“Crazy. Entertaining. Competitive. Exhausting. Massive. Misleading. Powerful.”
In a few words, students at The University of Alabama were asked to summarize the viral sensation that was #BamaRushTok, and this is what they had to say.
In case you missed it on TikTok this past summer, here’s a brief overview of what exactly rush at UA is like. “Rush” is an informal slang term for the primary sorority recruitment process that the Alabama Panhellenic Association (APA) conducts, traditionally at the beginning of each school year.
Gamma Phi Beta’s new member class gathers in front of their house for a traditional pledge class photo.
Okay, so now I know what rush is. But what exactly is the process like?
UA currently holds the largest primary sorority recruitment in the country. This past August, 2,515 potential new members, referred to as PNMs, went through recruitment at the university. Recruitment each year is broken down into four rounds, beginning with an assembly where PNMs hear from speakers, meet their recruitment counselors, meet the Panhellenic Executive Board and receive their T-shirts. Then the process continues with a virtual open house round followed by in-person philanthropy, sisterhood and preference rounds. APA’s recruitment takes place over nine consecutive days, culminating in Bid Day at the end of the process.
What’s with all of these rounds? What’s the difference between the rounds?
Valid question. The philanthropy round is the shortest of the in-person rounds, and chapters discuss their individual philanthropies as well as how their members give back to these causes through events, fundraisers and more.
Sisterhood round is exactly like it sounds; chapters tell PNMs about their sisterhood and answer PNMs’ questions about how their values of sisterhood align with their chapter.
Preference is the final and longest round of recruitment. PNMs and active members talk about how their values compare to one another and what they want out of their sorority experience.
The next day is Bid Day, which many people have compared to celebrating Christmas in August. PNMs open their bids in Bryant Denny Stadium each year and then run home to their new chapters on sorority row.
Now that I know how rush works, what’s an OOTD?
Particularly this year, many potential new members posted their OOTD, or Outfit Of The Day, on TikTok for each round of recruitment, turning Bama rush into an international phenomenon.
One sorority member described RushTok as “girls showing their outfits for every day of rush with various dialects and accents. It may be normal to us since we live here, but people who don’t know what rush is or how southern people dress were fascinated.”
Active members also posted their own TikToks throughout work week and recruitment week, promoting their style and chapters.
Members of Alpha Gamma Delta embrace after a long week.
New and current members of Alpha Chi Omega gather on sorority row.
“Work week?” What exactly is that?
During work week, chapters prepare for the primary recruitment process on the inside. They have workshop days the week before recruitment begins, where the sisters have the opportunity to bond with each other and prepare for the week ahead.
Okay, so OOTD is an outfit. Was I the only one seeing #BamaRushTok on my “For You” Page?
You were not the only one! Before long, #BamaRushTok was trending on multiple social media platforms, especially on TikTok. People everywhere were captivated – so much so that CNN, The New York Times, Time, Harper’s Bazaar and countless other prominent news outlets quickly issued articles about the viral explosion of UA sorority recruitment.
So now I know what all of this means. What was its impact?
When asked if RushTok had a positive or negative effect on UA’s Panhellenic community, current sorority members at the university had mixed responses.
One Greek life member said, “It was definitely a mix of both. It really helped me figure out more about rush and also figure out what I was wearing, but it also made me super intimidated and nervous.”
Some people believed that it had both good and bad effects. Another member said, “Girls that had bad experiences publicized it in a dramatic way that gave a negative image of sororities and of the rush process. Girls that had a good experience publicized it in a good way that may encourage future PNMs to rush.”
Others felt strongly that this had a negative impact on the Panhellenic community. One student said RushTok “attracted bias and negative news.”
Another student said, “I think #BamaRushTok had a negative impact on our APA community. Some trends like ‘OOTD’ made people turn it into a materialistic process instead of values-based recruitment.”
One sorority member said that TikTok “blew the rush process out of proportion and put it under a bad light, even though it’s a fun experience.”
To put it simply, another member reflected that #BamaRushTok showed “the power of social media and how it influenced Greek life at Alabama. It showcased how fast and far social media reaches!”
Overall, TikTok itself and the viral sensation that was #BamaRushtok had a massive impact on 2021 sorority recruitment and will continue to affect the Panhellenic community for years to come. Whether it was a good or bad thing is for you to decide.
A new member of Sigma Kappa celebrates running to her new home and being greeted by older members.