From organizing social gatherings to leading meetings, COVID-19 has caused drastic changes in the way things are done, and recruitment for fraternities and sororities are not immune to the impacts of the virus.
Fraternities and sororities recruit new members in the fall, and this semester is no different. However, the recruitment process will be handled virtually as Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) policies have temporarily changed to a fully virtual recruitment for all Greek chapters across USF’s campus as a result of COVID-19.
All four councils — National Pan-Hellenic, Multicultural, Panhellenic and Interfraternity Council — will be abiding by these temporary guidelines.
While each council has elected to go forward with virtual recruitment, there are many differences in the approach each council is taking, and some chapters are doing things their own ways.
Panhellenic sororities follow a more uniformly structured approach to the recruitment process. They will be transitioning from using the Marshall Student Center (MSC) Ballroom to meet PNMs to Zooming with them instead.
Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Panhellenic Council Tierra Pender said every aspect of recruitment will be held virtually.
The fee for rushing is now $30 instead of $85 and those who originally paid the $85 have been refunded, according to Pender.
The process will be unconventional for active members and PNMs. Instead of talking directly with active members on Spirit Day, PNMs had to make an introductory video for the first round of recruitment.
“Instead of Zooming, PNMs sent in videos answering a list of questions that they received prior for Spirit Day,” Pender said.
Pender also said that the other rounds of recruitment, philanthropy and sisterhood will be done through PNMs talking with active sorority members via Zoom.
“Spirit Week is online and recruitment is online, and everything is split and is more technical,” Pender said. “Zoom is our best friend.”
Each year, sororities hold Spirit Week, the week before recruitment starts, to figure out the logistics of their rush before recruitment starts with each day being themed that encourages the active members to wear outfits and costumes that go along with that day’s theme.
Mandatory participation among active members is another change Panhellenic is seeing this year.
“There is a lot of leniency because we know there is a pandemic going on, so as many active members as possible are participating in recruitment,” Pender said.
Despite the changes to how recruitment will be held, it will still take place during the first two weeks of school. Panhellenic recruitment started on Aug. 28 with the Spirit Day videos and continued on the weekend of Aug. 29 and 30 and will finish out the weekend of Sept. 5 and Sept. 6.
Bid Day is the day that PNMs look forward to all week since it is when they receive their invitations to join a sorority. In the past, they have been able to run to their new sororities together and celebrate with their new sisters.
Pender said that each sorority is making adjustments to their bid days. For example, she said that her sorority will only allow for officers and new members to be in attendance at Bid Day.
Sophia Doussan, a junior majoring in health sciences, is an active member of Kappa Delta who has been participating in virtual recruitment.
She said the Zoom recruitment has been going a lot smoother than she expected.
“Knowing that both the sorority and PNMs are all in the same boat, and not knowing what to expect with recruitment, has eased our minds,” Doussan said. “I have been extremely excited each morning to talk to new PNMs and I cannot wait to bring home our new pledge class for Kappa Delta.”
National Pan-Hellenic Council
The historically African American council is composed of fraternities and sororities that primarily represent the Black student population. Each chapter normally has their own unique way of going about the recruitment process, and this year is no exception.
Jordan Ramsey, a senior majoring in health sciences and the president of the Zeta Delta Chapter of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, a part of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, said that this year’s recruitment will be looking a lot different than how it did one year ago since FSL policies have temporarily changed to a fully virtual recruitment for all Greek organizations across campus.
“The last recruitment process was filled with in-person opportunities to get to know candidates and in-person informationals,” Ramsey said in an email to The Oracle. “To stick to Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] (CDC) guidelines and FSL policies the recruitment process has completely changed to an online format.”
Iota Phi Theta has chosen to use Zoom as its virtual platform for recruitment as well as its social media pages. Ramsey said that potential new members (PNMs) can find out about the fraternity’s virtual recruitment events by sending him an email or following the fraternity’s social media page.
This is a learning process for active members, according to Ramsey.
“All active members are working hard to learn to utilize the tools we’ve chosen to adopt such as social media and Zoom,” he said. “Learning to take things from a physical environment to a completely virtual environment has been challenging but rewarding at the same time. It’s amazing to see all we can accomplish virtually.”
Ramsey said he hopes this year’s recruitment will bring in fresh perspectives that could benefit USF.
“What we hope will be our biggest accomplishments with virtual recruitment is bringing through young men who are passionate about creating positive change within the community and growing within themselves as well as challenging themselves to become better men,” he said. “We hope to bring new life to the USF community.”
There is no fee to participate in Iota Phi Theta’s recruitment, but dates for registration and events are still to be determined, Ramsey said.
Fees, dates and the overall process will differ from organization to organization in the National Pan-Hellenic Council.
The Multicultural Council at USF is made up of fraternities and sororities that are historically made up of students with various ethnic backgrounds, but are not exclusive to any certain nationality, only representative. Like the National Pan-Hellenic Council, each chapter has the freedom to go about their recruitment process in the way they deem fit for their specific organization.
The Alpha Alpha chapter of alpha Kappa Delta Phi is an Asian-inclusive sorority but is not exclusive to only Asian women as all ethnicities and races are welcome, and it is part of the Multicultural Council.
Angellea Saengthong, a senior majoring in health sciences and Alpha Alpha corecruitment chair, said that each year recruitment is made up of two socials and one informational session, all free to attend.
Saengthong said that a virtual interview will go along with the three events.
“After the interview is when you find out if you got a bid,” she said.
Bids will be done virtually, according to Saengthong.
Coming up with social events can be a bit challenging now that they can only be virtual, according to Saengthong.
“We want to get to know everyone who comes out,” Saengthong said. “We also don’t want to do anything mundane or repetitive, so we are thinking of events that are not done repetitively. I don’t want it to be superficial, and virtually it is hard to get below the surface. I want social to be conversation-focused over just playing games.”
On Aug. 23, the sorority held its first social event of fall recruitment with a service theme, according to Saengthong.
“Service is one of our pillars and for this social we made cards for hospitalized kids,” she said. “We really just tried to speak within the groups and get to know the girls during this activity as well as showcase any creative art skills.”
Like Iota Theta Phi, Kappa Delta Phi is also recruiting on Zoom and using the breakout room feature that allows for hosts to put their Zoom attendees into smaller group calls to connect with the PNMs.
Saengthong said that the virtual social went well, but found that virtual social events do not allow for as personalized of an experience as meeting face-to-face since you cannot meet as many people.
“We initially split up people into groups for the whole event,” she said. “To allow more people to meet others, we started doing more group mix-ups. It is almost like speed dating where you get paired with a couple of other people every 10 to 15 minutes.”
While Saengthong said her sorority cannot give out the number of women who have expressed interest in the organization, she said it has grown from the summer events.
“During the summer we only have one social, if any, so it was kind of expected to not have as many show up, but it was nice to see a bigger outcome during our actual rush,” she said.
As for what spring recruitment may look like, Saengthong said she is unsure at the moment and that this is all a learning process.
“I hope that spring recruitment can be in person, but I feel like it will be virtual,” she said.” My co-chair and I did a lot of work with online recruitment, so there are a lot of notes, and we will just learn from what we did this semester.”
Pi Delta Psi is also in the Multicultural Council. It is an Asian-interest but not an Asian-exclusive fraternity, according to Albert Cala, a senior majoring in accounting and the fraternity’s USF chapter president.
While finding a platform to use has not been the fraternity’s biggest challenge with virtual recruitment, using the platforms to host events has been, according to Cala.
“The biggest challenge of virtual recruitment is the hosting of events itself,” he said. “We are certainly not used to hosting events virtually and the platform itself can be challenging as well. We had to come up with unique ideas on how to make these events and meetings more fun and interactive with interested students.”
Despite still hosting events, Cala said the fraternity decided it will not be taking any new members this fall.
“We just want to get to know potential new members, and hopefully they will still be interested in joining when we decide to take an intake class again,” he said.
Those interested in joining the fraternity have been made aware of this, and anyone can still come to these events free of charge.
Taking a new intake class will all depend on the pandemic Cala said.
“If the situation gets better in the spring, then we will definitely take a pledge class. If not, then we would have to skip the intake process this school year.”
With the shift to online platforms, Cala said the fraternity has run into some issues with using Zoom as its main platform.
“There are certain features we do not like with Zoom like the time limit and privacy issue,” Cala said. “We are probably going to use Microsoft Teams or Google Hangouts for future events.”
Cala has noticed that since going virtual, social media interactions have increased.
“We have put an interest form link in our Instagram bio for students,” he said. “Our rush chairs will contact them immediately to give them updates on our current events or meetings.”
As fraternities from Interfraternity Council (IFC) are not able to host social gatherings at their fraternity houses or at public places, they plan to use Canvas and Zoom to connect with their PNMs this year.
There will be four days of recruitment events over Zoom, according to Brett Purcell, president of the IFC and Sigma Phi Epsilon member. What the events are and what they will consist of will be different for each chapter, according to Purcell.
Because of the move to online, the IFC is waiving the $20 recruitment fee for PNMs.
“Usually there is a fee,” Purcell said. “For this semester, we have cut that completely away to remove that barrier.”
After the four days, the fraternity will host an invite-only round that they call preference interviews, which used to be called tradition dinners.
Purcell said interviews will also differ from chapter to chapter as each has the freedom to decide meeting topics and how many people will be allowed on the calls. He also said this part of the recruitment process would be a good time for PNMs to ask last-minute questions before choosing a bid.
Bids will be accepted during the weekend via Canvas, according to Purcell.
The IFC had already been making recruitment changes when the news came that it must be virtual for rush. Purcell said the IFC has been changing the recruitment process since February to better assist the PNMs with being informed and giving them the power to create a smoother recruitment process.
“We are very confident and very excited [for] what virtual recruitment will be like for us,” Purcell said.
PNMs interested in rushing an IFC fraternity have from Sept. 13 until Sept. 20 at 11:59 p.m. to complete a Canvas module for recruitment, according to Purcell. The Canvas module consists of presentations and quizzes for PNMs to complete to ensure they have the correct information and training going into recruitment.
“We are trying to be sensitive to our active members and our new members because most likely they are doing a lot of virtual schooling, so we don’t want to add a whole other course of learning a new software to their plate,” he said.
“During that week, we are also going to be encouraging the students and recruitment chairs and committees to be talking with each other,” he said. “Use that week to get some of the questions answered and communicated, so next week you don’t have to say you don’t know anything about these chapters or you don’t know which Zoom call to go to.”
To aid in this endeavor, Purcell said the IFC is working on something called Chapter Preview.
“It’s either going to be a chapter preview video where it is going to be about a minute to a minute and a half full of information given by the president or the recruitment chair about the chapter’s values, dues and the really important information,” he said. “Another way we are looking at it is maybe within the Canvas course having a set time where we have one large Zoom call and the presidents give a presentation through a PowerPoint.”
This is depending on the amount of PNMs that sign up, according to Purcell, but he said that interest is about where it usually is at this point in registration.
“We are trying to be innovative but also really simplistic,” he said. “There is no point in making this hard for anybody, and we really just want to put it through with the least amount of issues.”
Even though recruitment looks different this year and the semester has a lot of unknowns, Purcell said this is the perfect time to rush a fraternity.
“I’ve gotten a few emails from people asking me ‘Is now the right time to rush?’” Purcell said. “For me personally, it’s the perfect time. Now more than ever we have the opportunity to focus on what our organizations are here for: making sure you are gaining friendships, connections and experience. These things you don’t learn in a classroom.”
Since in-person social gatherings will likely not happen, Purcell said opportunities are greater now because chapters can focus on preparing members for life after college through scholarships and connecting with alumni.
“I’m not going to say that socials in the past are a thing that clouds us, but it obviously takes planning and the fact that we are not able to have in-person events like that anymore and can be streamlined through a virtual service we will be able to give people more time to focus on relationship building.”