Panhellenic sorority recruitment wraps up three months later than usual

The university postponed Greek sorority recruitment from January to March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grace Mamon

Panhellenic sorority recruitment, which is normally over before the start of winter term, finished up during the last weekend of March.

Sorority recruitment is finally complete, after shifting dates and lots of controversy. Photo by Lilah Kimble, ‘23.

The process was conducted virtually to comply with university COVID-19 guidelines, which was a new experience for both first years and upperclassmen.

Former Panhellenic Vice President of Recruitment Emma Stoffel, ’21, said that in-person recruitment normally spans four days, starting around 11 a.m. and lasting until 6 or 7 p.m. each day.

“With COVID, all our recruitment days started in the evening and lasted either two or three hours,” Stoffel said. “The format and the process were almost the exact same as a normal year, but we of course had to do everything virtually and accommodate for that change.”

This year’s recruitment was originally scheduled for January, like usual. Washington and Lee women participating in sorority recruitment planned to move back to campus either Jan. 12 or 13, with classes beginning Jan. 19.

But university president, Will Dudley, announced a staggered return to campus via email Jan. 7, which changed recruitment plans.

On Jan. 15, the Student Affairs Committee sent postponing recruitment until the week of undergraduate spring break, April 17 -25.

This decision sparked backlash. With February break canceled due to the pandemic, some students worried that moving recruitment to the only real break of the semester would make it stressful instead of relaxing.

On Jan. 25, just 10 days later, the Student Affairs Committee sent a revised plan for Greek recruitment, saying it would be held over the course of two weekends, March 19-20 and March 26-28.

This means participating women had classes, homework and spring term registration stress on top of recruitment anxiety.

“That sucked,” said Michelle Morgan, ’24, a first-year who participated in recruitment. “I had like two 10-page research papers to do that I ended up having to get extensions on… and then the anxiety, like the anticipation of having to wait an entire week to figure out what you were doing.”

Morgan said she’s happy with the outcome of her recruitment experience, but the virtual format did present some challenges.

“With the screen it’s so hard to be able to forge a friendship and everything feels a little bit forced just by nature of Zoom,” she said. “It was just horrifically awkward.”

The six National Panhellenic sorority houses sit in a row next to Wilson field. Photo by Lilah Kimble, ‘23.

Morgan said pandemic restrictions made it hard to get to know many of the upperclassmen, especially during informal recruitment in the fall.

“Mid-semester last term when all of the COVID restrictions got way worse and they said no more informal rush at all in person, I couldn’t even go on lunch dates,” she said. “I think that hindered my rush process and the opportunities that I had.”

But at the end of the day, Morgan said she loves all the girls in her new member class.

Anna Jones, ’23, was on the other side of the recruitment process. She agreed that it was difficult to establish a genuine connection over Zoom, but she also saw some perks of the virtual format.

“I do not regret not having to wear pants for any of the meetings,” Jones said. “We had to get our outfits approved and I’d just like show up in my fancy black top and then like sweatpants.”

 But she said she thinks there may have been a better timeline for the process.

 “I think if it was going to be virtual, we definitely could’ve done it in January,” Jones said.

 Recruitment was also highly anticipated because of a big push for increased inclusivity in the Greek system before the school year began.

 Many students of color, among others, said they did not feel that there was a place for them in Greek life on Washington and Lee’s campus. Sororities and fraternities responded, many making pledges to amend their recruitment process to be more inclusive.

Stoffel said that on the Panhellenic side of formal recruitment, some financial barriers were removed, including changes to the attire requirements.

 “We removed the recruitment fee for this year and provided potential new members with t-shirts for the first day of recruitment,” Stoffel said. “That in turn helped make recruitment more accessible than before for anyone who wanted to join.”

 But Morgan said she thinks there is still more work to be done in the inclusivity front.

I think there’s attitudes that are pretty underlying and deep-rooted that continued to persist under new circumstances,” she said.

At the end of the day, many participating women are just happy recruitment is over, even if it took longer than usual.

Stoffel said that in-person recruitment is the obvious preference, given a choice, but she thinks the process went as smoothly as possible.

 “All of our sororities and potential new members worked very hard and were very patient in making this process as easy and smooth as possible,” Stoffel said. “Looking back on it, I would deem it a successful recruitment.”