With nearly 300 million views and hundreds of #ootds, #grwms and bid day reveals featuring brands like Kendra Scott, Pants Store and LoveShackFancy, #rushtok has given many TikTok users a glimpse of the rigorous recruitment process for sororities at the University of Alabama.
Ashley Stahl, a first-year studying finance at the University of Alabama, said that she never expected her videos to become viral.
“I posted the video and then I was off that day for sisterhood round,” Stahl said. “It was kind of the first day, and then I came back from lunch and the video was at like 4,000 views and then it was at 10,000 and 14,000 and it just kept going up. I never expected it to be a million views, which was crazy because it just started as something really small.”
Perhaps what is most unique about #rushtok is the diversity of the audience. Everyone from fellow college students to middle-aged women have been intrigued by the complex process of sorority recruitment.
“I think that so many people were intrigued because it was just like a national sensation, like, ‘wow, what is going on here?’” Stahl said. “Here at Alabama, we have the largest Greek system in the country, so it's something to follow. I see how people could be curious, like ‘What's going on here? What are they doing?’”
According to Grant Bollmer, an associate professor of communication at NC State, these videos began gaining traction primarily through TikTok’s sharing options.
“When people first noticed the Alabama rush videos, it was not those videos,” Bollmer said. “It was somebody else commenting. It was somebody else going, ‘Hey look at this weird thing.’ One of the things that I think you can see, especially on TikTok, is sort of a viral currency, maybe a kind of value to discovering and pointing out something that might seem weird to you and other people.”
The hashtag #rushtok has also propelled many brands up in popularity. Kendra Scott CMO Mindy Perry cited a 17% increase in new users, with lesser-known stores like Pants Store becoming viral almost overnight.
Despite the sudden popularity of #rushtok, it’s difficult to forget the history of Panhellenic Greek life, especially at schools like the University of Alabama. In 2013, the University of Alabama’s student newspaper, the Crimson White, published an exposé concerning a Black student experiencing racism during the sorority recruitment process, resulting in the University of Alabama officially desegregating its sororities.
The lack of diversity and inclusion in Greek life has led many Black and students of color to form their own Greek life organizations, one such example being the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC).
Alvin Mutongi, the president of the NPHC at NC State, said sororities and fraternities in the NPHC have a history based in African American culture, with smaller chapters that are diverse yet share a similar focus.
“NPHC encourages its members to display leadership potential and a love of service prior to joining so that those traits can be cultivated rather than instilled,” Mutongi said in an email.
Despite the historical implications, Panhellenic sororities and fraternities can provide new students with a way to make lifelong connections and explore the campus.
Stahl says that anyone looking to rush should give Greek life a try.
“There's always the stereotypes around rush that you can't rush unless you have this or that, but I think anyone who wants to try should definitely give it a try,” Stahl said. “There are so many types of women across every campus who are so diverse and just going through rush gave me a nice appreciation for how diverse our campus is.”
To learn more about NC State’s Greek life organizations, visit the Fraternity and Sorority Life website.