A guide to virtual sorority recruitment

The Panhellenic Council prepares for a virtual semester and remote recruitment process

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(Collegian File Photo)

By McKenna Premus, Assistant Social Media Editor

Sororities at the University of Massachusetts are preparing for a different kind of semester this fall, one involving virtual recruitment and remote philanthropic traditions.

Panhellenic Council President Lauren Musshorn, a senior natural resources conservation major, says the recruitment process will be “completely virtual,” with recruitment events such as “Meet the Greeks” and “Philanthropy Day” being held over Zoom.

While recruitment usually begins toward the end of September, the process will begin earlier this year, being held from Sept. 9 through Sept. 14.

“We wanted to make sure that, especially with our new students, there was really an opportunity for them to get involved early on, because I know that especially with this Zoom connection thing, people are really missing that form of community,” said Musshorn. “By having recruitment earlier in the semester, it will be more helpful to new students to find that sense of home and belonging at UMass. Obviously, it’s virtual, but I think it’s a good way to start fostering that sense of community.”

There are eight sororities at UMass: Sigma Delta Tau, Iota Gamma Upsilon, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Chi Omega, Sigma Kappa, Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Epsilon Phi and Sigma Sigma Sigma.

During a typical semester, potential new members would begin the week-long recruitment process by first attending “Meet the Greeks,” an event during which recruitment chairs and chapter presidents talk about their experiences in Greek life and why they decided to “go Greek.”

“Philanthropy Day” would follow, during which sorority members discuss their respective sorority’s philanthropies. PNMs, or potential new members, would then meet with their Rho Gammas, who are Panhellenic sorority members who temporarily disaffiliate themselves from their respective sororities to help PNMs navigate the recruitment process and find their place in Greek life.

The third day would involve house tours, allowing for PNMs to tour the Sigma Delta Tau, Iota Gamma Upsilon, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Chi Omega and Sigma Kappa houses, as those are the five sororities with houses. Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Epsilon Phi and Sigma Sigma Sigma do not have houses.

During “Sisterhood Day,” sorority members discuss the sense of community, both in the chapter houses and in the chapter as a whole. The fifth day marks “Preference Day,” involving ritual-based traditions unique to the respective sororities. Finally, PNMs are given formal invitations to join a specific chapter and become new members of that chapter on “Bid Day.”

Musshorn says the Panhellenic Council has been working closely with the eight UMass sororities to develop a remote recruitment process while still maintaining a sense of tradition.

“Meet the Greeks” will be held online, and PNMs will be introduced to chapter presidents and watch videos created by each chapter, “showcasing their chapter and what makes them special,” with their Rho Gammas, according to Musshorn.

PNMs will then be asked to record and submit video testimonies introducing themselves to the chapters.

“PNMs are going to create a video testimonial [answering] some basic questions, like why did you choose your major, what made you want to go Greek, what qualities do you look for in a friend, those kinds of questions,” said Musshorn.

Then, a Zoom round will be held, allowing PNMs to meet with chapter presidents remotely, before “Preference Day” and “Bid Day” wrap-up the virtual recruitment week.

While the highly anticipated “Bid Day” is normally conducted in-person, involving shows, dances and activities, sororities are still planning on making the virtual “Bid Day” special by mailing little packages to PNMs.

While members of the Panhellenic Council hope the remote recruitment process will run smoothly, they have concerns regarding accessibility, especially with regards to Wi-Fi access and time zone barriers.

“We want anybody who’s interested in Greek life to be able to go through and to be able to find a home in our community,” said Musshorn. “So, making sure that this is a very accessible process is really important to us…and if there’s any reason that someone has to miss a round, we can support them still and they can still continue the process.”

While chapters have been facing various challenges in planning a remote rushing process, marketing has proven to be one of the most difficult obstacles.

“Having people join and wanting to go through recruitment this year is going to be kind of hard for us to market,” said Panhellenic Council Vice President of Activities Anna Fedorov. “We’re doing our best at doing a lot of [public relations] and marketing and getting as much out there as we can, but everything is going to be online.”

While the Panhellenic Council has mostly taken to Instagram and Facebook as platforms for marketing the upcoming formal recruitment process, Fedorov says social media is not as effective as tabling at the annual Activities Expo and hanging flyers in the Campus Center.

“Normally we sit on campus in front of all of the dining halls, we have the Activities Expos, we have a Greek Expo, and now we don’t have that outreach…to get to know all of the new freshmen and sophomores,” said Panhellenic Council Vice President of Recruitment Casey Prendergast. “If they don’t know how Greek life works, if they don’t know that the [Panhellenic Council] is a thing, we don’t have that Activities Expo to tell them how it works.”

Prendergast noted that while she tries to share as much information as possible on her social media, her outreach is not reaching many first-years, as most of her followers are upperclassmen.

Fedorov is also concerned about how conducting recruitment events over Zoom will impact the uniqueness of the more ritual-based components.

“[‘Preference Day’] is a ritual event, and it’s usually in person,” said Fedorov. “It’s not meant to be recorded because ritual events are very private and very personal and very special. I know that’s going to be a difficulty for a lot of chapters to adapt to in this virtual recruitment…because they’re going to have to try and convey the importance of their own rituals to PNMs.”

Fedorov, a senior applied mathematics and economics double major, is in charge of planning events for all Panhellenic sororities, such as Panhellenic Women’s Day in collaboration with the International Women’s Forum, “Greek Week,” community service projects and other social activities, such as ice skating in the Mullins Center.

While annual events and in-person fundraisers will not be happening this semester, Fedorov is planning remote fundraisers, working in collaboration other University Greek councils to raise money for 18 Degrees Family Services for Western MA.

The Panhellenic Council is also working on planning various philanthropic events for the upcoming year, with one involving chapters pairing up with different hospitals and engaging in a letter-writing campaign to write letters to nurses, doctors and patients.

Prendergast, a senior architecture major, is usually in charge of planning transportation, booking rooms and managing other arrangements for recruitment week activities and events.

“This year, it’s all virtual, but we’re still like the backbone of recruitment,” said Prendergast. “But now we don’t have to plan things like transportation, so we’re really trying hard to make sure it’s still fun for everyone on Zoom and helping different chapters make Zoom links and set-up breakout rooms.”

With regards to chapter dues and finances, Musshorn says sororities are trying to be “more flexible” this semester, as most, if not all, chapter events will be held remotely.

“Most of [the chapters] are trying to be more flexible with [their dues] this semester, and we want to be very clear what the financial expectations are,” said Musshorn. “It’s really important that we’re super transparent with potential new members, because it is a financial commitment, and we want to make sure that we’re supporting women in whatever ways we can.”

The Panhellenic Council will not be charging sororities with Panhellenic dues this year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Fedorov.

According Prendergast, Sigma Delta Tau and Iota Gamma Upsilon houses will be open this fall semester, and Kappa Kappa Gamma, Chi Omega and Sigma Kappa houses will be closed.

The Panhellenic Council is looking to have a community forum for general body members to discuss COVID-19 safety guidelines and expectations for members living in both the Amherst community or at home.

“We’re respectful of the town that we live in, and we really value our relationship with the Amherst community,” said Musshorn.

In light of the Panhellenic Council’s members’ concerns, Musshorn says the council is thankful for the support they received from advisors and the University, and members are looking forward to the upcoming semester.

“Originally, I would say we were definitely very stressed, but luckily we’ve had a lot of support from not only our advisor and our [National Panhellenic Conference] advisor, but also the school,” said Musshorn.

“I think a lot of people are nervous, but they’re still really excited, everyone loves this time of year,” said Prendergast. “Chapter-wise, we’ve had a lot of fun on Zoom. We had movie nights, game Olympics, formals on Zoom. We had a tight-knit community, and even if we’re all so far apart, we all like to stay together, and I think that’s something that we can really offer. Joining Greek life, especially now more than ever, is a great way to stay connected to campus, especially if you’re new. You might have to sit at home for this semester, but you can have that core group of women to help you out.”

“When you join a sorority at UMass, you’re really not just joining it for one semester…but you’re really joining [it] for college, for life,” said Musshorn. “You’re going to make lifelong friends. If you’re looking for a sense of community, I think Greek life is a great way to find it, whether it’s on the Panhellenic Council, or any of the other three councils, Greek life can really be a home and really a place to form those bonds.”

“I think people are nervous but excited,” said Musshorn. “I think Greek life…is really a valuable thing for our members because it’s really like a home for them. I know that we’re adapting as best we can to fit the needs of our members, and they still really want to be interactive with their chapters and with the Panhellenic community in general. I think, for the most part, people are trying to be really optimistic, and I think we should.”

 

McKenna Premus is an Assistant Social Media Editor and can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @mckenna_premus.