The University’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life has postponed the recruitment process until late March due to the COVID-19 spike affecting campus. Definitive dates will be announced once the situation on campus is reevaluated at the end of February. An email sent to all chapters and potential new members explained that the decision was made in order to protect the health and safety of community members.
“We recognize that even a fully virtual process lends itself to opportunities for members and potential new members alike to be tempted to connect in person, and we are making this decision to mitigate the potential risks involved,” the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life wrote.
At the time the email was sent out, the University was dealing with an estimated 300 active cases. On what would have been the first day of rush, cases continued to rise and reached more than 500 active cases.
Lana Davidof, the current Panhellenic Vice President of Recruitment, explained that the main concern of recruitment is bid day activities and the celebrations afterward. She said that these off-campus gatherings cannot be controlled by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life.
“Even though bid day and post bid day activities fall outside the scope of the recruitment process, we have to take it into consideration as part of the entire process,” Davidof said. “There is just simply no way to run a recruitment process right now that is 100% safe, even when it is fully virtual.”
Despite the challenges of shifting the entire recruitment process online, Davidof and Sarah Hernandez, the Assistant Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life on campus, praised the work of student leaders who assisted in the process. Hernandez explained that this year’s recruitment has been an overall collaborative initiative. The assistant director explained that student leaders, including both ingoing and outgoing presidents of each chapter, were involved in the transition to online recruitment as well as the decision to postpone rush in order to prioritize the health of the community.
“We had a lot of student leader voices as part of this conversation with our office,” Hernandez said. “Ultimately, I know we made the right decision as a group.”
Davidof also mentioned there were a few silver linings to moving the recruitment process online, including changes aimed at making the process more welcoming for potential new members. The most impactful change was adding another round in the first stage of recruitment. Instead of 20 minutes with each chapter, incoming members will now have a total of 40 minutes to engage in discussions with all the sororities. The following round has also increased from 30 minutes to 45 minutes with preferred chapters. Davidof explained that these changes were made because of responses from surveyed potential new members of previous years.
“All the changes we have made are things potential new members directly asked for,” the Vice President of Recruitment said. “We want everyone to be more comfortable and the added round will ensure the PNMs have more exposure to each chapter.”
In addition to the added round, the Panhellenic Executive Board has worked to prioritize diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. This year, each chapter is required to have a historical transparency statement that aims to acknowledge the history of Panhellenic organizations. Chapters also collaborated with the Board to create financial transparency documents that break down the exact structure of membership dues. The documents disclose where the dues paid by members will go throughout the year.
Each chapter will now have a DEI position in order to make initiatives more concrete at the University. The executive board has also added a position to address diversity issues in Greek life. Every chapter will continue to work with the board to address internal diversity issues as well.
The final change is the addition of listening circles that aim to create open discussion about important issues within Greek life and throughout the world. Prior to recruitment, all PNMs were required to attend a listening circle in order to be a part of hard-hitting discussions. The Panhellenic Executive Board hopes these discussions will keep diversity at the forefront.
Overall, despite challenges and the ongoing pandemic, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life is optimistic that recruitment can run safely in just a few weeks.