When I arrived at Penn, the first thing I did was to visit my childhood friend, Tony, who by the time had already spent a year at Penn. Tony and I first met as middle school classmates in Beijing, where we lived in the same dorm room for two semesters and became very close friends.
As we were walking down Walnut Street, he mentioned he was part of a fraternity, Delta Tau Delta, and they had a party that night. He gracefully invited me and gave me the address of the house.
That night, I arrived at the house on time. Tony wasn't there (he later told me he was busy with a research project). Instead, on the front porch were a few people smoking and drinking. I didn't know what to say, and simply asked: "Can I just come in." They let me in.
The house was small and dirty. The floor was sticky. A few people were congregating in front of a bar and on the dance floor. They were talking, drinking, and dancing. I don't drink or dance.
I stayed in the house for less than a minute. By the time I left the house, I had decided that fraternities weren't for me.
I was wrong. After my roommate, a senior, moved in that night, he mentioned that he's part of the same fraternity, and that he knew Tony. Knowing two brothers from the same fraternity on day 1 at Penn was a huge advantage and could help me get into the brotherhood. So I started rushing and then pledging. By the end of the semester, I have become a brother.
I won't divulge the details of the rush and pledge processes. But I would like to reflect on my year as a brother and comment on the Penn fraternity scene in general.
I enjoyed fraternity life. Unlike many others, Delt is a healthy oasis of smart and kind brothers. Most of us study finance, economics, and computer science. We take our academics seriously, and have the highest average GPA among all Penn fraternities, something we take great pride in.
Contrary to popular belief, I would argue that every freshman at Penn should rush a fraternity or sorority. Membership is not important. What's worthwhile is the process of introducing yourself to dozens of upperclassmen, observing good manners during social and rush events, developing friendship among fellow rushes, and evaluating whether an organization is a good fit for you. As a relatively nerdy person back in high school, I found these skills to be essential not just for gaining membership to a fraternity but my social life at Penn in general. And they should be developed as soon as possible.
Membership is not important. What's worthwhile is the process of introducing yourself to dozens of upperclassmen, observing good manners during social and rush events, developing friendship among fellow rushes, and evaluating whether an organization is a good fit for you.
Recent tragedies caused by hazing have prompted calls to ban fraternities on American college campuses. While hazing is illegal in most of the states, hazing in some form is still rampant among many Penn fraternities. Delt has a strict anti-hazing policy, and from personal experience, there is absolutely no hazing in any way, shape, or form. Despite the often misconstrued negative connotations associated with fraternities, they are here to stay: college students will still throw parties, rush, pledge as their so many generations of American college students have done.
For me, Delt has been a perfect place to develop the skills I lacked. It's why I decided to join, and that's why I will stay. As I recall that first night at Delt, I realized that the men who were smoking on the front porches of the house have become my brothers. We collaborate closely in our classes and exchange recruiting advice. I could not have imagined it as I was leaving the house that night. But isn't this what college is all about?