The other side of rush

Jocelyn Robinson

Vonnie Boyte arrives at Downing University Center early one morning during Rush week, dressed in her pink Rush shirt with her navy blue Pi Chi bag slung over her shoulder. She’s a little tired, but that’s to be expected. The Florence senior has spent the last few days playing Mom to 11 freshmen women.

“You’re like their best friend, buddy and savior all in one,” she says. Boyte is a Pi Chi, a sorority member who helps counsel could-be sorority sisters during Rush.

The Pi Chi’s make sure the rushees get where they need to go and answer any questions they might have. Their main goal is to help the rushees decide which sorority is best for them.

While most of the questions around Rush this weekend are between the freshmen deciding on a sorority, the stories for those already in the sorority is quite different.

Rush week is the time when rushees get to meet each sorority and vice versa. It’s a mutual selection process, where the sororities select which rushees they want to invite back, and the rushees select which sororities they want to join.

When Boyte meets her group of rushees, she hands out their schedules for the day and folders containing their name tags and other important items they’ll need throughout the day. Stuck inside manila envelopes and Ziploc bags are mints, extra make-up and notes on each sorority.

As the rushees learn which sororities invited them back, they try to get Boyte to tell them to which sorority she belongs. She won’t give in.

In order to help the rushees make the right decision, Boyte and the other Pi Chi’s must remain impartial and hide their sorority affiliations.

“It’s to avoid a situation where they join whatever sorority they think their Pi Chi is in because they love their Pi Chi,” Boyte says.

Many Pi Chi’s find it easy to remain unbiased while helping the rushees through the selection process.

“Once you get to know the girls, you want what’s best for them,” says Hopkinsville senior Brooke Comperry, another Pi Chi.

Boyte walks with the rushees down to the sorority parties in Meredith Hall, talking with them the whole way. They laugh and giggle as though they just called a boy from a slumber party.

The rushees have grown close with Boyte; many intend to stay in contact with her and each other, no matter what sororities they all end up joining. Boyte says they’re even planning a get-together for next week.

While the girls are in the sorority theme parties, the Pi Chi’s wait outside. They gather in small groups, sometimes just watching television, sometimes talking about their rushees or their own Rush experiences.

They’ve all been through the parties before. They know the stress, lack of sleep, excitement and disappointment when a sorority asks them back or turns them down and how to take care of the blisters that come after walking from house-to-house.

But they all volunteered to do the walking again, this time as Pi Chi’s. They say it’s a rewarding job and an honor to be chosen.

Each sorority nominates a group of women to become Pi Chi’s. Student Organizations Coordinator Charley Pride and the Panhellenic council then interview the nominees, who are mostly upperclassmen. Then three to four women from each sorority are chosen.

“It’s a really exceptional group this year,” says Heather Dickerson, a senior from Greenbrier, Tenn., who is the director of the Pi Chi’s. “They’ve made Rush a lot easier for the girls and made it a fun experience.”

During the last party of the day, Boyte and the other Pi Chi’s lie on the couches on the second floor of Downing University Center. They are mostly quiet, tired from their long day.

“You have to be caring, but firm with them,” Boyte says. “It can be draining.”

When the last party is over, Boyte meets with her rushees. The next day is preference day, when the rushees will decide which three sororities they like best. Boyte knows from experience how hard this decision can be and gives the rushees advice.

She tells them to keep an open mind and to go with their gut feeling. She adds that they can call her anytime that night if they need to talk.

“They’ve drained the battery on my cell phone from calling me so much,” Boyte says.

Still, the Pi Chi’s made a strong impression on the women they’ve helped throughout the week. One rushee even introduced her mother to Boyte. The mother was worried about her daughter and wanted to make sure everything was going well.

Boyte reassures the mother and seems to put her at ease. Boyte now knows what it feels like to be the mom; she’s been dealing with her own “daughters” all week.

After all the rushees are gone, Boyte heads off to a Pi Chi meeting. Although she desperately needs some sleep, she will be back at DUC bright and early tomorrow morning, ready for one more day as a mother, counselor and best friend.

Herald reporter Jocelyn Robinson can be reached at [email protected]