Alpha Kappa Crazy: Sorority Culture at the University of South Carolina

28 Aug

Last Sunday I visited the hub of campus, the ‘Horseshoe’, to witness sorority bid day. This is the day that hundreds of screaming girls who have been on their very best behaviour for two weeks find out which sorority they are to call home. These are not just "actions", these are certain degrees and sequences of such a phenomenon as "initiation", buy book reports to learn more about this narrative, and a person transfers to another state, i.e. undergoes initiation and becomes a member of a certain community, in our case, sorority
To join a sorority, a girl has to go through a two week period known as ‘rushing’. She meets with representatives from each sorority for interviews, whereby they exchange information to make a character assessment of potential members. The sororities will grade girls from 1-5, and in return the girls will bid for their top three sororities in time for bid day. Behind the scenes, the choices are made, the t-shirts sized up, the fate of hundreds written in the books.

By the time bid day comes around, there’s a buzz of anticipation on campus. As sorority members have to de-activate social networking accounts and are prohibited from partying during the rush period, it’s not only the excitement of potential members lingering in the air, but of existing members too.


Approaching from the student union, which is at least 500 metres away, a group of us could hear the chanting as soon as we stepped outside. The sororities were gathered on the Horseshoe fields in all their glory, each wearing matching outfits. So some wore cowboy boots and denim shorts, while others had a beach party theme and donned hula skirts and flowers in their hair. Huge strings of balloons formed arches over the sorority symbols and hordes of onlookers stopped to take pictures.

The sororities would buzz about for a few minutes, smoothing out their hair, taking pictures, speculating over new recruits, and then a swell of noise would turn into chanting and singing:

Tri Sigma all the way
Sigma Sigma Sigma Hey!”

We walked around in awe of the sheer number of females gathered in one place- I hadn’t ever seen that many en masse before. Taking pictures and videos, my camera gallery was filling up with colour, snap by snap showing fluorescent pink, clover green, stripes of red, yellow and white. We made our way to the top of the Horseshoe, the grand McKissick building, and saw row upon row of girls gathered on its steps, underneath its majestic Greek pillars.

This is where the heads of the houses were lined up. Sat in front of them, obedient and cross-legged, were all the new recruits. Row by row they were asked to stand, close their eyes and open their hands behind their backs. A t-shirt corresponding to their new sorority was placed in their hands, and on the count of three, they were allowed to look. Some girls screamed and jumped on each other, others stared blankly with disappointment. Some even cried- whether it was with happiness or sadness I’ll never know. Whatever the outcome, the girls began running as fast as they could to their new sorority, and if they could find them, to their new sorority buddy who is to guide them through the next year. The crowds of fraternity boys and onlookers formed two swelling lines with a running lane down the middle, trying to trip the girls up as they ran.


For a true taste of what Sorority Bid Day was really like, here’s a short video: 

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