The informant describes the importance of the paddle during pledge’s semester pledging and the time beyond that semester. The informant explains he learned of this tradition immediately after getting accepted into the fraternity. He has close ties with this tradition because he has many memories of getting signatures for his paddle and feels as though it was his way of being fully accepted into the fraternity.
At the beginning of the pledge semester, all of the pledges need to get a paddle and put their name on it. The paddle is typically made out of wood and has the fraternity’s letters on it. The paddle also has the pledge class year and semester and the pledge’s last name. And over the course of the semester you’re supposed to earn paddle sigs or paddle signatures from all the actives in the house. The signatures are put on in black sharpie on all different sides of the paddle. Older members of the house are allowed to sign signatures on the front of the paddle, while younger members may not. The paddle gives you an opportunity to get to know the active members of the house and the active members of the house to know you. A paddle signature is an active’s acknowledgement of wanting and accepting the pledge into the house. This tradition has been a part of his chapter since the beginning. Getting paddle signatures involves hanging out and getting to know the active better. The paddle signatures are your way of earning your spot in the house – it is a sign of approval. The point of the paddle is that by the end of the semester you have every actives signature and this indicates everyone saying they want you in the house and it allows everyone to get to know you better.
I find role of the paddle for the incoming pledge class to be a great example of a folk object that represents the liminal period the pledges of the fraternity find themselves in. The pledges have received bids from the fraternity indicating that the active members have interest in them and want them to become full members. The paddle acts as a form of their growth and transition into a full member. The paddle, as stated by the informant, serves the role to spur interactions between active and pledge members and acceptance from active to pledges.