There’s two types of rush (recruitment for the politically correct) at Duke. Spring rush, where you try to impress multiple different types of people while assuring them you’re a perfect fit for their organization, and Fall Rush, where you try to impress multiple different types of people while assuring them you’re a perfect fit for their organization. The first one, for selective living groups and Greek life, eerily mirrors the second, for job offers. They’re both artificial processes, created on an idea that people need other similar people around them. The rhetoric of the spring, “we’re looking for people we want to hang out with” morphs into “we’re looking for people we want to work with” in the fall. Ask any consultant or banker you’re trying to network with and they’ll immediately assure you that their work friends are their real friends. In fact, in a shocking turn of events, they both hang out and work together all the time.
Even application processes for rush and recruitment are similar. Written applications discussed around a table, desperate bids to stay memorable to “key” people, worrying after an event that the person you talked to wasn’t important enough to make an impact on the group’s decision about you. Both processes are built around structures of prestige. The results of these processes are similar too. The social safety net of a selective living group means you’re only ever one groupme away from reaching 60 other people for advice about classes, Friday night plans and recommendations for food in Durham. A job at an elite firm lets you be part of a larger, prestigious community. Each process builds conversation on how you were chosen, how good a fit you are, and implicit in these conversations, a sense of pride at having “made the cut”. It’s true that sometimes these processes are meritorious, the more cases you practice, the more events you go to; but it’s also true that so many times they’re not, discussions build on already existing networks, and systematic privilege carries you far.
As someone who has been through the first process, in the spring, and is going through the second one, both events can sometimes feel like socially exclusive processes: someone’s sibling is in a frat, and someone’s sorority sister got the job she’s applying for this year. There’s a lot of power in networks and I’m always grateful to be a part of the one at Duke. Yet the question remains, if we’re only interested in recruiting people exactly like us or our friends how do organizations (university based or otherwise) see change?