SLG = Social Liability Ground | feb 16'

Duke starts its spring semester mid-January almost immediately with the rush process to determine which students get admitted to its Selective Living Groups (SLGs) or Greek life. Most students interested in rushing choose to attend events for multiple SLGs, with some rushing both SLGs and the Panhellenic fraternity-sorority groups. Each group has a calendar of social events in which interested members first go meet the group and attend fun events such as kegger rollerskating, trivia night, lip sync battles, outdoor hikes, sledding and broomball. If students feel as though they fit in well with the group, they continue attending the group events as they see fit.

Sounds like a great plan to get first-year students engaged with upperclassmen, right? But here’s the catch — SLGs have an acceptance rate mirroring the single digits. The voting process that determines who gets in is kept secret; rushees have to make it through multiple rounds of cuts (after which many others drop out due to lack of interest or time commitment) in order to start the application process. Just when you’ve slaved through a new semester’s worth of syllabi, professors and coursework, you still have to make time in your schedule to decide whether you want to live with this group next year. Furthermore, if you’re not incredibly charismatic or have a unique trait/story/appearance SLG members can remember you by, you’re left in the pool of students whose eagerness to join goes unreciprocated by current members.

Many of the “middle grounders” — I’ll define them as the average student who is interested in pursuing new activities but isn’t necessarily at the top — go ignored at Duke. There’s nothing wrong with getting rejected by a selective institution (heck, most of us were rejected from a group during the rush process and for some, it may have actually worked out), but the frustration of making spurts of effort to meet people in an organization you probably won’t cross paths with often after rejection seems like an unnatural use of effort to me. The month of SLG rush concluded with bids, and for most, those results came in a briefly worded email that said “We hope that you will continue to build the friendships that you have made with our members over the past few weeks.” <sarcasm> Yes, our heads are spinning with the names of 100+ new members we’ve just met, and we definitely are going to seek them out again after getting turned away. </sarcasm>

The following quote is taken from Tyler Fredricks’ February 10th article, “A Duke divided.” The link is here at

“I was struck when I saw how many people identified with the Me Too Monologue that wondered aloud how the 5,000 undergraduates who aren’t at Shooters on a given night can meet. Maybe they can meet at some regular event that won’t turn people away if they aren’t competitive enough but just want to do something they enjoy. Maybe when our social lives aren’t divided, our passions aren’t competitive, our hobbies aren’t exclusionary and our event spaces not under construction, then Duke can provide the full college experience we see in the brochures.”

Similarly, Julia Cho’s short play BFE, a dialogue about teenage isolation regarding those that have trouble fitting in, illustrates how superficiality in relationships drains people.

“’It’s amazing more people don’t steal, these days everyone’s hungry. Walking through the mall, everyone looks sad…people so well-dressed and so sad. We don’t know what we are, none of us.’” (Cho, BFE Scene 6)

Since when did the competitive hierarchy within a university bar students from pursuing their talents outside their own realm? Why do we have to go through a 3-step audition/application process for a cappella, selective living groups, career-oriented societies or even the chance to participate in an alternative spring break trip before the administration sifts out who is deemed competent enough to join? What happens to those who aren’t competitive enough to get in but still want to foster their own talent within a group?

As early as two weeks in, I had the sense that Duke’s social scene was unnaturally fragmented and exclusionary. It doesn’t feel natural to the eager-eyed freshman who wants nothing more than to try out something new in college. Perhaps it frames the realities of the real world in which the cream of the crop is all placed together in one metaphorical bowl, mixed together, and forced to realize they are as generic as a bowl of Quaker’s Apple Cinnamon Walnut oatmeal. But we all need to know that we have to proclaim ourselves in a short amount of time whether it’s a job interview, sales pitch, first date, presentation or rush event. Sometimes, being a generic bowl of oatmeal tastes delicious.

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