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I never hated voting on new pledges. Some guys dreaded it for entire semesters. I loved it. You wrap up a couple weeks of man flirting with a couple nights locked in a room with the brothers yelling about these potential new members.
Voting nights had a great deal of potential. They could get weirdly aggressive, long lost brothers would crawl out of the woodwork to hype their freshman roommate, exec would yell at us for watching sports on our laptops, and incredibly average actives would monologue against kids for not being “excellent.” It can be a taxing and unnecessarily long process, and sometimes you don’t do yourself any favors in that department.
The single greatest feat of mental fortitude ever displayed has gone largely unsung. It occurred at the beginning of my senior year. After we wrapped our formal interviews, those sweaty little freshmen dispersed, and the chapter convened as a whole. The standard procedure was two nights of voting, no more than 15 minutes of debate per guy, and we all get out of there with our brains still intact.
At that point, we had whittled it down to 55 interviews worth watching, which means that starting at around 7 meant we would finish at around 1 a.m. both nights — totally standard procedure.
Night one was going smoothly, we were rolling at average speeds, and everyone was happy. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, a brother called for the room’s attention. As brothers were filtering back into the room after a mandated smoke break (good men picketed for that), the chapter turned their focus to the man calling out to them. Phone in hand, he addressed the room. He told us that a girl had just texted him, saying that we should have a party that night.
It’s amazing how quickly a forest fire can start. One cigarette thrown out of a car window, rolling across the street, weaving its way through traffic, with a glowing ember still shining on one end. It makes its way to the brush and a lone leaf catches fire, then another, then a twig, then a log, and almost at once, the entire forest. It took us maybe five minutes to decide unanimously that we should finish voting for the night and have a party. We all happily left the room at 10 p.m. We had gotten through 15 videos. What arrogant fools we were.
The party was average. I can’t remember it at all, but the next night will be with me forever. We knew that we had stuck ourselves in a tough position but none of us truly understood what we were in for.
Night two began promptly at 7:00 p.m. Everyone was loaded up with Redbulls, dip, and Adderall — the basic survival kit. We began to grind through the interviews, no one speaking out against the fact that every debate was taking well over the 15-minute maximum. Our first major snag came when we were reviewing the interview of a kid whose older brother had just graduated.
I maintain that if the brother that had just graduated had been more popular, we would’ve given the rush a unanimous yes and just moved on. Instead, one lone comment about the kid doing acid spiraled into an hour-long debate over his character. None of us knew him at all, but just like the stray cigarette that burns down half of California, whether or not this kid should get a bid morphed into whether or not we needed to send this kid to rehab.
One hour later, we had voted him in. He ended up being awesome, and everyone in the chapter that argued against him owes me a 55-minute life debt for wasting my time. I will one day accept their payment in flesh or bail money. But that was the first major crack in our armor.
It had officially become clear to everyone that we still had a mountain to climb before our night was over. A few of brothers left right then and there, as they were too weak to stick it out. Voting was usually broken up with lovely visits from sororities bringing snacks. It was always great. They would show up, gifts in hand, we would scream and cheer, and shouts of “SMOOCH!” would echo through the halls until one of them kissed a brother. The authoritarian Panhellenic regime had outlawed the practice because they claimed it showed favoritism and hurt the feelings of fraternities that didn’t get any visitors. Tensions were high.
As the night went on, more and more brothers would filter out over time once they realized that the end was nowhere in sight. Multiple games of online Risk and Monopoly were played out in full, spitters were filled to the brim, and crushed cans were strewn about the floor. Around 2 a.m. we had another kid take up a full hour. He also received a bid eventually, and he ended up transferring out of our university entirely. If I ever see you again, Weasel, I will carve my name into your chest as recompense for stealing an hour of my life. The heart only has so many beats, Weasel.
Our idiotic debates raged on and on. We lost plenty of brain cells that night. Every time I heard someone say “Just because you want to play for the Red Sox, doesn’t mean you get to play for the Red Sox,” as a legitimate argument against membership. My brain lost a little bit of functionality.
5 a.m. opened up the floodgates. Kids were getting unanimously voted in or out with regularity. Everyone’s tolerance had plummeted, and we were around 40% attendance. Any complaints about pledges within the first week could be chalked up to someone slipping through the cracks during our delirious state. The final swing of the gavel and all of us still present left the room. It was 6:01 a.m. We had just voted for 11 straight hours.
Eyes bloodshot, gums swollen and bloodied from going through all of the Copenhagen, Skoal, and Grizzly in the immediate area, and brains fried, we had done what we needed to do. I got back home, went to sleep, and skipped every single class that day. Daddy paid for me to go to college, and he has to accept who I am there.
It all turned out well, I think. That pledge class ended up being pretty great — though an argument could be made that they were literally the worst pledge class ever. At the time, it was a horrible experience, but I can look back on it fondly. It’s a weird part of Greek life that you don’t necessarily think will be rewarding. But, it’s almost hard to come out of a situation where you’re locked in a room with your brothers for 11 hours and not leave with at least a couple good memories. Stick it out and embrace the strange.
And new guys, welcome to the show. We are a strictly non-hazing organization..