What this BAMA RUSH thing is really all about…

by Colleen Blevins

You know you’re a viral sensation when you become a Hashtag. And what a sensation #BamaRush is.

Not just the TikTok videos but the documentary. And ironically enough, to me, the MAX Documentary BAMA RUSH feels as though it’s a more realistic depiction of Panhellenic sorority than anything we’ve seen on TikTok.

Because Social Media is carefully curated content.
Because Social Media is edited.

But, this documentary, it’s very real. And it highlights many things we already know to be true:

  • Young women face insecurities and are trying to find a place to belong.
  • That people wanting to join are interested in finding an experience that will provide them with a network of people who will matter to them and that they will matter to.
  • College students are more accepting of others inside and out than they are of themselves.
  • Connections, relationships, authentic experiences are ultimately what drive people to join and stay.
  • And, we still have work to do in sorority. We still need to be better and challenge ourselves to create more inclusive spaces that cultivate and promote belonging in an authentic and real way.

Over 6,250 PNMs told us last year (through our iValu survey) that of 64 potential values what matters most to them are the intangibles – family, love, friendship, kindness, and loyalty.

They shared that authenticity, self-worth, integrity, empathy, and faith are things they hold near.

And on Wednesday night, we also heard these words from Shelby, Isabelle, Makayla, and Holliday in the documentary. And we heard the current members state they are getting this out of their experiences.

The pomp and circumstance around “Rush” might help generate social media impressions, but it isn’t why our members are actually joining. The pomp and circumstance only reaffirms the idea that Dr. Boyd mentioned that “Rush is a social stratification ritual.”

But the pomp and circumstance DOES NOT affirm what sorority truly is – only what the process many use to join a Panhellenic sorority has become.

If you follow or work with us, you know that we talk a lot about connections, relationships, and social excellence. It’s our life’s work. It’s what every person on our team wholeheartedly believes in.

It’s the people, the connections, and a true sense of belonging that potential members seek.  And what many of our members continue to seek and need out of membership!

Isabelle and Makayla talked about belonging and acceptance.
Finding people who will love them for who they truly are.

Isabelle said, “No one knows me fully and loves me fully, and I think that’s something I really want with these girls.”

And when she joined, she talked about the people. 
The deep connections made and conversations she had.

The big houses and cheers wrapped her into the system, but the connection, the sisterhood, a sense of belonging, the feeling that she mattered is what got her to say yes.

When Sloan talked about her joining story, she named a sister.

Every PNM, active member, and sorority woman we talk to has a person (or people) they can name. People who they felt connected to, who reassured them, who made them laugh.

Those people are the reasons they said YES to joining.

THAT is sorority.
THAT is what people are seeking.

Validation for who they can become, acceptance for who they are, and knowing they belong at every moment along their journey.

Hot take: We don’t need to entirely reinvent the sorority experience.
We don’t need to come up with a new program or fancy marketing campaign.
In fact, we don’t need to ADD ANYTHING to what sorority is.

We need to EDIT the Panhellenic sorority RECRUITMENT experience.

That’s what #RushTok confirmed for us when it went viral.
That’s what this BAMA RUSH thing is really all about!

We need to stop selling what it isn’t and just let sorority be the real powerful story it was always meant to be.

The data tells us this.
The documentary tells us this.
Our members and PNMs are telling us this.

And honestly, they’ve been asking for this for years!

It’s not about tiktok and social influencers.
It’s about people and their wants, needs, and desires.
It’s about realizing who you are at a time that’s challenging with outside influence and finding your own way to who you were always meant to be.

And truly, that’s also what sorority is about.
It’s who our sorority members are.
It aligns with what the PNMs tell us they care about, are worried about, and value.

The women’s stories reaffirmed why sorority is more important than ever. Our organizations are a unique opportunity for so many college women to create authentic, life-long connections and help others feel and know that they belong.

BAMA RUSH told us what we already know – that the story of sorority is:
Sorority is connection.
Sorority is belonging.
Sorority is love.
Sorority is so much more than we often allow it to be.

So rather than worry about social media impressions, follower counts and reach, let’s focus on what will really matter to our PNMs, what they are looking for.

Let’s help PNMs this year find just that in sorority – just as Isabelle did, just as Shelby did, just as the current active sisters Katie and Kaiya did.

Just as every one of us has.

It’s our history, and it should be our future and our legacy.
It’s a place to call home, a place to be you, a place you can always come back to, and a place where you can thrive.

It’s what sorority is meant to be.