In the rush to join Greek life at Yale, many students appear to be flocking in higher numbers toward fraternities with reputations as socially responsible and inclusive spaces.
Though fraternities are often reluctant to release rush statistics, Fence Club and Sigma Phi Epsilon currently boast reputations as Greek organizations with some of the most competitive rush processes at Yale. According to representatives from Fence and a member of SigEp who asked to remain anonymous, roughly 150 students signed up for the spring 2017 rush processes for each group. Roughly 80 students eventually requested to join Fence at the end of rush and between 60 and 80 students requested bids from SigEp. Of these, only 23 were accepted into Fence and around 30 were offered bids to SigEp, sources told the News.
Close to a dozen students with experience in the rush process told the News that there is a general understanding in the Greek life community that the demand for these two groups surpasses other fraternity chapters at Yale. Students, as well as members of Fence and SigEp, attributed this popularity to a growing campus preference for fraternities and social clubs which appear to cultivate socially inclusive environments or have positive social reputations on campus.
“Fence and SigEp kind of serve a similar purpose,” said Daniel Dager ’20, who recently accepted a bid to join SigEp’s newest pledge class. “People say that they have the best social reputation.”
Will McGrew ’18, a member of SigEp, attributed high student interest in SigEp and Fence to the “large demand” among students to join clubs that have made efforts to promote gender, race and sexuality inclusion. To that end, McGrew has put his support behind a group called Engender, which seeks to make Greek organizations more gender inclusive. This semester, SigEp allowed women and nonbinary students to attend rush events.
Although students interviewed tended to agree that there is a general acceptance that SigEp’s rush numbers range higher than those of other male fraternities, many Greek organizations do not release their rush numbers and no general recruitment statistics are available. Tyler Morley ’18, president of SigEp, did not respond to request for comment. The Yale chapter presidents of Alpha Epsilon Pi, Delta Kappa Epsilon and Leo did not respond to or follow up on repeated requests for rush information.
The national organizations of SigEp, Chi Psi, and AEPi also did not respond to requests for comment. The national organization of Sigma Nu declined to give out any information regarding recruitment statistics at Yale, and the national organizations of Zeta Psi and Alpha Delta Phi told the News to await an update regarding their Yale recruitment numbers. The national organization of Sigma Chi said that all eight of the bids offered this year were accepted but did not respond to an inquiry as to how many students had requested bids during the rush process.
Fraternities at Yale typically require that a student know a current member in order to request being added to the rush processes’ email list, unlike Yale sororities, which openly provide recruitment information to interested students on the Yale Panhellenic Council’s website. Several students, including Dager, noted that SigEp and Fence do not predominately focus their recruitment efforts on a particular athletic team, as some fraternities do, and instead draw recruits from a wider range of extracurricular and athletic groups. He suggested that this partially explains their larger rush processes.
Dager said he also saw a lot of potential in Fence’s model as “the future of social groups” and praised its appeal to students in the Ivy League who are seeking more inclusive social spaces.
Michaela MacDonald ’18, a member of Fence, similarly attributed Fence’s popularity to a “growing demand for co-ed spaces.”
Representatives of Fence, when asked about the group’s popularity on campus, said that the desexualized and inclusive social nature of their group was likely responsible for attracting around 150 prospective members. Korinayo Thompson ’18, one of the presidents of Fence, added that Fence’s gender-inclusive nature allows the group to attract a wider population of rushees from across the student body, which exclusively male fraternities on campus cannot do.
Beyond a gender demographic advantage, however, Thompson said that Fence’s rush process does not rely on the performance of traditional gender roles and likewise does not subject queer or nonbinary students to awkward moments in “heterosexualized” Greek life spaces as other fraternities and sororities do through mixers.
He added that Fence’s membership dues were likely the lowest of all Greek life organizations at Yale, which provides a unique level of financial accessibility to members. Conversations about diversity and inclusion frequently occur in Fence, Thompson said, and he added that he hopes Fence’s diversity helps prospective members feel more comfortable in their setting.
“I honestly think that part of Fence’s appeal is that it is a place of gender-inclusivity, where people can just get together and have a great time, be their selves in a space that is desexualized in nature,” said Viviana Andazola Marquez ’18, another president of Fence. “Generally speaking, Fence is not a place you go to hook up at, it is a place to drink and enjoy other’s company without the pressure of having an exchange, impressing anyone or performing anything you don’t want to.”
SigEp founded its Yale chapter in 2003.