University Sororities Banning Facebook during Rush

Here’s an interesting story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noting that some Marquette University sororities are requiring their pledges keep off of Facebook until the rush is over.

There seems to be two possible reasons for the Facebook blackout. One, to “avoid decisions — about where to pledge and who to allow in — being made based on preconceptions and stereotypes,” relying instead on “old-fashioned, face-to-face contact.”

And the other? To maintain secrecy and confidentiality. Apparently, the National Panhellenic Conference disapproves of dirty rushing — “interaction with potential new members outside of rush during recruitment week” — which is ever so easy via Facebook, especially when information about others are fed too you automatically.

One consequence of this attempt to prevent communication among pledges and members is, of course, the cutting-off of pledges from the rest of their Facebook community (perhaps that is intentional). It would be a fascinating bit of ethnography to follow some of these young women to see how they cope with being without Facebook for such a long stetch.

And, as an aside, I chuckled when I read the opening line of the story: “The freshmen in Marquette University’s Weasler Auditorium twittered with excitement as an enthusiastic pair of sorority sisters promised to learn everything about them during recruitment week, starting with their favorite boy band.”  First, do college freshmen really still listen to “boy bands”? And second, I wonder if the reporter recognizes the doube entendre of her use of the verb “twittered”….

5 comments

  1. I don’t think anyone understands sorority rush…it has always been a mystery to me. However, I think the article says it is the sorority sisters that deactivate their accounts, not the potential pledges. Which, at least where I did my undergrad, is pretty normal; to exclude outside conversation concerning chapters unless it is done during an official rush function.

  2. I second Wyatt’s comment. As someone who knows more than I might like to admit about sorority rush, I can attest to the fact that current members are NOT allowed to talk to pledges during rush for fear that they might bribe them or otherwise coerce them into joining their house. Literally, the rules are so strict that you cannot give “potential new members” directions to a party on campus or even a stick of gum. When they attend rush at your house, if they try to leave with a napkin, you literally have to ask them to give it back to you.

    Also, it seems it would be easier to require members to deactivate their facebook accounts than pledges, since the members’ behavior will no doubt be monitored by other members, and the pledges’ behavior online would probably be more difficult to keep tabs on.

    To complicate the situation even more, there are “Rush Counselors” whose job it is to act as independent facilitators during rush season, and for this period they are considered “disaffiliated” from their respective sororities. The pledges (actually “rushees,” as they are called pre-pledging) bond with the rush counselors (“rho chi’s,” incidentally…) and rely on them to help guide them in a neutral, unbiased way toward their decision of which house to pledge. When I was in school we didn’t have facebook, so being a rush counselor just meant you had to find different friends for a few weeks and not wear your letters. Now, I’m sure it’s much trickier.

    As a total non sequitur, I just wanted to say that I found your blog by Googling “contextual integrity” and “facebook” because I have been talking with Helen Nissenbaum and reading her work lately, and thought, “oh my gosh! this completely explains the mini-feed phenomenon!” And it made me very happy to see that there was a blog (or two) out there that made that connection long ago. 🙂

  3. Thank you both for your comments; very interesting how social networking tools actually complicate a key social networking activity on campuses.

    And Amanda, I’m glad you found my site helpful wrt contextual integrity. Please say “hello” to Prof. Nissenbaum for me!

  4. As a member of a National Panhellenic sorority and an insider into the world of Facebook, I have a slightly different insight into why Facebook is banned during many Panhellenic rush periods. For starters, Facebook profiles tend to give an impression of the person that is then interpreted by the viewer. This could be an issue during rush for potential new members attending rush events at various sorority houses as they may have preconceived notions about certain individuals that may or may not be representative of the sorority as a whole. This, however, is only minor to the issue of dirty rush in which sororities will recruit potential new members by Facebooking them and giving them information that may not be allowed to be shared during the formal recruitment process. On my campus, we are allowed to keep our Facebook accounts active during formal recruitment as long as they are set to private and that we do not contact potential new members in ANY way, including Facebook messaging, wall posts, etc… However, during informal recruitment periods that often take place in the Spring, Facebook plays a key role in recruitment, an interesting contradiction to Panhellenic rules.

    Another anecdote you may find interesting is that recruitment counselors, women who guide potential new members throughout the recruitment process, must deactivate their Facebook profiles for about 2 months to maintain a neutral reputation. One of my best friends in my sorority was a recruitment counselor last year and she said the biggest issue they had with the counselors was the violation of this rule. Apparently many of these counselors found it impossible to go 2 months without checking their Facebooks. This says a lot about the role of Facebook and how it has become more than just something people do but the thing people do. Facebook has become an addictive precious commodity that is both irreplaceable and almost impossible to live day to day without.

  5. I think it stupid it’s not national security. I have never been in a sorority but my daughter is

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