Greek recruitment debacle results in general discontentment on campus

Formal recruitment delays put pressure on administration and Greek life


Elizabeth Bell

The six National Panhellenic sorority houses sit in a row next to Wilson Field.

Sophie Kidd

Washington and Lee’s decision to delay and reschedule formal Greek recruitment has led to campus-wide criticism of Greek life from both students and professors.

The issue began Jan. 7, when the univer- sity sent instructions for move-in days before students had previously planned to arrive on campus. The email announced that students would have a staggered move-in over the course of Jan. 11-29 but did not mention any plans for formal sorority recruitment, which was set to take place virtually from Jan. 14- 19.

Panhellenic Council announced Jan. 8 that recruitment would be delayed until an un- known time.

“I completely agree with the decision to stagger arrival to ensure the safety of the W&L and Lexington community, however I was frustrated with the complete lack of communication from the school in the weeks leading up to the decision,” Lindy Gearon, ’22, said.

The Student Affairs Committee sent a sec- ond email Jan. 15 announcing formal recruit-

ment would be delayed until April 17-25, the week of Spring Break. Student backlash en- sued.

Eugenia O’Connor, ’22, responded with an extensive email criticizing the school’s treat- ment of Greek life.

“Social interaction is literally the only way W&L students can attempt to survive in the toxic atmosphere the school has created,” she wrote. “And the fact that our social lives are so threatened makes everything 10x worse.”

O’Connor intended to send the email to President Will Dudley, the Student Affairs Committee and Dean David Leonard. How- ever, she mistakenly copied the entire student body.

Less than a minute after the email was de- livered, students began responding. While a handful came out in support of O’Connor’s sentiments, the majority replied in a critical, and often comical, fashion.

“It’s kind of bold for you to say the Greek system is being punished when it has gotten away with being discriminatory for years,” wrote Leia Barrow, ’23. “Not to mention we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Maybe the Greek system should count its blessings and be thankful it’s having recruitment at all.”

Executive Committee President Chase Calhoun, ’21, asked students to support all mem- bers of the Washington and Lee community.

Sorority and fraternity recruitment, which were originally suppsoed to take place virtually in early January, have been delayed until late March. Photo by Lilah Kimble, ‘23.

and engage with one another as we always have and always will at W&L,” he wrote. “But this email chain does not allow us to convey our emotions authentically to one another.”

In total, O’Connor’s email garnered over 50 replies. She could not be reached for com- ment.

In response to campus-wide discontent, the

Student Affairs Committee hosted a virtual town hall meeting for students to voice their concerns Jan. 20. Students repeatedly bashed the administration for not taking students’ opinion into account when making a decision on recruitment and argued that the administra- tion was trying to dismantle Greek life.

Five days later, the Student Activities Board unanimously voted to move sorority recruit- ment to two weekends in March, spanning from the 19-20 and 26-28. Fraternity recruit- ment was moved to March 23-26.

Emma Stoffel, Panhellenic Council’s vice president of recruitment, said Panhellenic Council and the Student Affairs Committee worked closely to come to a consensus.

“It will provide time for more people to re- ceive vaccinations and hopefully, with warm- er weather, allow for some new member edu- cation activities to take place outdoors, where our students can gather more safely in small groups,” she said.

Before the decision was made, there was talk among sorority women regarding wheth- er to offer continuous open bids until formal recruitment took place. Each year, the univer- sity’s Panhellenic Council determines the to- tal number of members a sorority can have. If a sorority falls below this number, it can give out continuous open bids outside of formal recruitment until it reaches the total capacity.

Because this total number is set each spring before seniors graduate, sororities could ef- fectively fill almost an entire pledge class before formal recruitment takes place using continuous open bids.

“The only way to make sure freshmen have an equal opportunity to meet women and re- ceive bids is for every freshman to go through formal recruitment at the same time,” Gearon said.

After the Student Affairs Committee voted

to move recruitment to March, Leah Beard, the panhellenic advisor, said a motion was set forward to allow Panhellenic Council to restrict sororities from offering continuous open bids to women. The motion was ap- proved.

For those uninvolved in Greek life, the de- cision signaled deeper institutional problems. According to a letter written by Professor Toni Locy, the decision was a result of par- ent and student complaints to the Board of Trustees. Locy, now a former elected repre- sentative to the board, resigned Feb. 10 after

university by-laws were revised.
Locy wrote that after the board met Feb. 5,

members voted in secret to “remove the fac- ulty’s oversight of students for all non-Honor System disciplinary issues,” without inform- ing elected representatives or other faculty committees.

When formal recruitment was initial- ly delayed, many students blamed faculty members in the Student Affairs Committee for making the decision. The committee is composed of three deans, six elected faculty members and nine students.

“Empowering faculty with oversight over student life provides a check on Student Af- fairs and top administrators who often find themselves under enormous pressure from well-connected parents and their children,” Locy wrote. “The rewriting of the bylaws sacrifices the balance of discretion and dam- ages shared governance at the university.”

Other students found themselves frustrated with the administration’s hasty accommodations as well.

“The administration’s incredibly quick, proactive response to top-tier Greek students’ complaints shocked and angered a lot of stu- dents who have complained about bigotry, violence and a toxic culture,” said Katana Evans, ’22.

Students involved in diversity and inclusion efforts on campus are often stonewalled and struggle to see change on campus.

“I found it incredibly frustrating that when a highly privileged group of students chose to complain about recruitment, the admin- istration immediately listened,” said Mansi Tripathi, ’22. “Meanwhile activists at W&L work tirelessly for change and are met with ‘committees’ and hollow emails as a form of appeasement.”

Divisiveness within Greek life is also growing. Although fraternities and sororities are both expected to comply with new rules surrounding formal recruitment, women are held to a more rigid standard.

The rules imposed on sorority and fresh- men women during rush stand in stark con- trast to the informal process of fraternity re- cruitment. And the new regulations have only heightened this disparity.

Interfraternity Council President Reid Dent- ner, ’22, hopes that the change in recruitment will have a positive impact on freshmen and Greek life.

“I believe the delay of formal recruitment is a great step in increasing fairness and en- gagement in the Greek system,” he said. “In a year where many students, especially first years, feel isolated, joining a fraternity is an unmatched opportunity to meet fellow stu- dents and get involved on campus.”

Many freshmen men have already begun to reap the benefits of Greek life as some frater- nities have started the process of giving out bids, while others are rumored to have begun pledgeship.