Hazing News

A journalist poses as a sorority rushee

Here is the link and an excerpt

I Rushed a Sorority as an Undercover Journalist

I am not a sorority girl. I prefer sparkling water over beer and I don’t own a Gucci handbag or shiver in 6 inch heels in the middle of winter. But last week I found myself at rush event, plastering on a sorority girl smile.

Why? Because I wanted to figure out the system from the inside, so I rushed a sorority.

Let me explain myself before you go all “oh my god” in an angry Valley Girl accent on me. I’ve never been fully satisfied with the coverage of the sorority system. Articles about the sororities are always either from people who hate it or who love it. Some people want to burn it to the ground, and others will lay their life down on a beer pong table for their sisters. Everyone who writes about sororities has an opinion — a strong one — and no one knows who to trust for the truth.

So this became my journalistic project —  to rush a sorority as an undercover journalist, and finally get an unbiased perspective for myself.

When Asian sorority rush rolled around this spring, I knew I found the perfect opportunity. It incorporates a culture that connects directly to me, and unlike traditional Greek life, it’s covered less often, but no less “sorority-esque.” The plan was to rush with no preconceptions, no agenda. Just a blank slate searching for the truth about sororities.

When the first day of rush came, I threw on my heeled black boots and my best sorority girl smile. I was walked into a room of 20 girls for the speed dating event, where I was hit by bright smiles and loud voices, chattering about how “Wow, we have the same class!” or “Oh my God, I’m a hotelie too!”

Girl by girl I moved across the tables, chatting in my perkiest voice on the multitude of reasons I wanted to be a sister, but in my mind I was taking down notes like an interview. They asked me every question that ever existed. Why am I an English major, where am I from (“Oh my God I totally knew you were from California, all Californians wear scarves!”), what’s my opinion on the word “moist.”

Adding me on Facebook after became a ritual. So did telling me they loved my lipstick, loved my nails, loved my shirt. Every sister was perky, “supported each other” and from what I could gather, wanted to support me too. They held my hand and widened their eyes when I was telling a story and laughed loudly when I made a joke. They told me I would fit right in, told me I could be just like them. By the end someone even asked me to get dinner with them. I met them for two minutes.

And then there were moments when I truly enjoyed chatting with someone, when it wasn’t forced. There were quality people in the room who didn’t fit the stereotype, and every girl had incredible interests and intellect. For a second, I even believed them when they said they cared about me, when they said “I’d fit right in.” But then the next girl came behind me and they gave her the exact same response.

Forty friend requests later, I realized two things: This is a group of people who are all human, with their own interests and unique personalities, but they are all shaped to mold into the same image. And this is a group of people who believe so deeply in a system that many will never see past it, and many will never realize what is wrong with it.

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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