A cappella rush shortened and reformed

This year, a long-standing and hectic Yale tradition — a cappella rush — will be the shortest in recent memory, with Tap Night falling between Sept. 9–13.

Rush for groups affiliated with the Singing Group Council will span approximately two weeks this fall, marking a departure from the nearly monthlong rush process of recent years. The council will also seek to prevent rush violations more stringently than in the past, members of the SGC said.

SGC member Margaret Coons ’14 said the change reflects feedback the council has received from a cappella groups, as well as Yale’s decision to schedule Family Weekend in late September this year. The new rush schedule comes with a slew of other changes meant to simplify the process and ensure a better experience for freshmen, all four members of the Singing Group Council said.

“We were already planning to shorten rush,” SGC member Connor Buechler ’15 said. “[With Family Weekend earlier], it’s not only that we want to do this — it has to happen.”

Gabe Acheson ’16, a rush manager for the Society of Orpheus and Bacchus this year, said the group already found it challenging to prepare new taps for the Family Weekend concert in just three weeks last year, and this year they will only have two. With the new schedule, the group would have found it impossible to perform with the freshmen without shortening the rush process, he explained.

Coons said groups had been “surprisingly unanimous” in requesting a shorter, more streamlined rush process, as well as an end to the policy mandating that groups have at least one “rush meal” with every rushee. SGC member Harry VanDusen ’14 said a cappella groups have been “begging” to change the rush meal policy for years, and that eliminating the rule will simultaneously save groups’ time and spare freshmen from forming inaccurate expectations about groups not truly interested in them.

Keren Abreu ’15, who served as one of Shades’ rush managers last year, said she is nervous that freshmen will not have enough time to get to know the different groups very well and might make their decisions based solely on first impressions. Still, she supports the changes.

“[The changes] will be really, really good in terms of giving freshmen their lives back,” Abreu said. “When I rushed as a freshman, I felt that for the first month of school I wasn’t meeting other freshmen. I was very overwhelmed by the process as a whole, [and] I didn’t feel I was making friends with my class.”

Abreu added that by taking a harder line on rush violations this year, the SGC is putting freshmen’s feelings above the a cappella groups’ perceived needs.

“The new motto is, ‘Don’t be an a–hole,’” Abreu said.

Coons said that in the past, the SGC has turned a blind eye to rush violations such as “sketch walks” — meetings with rushees not sanctioned by the rules of rush, which often take place late at night.

“[Violations] are almost as traditional as any other a cappella tradition — but that doesn’t mean they’re right,” Buechler said.

This year, the SGC has authorized a new type of meeting, which must take place during daylight hours and in a college courtyard or common room between pre-tap and Tap Night, in an effort to acknowledge and avoid the need for such clandestine meetings. Buechler said he hopes these meetings will give groups a legal opportunity to communicate their enthusiasm to pre-taps in a more heartfelt way than an email. The SGC has also set up email hotlines where freshmen can anonymously report any form of harassment from the groups.

Nimal Eames-Scott ’15, a former rush manager for The Duke’s Men of Yale, said the appeal of the non-SGC-sanctioned “sketch walks,” as well as elaborate gifts and rituals to entice pre-taps, is partly in their illegality.

“I got sketch walked as a freshman,” Eames-Scott said. “You know it’s illegal. … They say, ‘We’re not allowed to say this, but we want you in our group.’ The rush from that is … you know that they’re breaking the rules for you.”

After having been on the other side of the table for three years, Eames-Scott said he hopes shortening rush will curtail the spread of gossip.

“As it drags on, the politics between the groups and rushees and the general nastiness amplifies,” Eames-Scott said. “When rush goes on for that long, it becomes about other things. Rumors get spread, and the longer the process is, the more those kinds of seeds are planted in freshmen’s subconscious, and the process is suddenly warped.”

Tap Night last year was Sept. 19.

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