Greek organizations adjust recruitment efforts

COVID guidelines present obstacles to interacting with a new class of students

Watson Deacon

Newly tightened social distancing guidelines after a spike in COVID-19 cases have brought in-person Greek life recruitment to a halt.

The COVID-19 Committee changed the campus environment level from mid-yellow to high-yellow on Sept. 14 and implemented additional restrictions, including the suspension of in-person dining and informal recruitment.

“All informal and formal Greek recruitment is to be halted until further notice,” said the email sent last Monday.

Previous guidelines allowed students to gather, while social distancing and wearing masks, in groups of up to 10 people indoors and up to 25 people outdoors, making it possible for fraternity and sorority members to interact more with first-year students. Now, gatherings have been reduced to 6 people indoors and 10 people outdoors.

Greek life leaders around campus are pivoting in response to the updated restrictions.

The Panhellenic Council held its first “Meetthe Greek” event of the year virtually on Sept. 20. Formal recruitment will also be held virtually.

Both the Panhellenic Council and Interfraternity Council have expressed a firm commitment to abide by the new guidelines, according to Panhellenic Council Public Relations Chair Anna Luttrell, ‘21 and IFC President Rives Castleman, ‘21.

This sudden change adds to what has already been a challenging year. For Alpha Kappa Alpha, a historically Black sorority, the primary focus is on ensuring that prospective members remain safe.

“We want to ensure that the membership intake process is a safe and meaningful experience,” said Leah Jackson, ‘22, the secretary for Alpha Kappa Alpha.

And Chi Omega has taken a similar stance.

“Right now, we want to make sure that Greek life and our sisterhood and our community is a support system more than anything else,” said Grace Pelosky, ‘22, Chi Omega’s Recruitment Chair.

That shift in focus has already made a difference.

“We’re making sure that we’re looking at recruitment through a lens of being really welcoming to the freshmen whether they want to be a part of the Greek system or not,” Pelosky said.

However, even meeting the first-year classpresents a challenge.

“That’s something that I think we and a lot of other organizations are struggling with,” Pelosky said. “We’re trying to encourage people to reach out to any freshman that they interact with, whether it’s through a class or an organization that they’re in.”

First-year students share some of the same concerns.

“There’s been limited social events, andit’s been difficult to meet upperclassmen,”Hayden Roberts, ‘24 said.

That’s not to say that first-year students havehad no exposure to Greek life.

“I’ve gotten to meet some older guys through the cross country team,” Roberts said.

Before the new restrictions came into play, he had been to a few dinners as part of in- formal rush. But unless the restrictions are changed, events like these are no longer possible.

Virtual programming planned before the re- strictions went into place will still take place. And outside of zoom events, potential new members can also look on social media for other ways to get to know the different Greek organizations on campus.

“Panhel has promoted their Instagram as a platform for every sorority to showcase a bit more about themselves which is especially important in a time with so many COVID-19 restrictions,” said Lily Webster, ‘22, the Delta Society recruitment co-president.

And for Alpha Kappa Alpha, which is part of the National Pan-Hellenic council, the situation is similar.

“Students who are interested in joining AKA can express interest by engaging in our upcoming virtual programming and getting to know the women in the chapter,” Jackson said. “They can also join us for Meet the Greek events with the Panhellenic Council.”

This year, members of Alpha Kappa Alpha have participated in Meet the Greek events, along with members of the six Panhellenic sororities on campus.

Phi Gamma Delta, Kappa Alpha, and Pi Kappa Alpha are just a few fraternities that have recently begun following prospective members from Instagram accounts. Lambda Chi Alpha posts interactive content, including polls and stories, in hopes of increasing audience engagement.

The Interfraternity Council is trying to facilitate more of these connections between current and prospective members.

“For the first-years, we are providing a fraternity recruitment contact list where they can reach out to any fraternity president and recruitment chair,” Castleman said. “We are also working on scheduling a Zoom info session for the first-years interested in recruitment to answer questions and update them on how the process works at a high level.”

And amidst the rapidly changing situation, Castleman said that IFC will try to aid all chapters to meet interested first years.

“Whether that is Zoom meetings or socially distant meet-and-greets, we will explore every possible way to get over these hurdles,”Castleman said.

Formal recruitment will be different this year, too.

“I feel that the best case scenario is that we will be able to host a successful formal recruitment in a virtual capacity, meaning that it will feel authentic and fulfilling for both our potential new members and chapter members,” said Panhellenic Advisor Leah Beard.

In addition to moving recruitment online, sororities are also removing all fees associated with formal recruitment for the year and significantly reducing these fees for the future with the goal of removing financial barriers to membership.

Beard said Greek organizations on campus are collectively looking for “ways to continue to make our community more equitable and accessible for all students at W&L.”

And concrete steps towards the goal of more diverse and inclusive Greek life are already being taken.

“Greek organizations will be participating in a diversity training during this fall term,” Beard said.