student communication, the ability to “reach out to freshmen [will be] nice so they don’t have to wait [an entire year] to get to know the organization.” This cuts down the anticipation time between arriving on campus and being part of something larger, especially if a freshman comes to school knowing they want to rush a fraternity or sorority. Mia Durkin ‘23 also expressed positivity about the announcement, saying that her sorority, Omega Chi, is “a small org and we are going to be graduating a really good chunk of our sisters so we wanted another opportunity to get more people to join.” She also noted that those who may not have had the time to rush in the fall could have more time in the Spring, which creates a more equal opportunity for students with busier fall-semester schedules. So, on the positive side, a springtime rush week may help both students and organizations get a little more out of Greek life.

But other organizations felt more blindsided by Ursinus’ announcement, feeling underprepared to plan out and execute an entirely new rush week given only a few weeks’ notice. Some organizations chose not to participate entirely, for a couple of reasons. For example, Recruitment Director of Tri Sig, Bethany Baskerville ‘24, referenced the lack of time to budget for a second rush. Vice President of Phi Alpha Psi Emma Reuter ‘23 listed a few reasons for her organization’s withdrawal from Spring rush in consensus with Baskerville, adding, “We also have several traditions that span the entire year that are unique to the first year members, and we felt it was important for our first year members to be able to experience all of them, from fall to spring.” The latter point especially proves to be an interesting one, as Greek life is all about the bonds one makes. It raises a question about brotherhood and sisterhood, and whether an extra group of new members arriving halfway through the year would be beneficial to the camaraderie of a Greek organization.

There are also debates about whether it is really beneficial for students to jump right into rushing during their first year. While some may have set eyes on an organization long before the first rush week, Jenny Ronzoni ‘23 noted that for her, the year-long period before rush week her sophomore year was necessary in warming her up to the idea of joining a sorority. She talked about the importance of friendship beforehand, saying “I would not have rushed if I had not been surrounded by volleyball girls in Phi Psi who right away had the freshmen coming to Hobson, and who encouraged us to meet the girls… I needed the full year of being in class with the girls and just getting used to the idea of everything to decide that I would want to do it.”

Ursinus’ announcement certainly created a buzz around campus, and many people wonder about the reasons behind this new policy in the first place. It may be for the benefit of the students’ social lives, the organizations’ membership numbers, or maybe a combination of the two. But could it also be something else? It’s possible that the college’s decision to allow Spring Rush was made in response to the 12% decrease in first year enrollment. The opportunity for first year students to rush may make the school look more appealing to wide-eyed high school juniors and seniors visiting campus. It may also help with retention later down the line, when a good number of those high school juniors and seniors become college freshmen on this smaller, suburban, campus, inclusion in Greek Life may provide students more reasons to stay until graduation. Or perhaps it was simply a fun new idea.

But no matter the debates, all in all, this change offers exciting new opportunities for students, including the opportunities beyond just joining the more mainstream organizations on campus. For example, Pi Chi–a chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated– is a historically Black sorority on campus. Though chartered in 2005, the sorority has not been formally-active on Ursinus’s campus for seven- teen years. In this way, Spring Rush offers publicity and visibility to the lesser known Greek Organizations on campus, as Pi Chi provides another option to Black students–some of whom may not have rushed predominantly white organizations had Pi Chi not existed. And though the sorority will not be participating in Spring Rush, the week will set them up for a successful Fall for prospective new members.

Overall, though there is much to discuss about the pros and cons of Spring Rush, change is coming whether we like it or not. Spring Rush is here to stay, or at least for this year. But the semester is not over yet, so we cannot yet measure the impact that Spring Rush will have on Greek Organizations on campus and on the student body more broadly. All we can do is hope that everyone is happy with the results, and if they are or if they aren’t, The Grizzly will be on the case.