OPINION | Virtual sorority recruitment levels panhellenic playing field

Gabi Liebeler, Contributing Writer

When Tulane University’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Programs decided this past fall that sorority recruitment would occur virtually, the announcement did not come as a shock. COVID-19 upended the traditional settings of a multitude of social organizations, and panhellenic recruitment proved to be no exception.  

Panhellenic recruitment relies on social interactions between potential new members and initiated members. As such, recruitment through Zoom initially seems contradictory to the process itself. The online format of recruitment, however, while denying PNMs certain valuable aspects of the experience, allowed for a week that was more comfortable and less stressful than the typical process.

Online recruitment, from the perspective of a PNM, was significantly less chaotic than what in-person recruitment is expected to be.  Each day involved attending a series of Zoom meetings, and within each one, moving into breakout rooms with one or two active members of a given house and engaging in conversations with those sisters.  This layout allowed for the closest recreation of recruitment’s one-on-one conversations, without the potential for major distractions, except for the occasional lurking roommate..  

For many, this format may have reduced social anxiety. The in-person recruitment process disadvantages PNMs who might be easily distracted by the multitude of other conversations occurring around them in a relatively small space.  Further, PNMs may have felt less concerned about what their fellow PNMs were discussing and what they’re wearing, diminishing worries of feeling out of place. 

Ultimately, each individual being in control of their immediate surroundings holds the potential to make it easier for everyone involved to be their most authentic selves. 

Zoom recruitment was surprisingly casual and ultimately more equitable.  There was no need to empty one’s bank account to have five perfectly put together ensembles, and there were no blisters from running around for days in heels.  PNMs only had to look presentable from the waist-up. Without the superficial constraints, recruitment’s virtual environment put less pressure on physical appearance and more on social and personal demeanor.

By no fault of the individuals responsible for designing the process, two major aspects of recruitment were missed in the virtual process.

While it was easy for potential new members to have clear conversations with active members in each house, it was difficult to get a sense of each chapter as a whole. PNMs were not able to visit the actual houses or see sisters interact altogether.  Although each sorority did everything possible to give PNMs an accurate representation of what it may be like to be in their chapter, they may have still felt uninformed in choosing their preferences.

Going into the final day of recruitment, Preference Day, PNMs had to decide between two houses, having little to no idea of who might be a part of their potential incoming member class.  The process of going to a chapter’s Zoom each day focused primarily on meeting the members with little down time to spend with other PNMs. Consequently, final decisions were based primarily on information about the house itself, unless a PNM had friends or mutual friends in the same meetings.

While Zoom recruitment was most likely a one-time experience, unique to this year, there are lessons to be learned from the process. Most importantly, virtual recruitment served as an essential mitigating factor in terms of destigmatizing the social pressure and competitive aspects of recruitment and making the entire ordeal cheaper and more accessible to both students and chapters.

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