Sunday afternoons on campus are usually quiet and empty.
Not on Bid Day.
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USC may have halted Fraternity Bid Day for a while — you know, that boring, silent affair in the Russell House Theater Friday — but there was no stopping this, especially not with the largest sorority recruitment class in university history. All told, 1,061 females joined USC sororities on Sunday, second in the nation only to the University of Arkansas.
“Some people compare this day to their wedding or having a baby,” said Baldwin Hall, a third-year international business student and part of the sea of neon pink that was Phi Mu.
That may be because Sorority Bid Day is a little like both. New members are commonly referred to as babies in sorority jargon — Delta babies, Gamma babies, Zeta babies, etc. Also, during Bid Day new members must walk, or frantically run, down a giant aisle as hundreds of men watch and compliment their looks.
“I came here to watch the pandemonium and, of course, the ladies,” said third-year civil engineering student Stetson Rowles, adding a suave accent on the word ladies.
But before the main event began, the Pi Chis first took their shirts off — revealing beneath the shirts of their original chapters. Pi Chi is a temporary chapter composed of women who disaffiliate from their normal chapters in the spring. They must remain unbiased as they show potential recruits around to each of the chapters at the beginning of rush week.
The group of Pi Chis stood on the steps off the McKissick Museum and performed a chant for each of the sorority chapters. Each time the group finished a sorority’s chant, Pi Chis of that sorority would de-shirt as the rest of their sorority cheered on, holding up signs reading “We Missed You!” and symbolically welcoming their prodigal sisters back into the fold.
Following the Pi Chis’ return, the mass of recruits in front of McKissick held hands in outward-facing circles, making nervous looks as they awaited their fates. For once, the screaming seemed to subside as the anticipation built. And then came the T-shirts.
On USC’s campus, T-shirts are usually a dime in a dozen, tossed out by every club to every passerby on Greene Street. But to these women, these shirts meant everything. There embroidered were the names of the sororities with which they would hopefully be spending the rest of their undergraduate careers.
As the shirts were handed out and the new members threw them on, the screaming returned just as quickly as it went. Loud noises are commonly known to spook herds into movement. The stampede had begun; any who fell could be left behind.
Onlookers had formed a gauntlet for the new members as they ran toward the colored balloon arches, wooden letters, shaking maracas and flailing pool noodles of their respective chapters. Even dogs of all sizes, from toy poodles to Labrador Retrievers, were decked out in sorority gear and looking as bewildered as the humans. Supporters cheered on, while some men performed a chant of their own: “Trip, trip, trip!”
In fact, every group of men interviewed by The Daily Gamecock pointed out the prospect of tripping as a major reason for their attendance. David Hooper, a first-year advertising student, added crying to his day’s schadenfreude-inducing entertainment. In contrast, many sorority girls simply shouted, “Best week ever!” Somewhat of a battle of the sexes was apparent.
“The boys need to step back, too many boys,” said Kate Delisio, a fourth-year public health student.
But the focus of the day was on bonding: Screaming, crying, laughing and hugging were in abundance as members met their new sisters.
“I’m so glad to be in Delta Zeta; I got first pick,” said Alexis Sawtelle, a second-year nursing student.
“We just had higher enrollment numbers; it was a bigger freshman class this year, but now I think the interest is up in joining a sorority,” said Katie Spell, assistant director of Greek Life. “We saw a lot of sophomores and juniors who wanted to join, which I think just means they get here and they see how valuable the experience is and they want to be a part.”
Chi Omega gave bids to 109 new members, its largest recruitment class in history. Spell, who said exact figures weren’t available Friday, guessed that the majority of the chapters likely had historic recruiting classes.
“It really went pretty flawlessly,” Spell said. “I think we placed a lot of the girls who were interested in joining the sororities, and I think today ended with a lot of happy people.”
By 5:30 p.m. Friday, the majority of those happy people packed up their signs, confetti and air horns and left the Horseshoe. The Sunday evening was quiet, as if the thousands of screaming women had never been there at all.