Sororities, fraternities forced to get creative as recruitment moves online

An incoming freshman celebrates her bid in Bosco Plaza. The final round of sorority recruitment, normally held in person, will be held via Zoom this fall. (Archive Photo by George Walker | Collegian Media Group)

This time last year, sorority lawns were packed full of new members celebrating invitations to join their preferred houses. This fall, incoming members of Greek organizations will receive their bids on a Zoom screen due to COVID-19 regulations.

While the changes haven’t stopped potential new members from rushing, those involved say it’s been a big adjustment.

Samuel Keener, president of the Interfraternity Council and senior in marketing, said the relatively laid-back model of fraternity recruitment has worked well during the pandemic.

“Recruitment chairs were not in an easy position,” Keener said. “When I was a chair, I hosted these large events, guys showed up and I met them all at once.”

This year, introductions to potential new members are occurring over Zoom, socially distanced meetings and even video games.

“I think the most creative thing I’ve seen is guys meeting freshmen over video games,” Keener said. “It’s a way guys in the houses stayed connected anyway, so bringing [potential new members] into that was cool.”

Active members of Farmhouse fraternity studying together in their house. (Emily Eubank | Collegian Media Group)
Active members of Farmhouse fraternity studying together in their house during the spring 2020 semester. (Emily Eubank | Collegian Media Group) Photo credit: Emily Eubank

Keener said he’s been impressed with the initiative from both active fraternity members and potential new members.

“If I was coming in this year, I’d be a little hesitant,” Keener said, “But the incoming freshmen have still wanted to be a part of it even with these restrictions.”

Beyond recruitment, Keener said it will be a struggle to create strong relationships via Zoom and while social distancing.

The housing board currently dissuades out-of-house fraternity members from spending time in-house, Keener said, which can create a social gap between new and active members.

“Seniors love meeting those new guys and getting to help them out, but realistically it’s just not as possible this year,” Keener said. “We also don’t want to be the reason freshmen have to move out and ruin that experience.”

Despite the challenges, Keener said it’s important to maintain strong boundaries for everyone’s health.

“The more we mess up, the longer we’re in this, so we need to be doing stuff right,” he said.

As is typical, Keener said fraternity recruitment has been drastically different than sorority recruitment.

“As fraternities, we’ve established a 365/24/7 recruitment period. If a guy comes over to hang out for an hour, he can receive a bid,” Keener said. “The amount of planning and changing sororities have had to do is insane.”

Since COVID-19 first became a concern at K-State, Brooke Montgomery, president of the Panhellenic Council and senior in accounting and entrepreneurship, has been discussing changes to recruitment.

“We’ve been working for months to figure out the best way to go about this,” Montgomery said.

The council intended recruitment to take place half online and half in-person, but the final two rounds were moved online on Monday.

The Panhellenic Council hoped sisterhood activities and the preference round could be in-person, Montgomery said, but the National Panhellenic Council issued a recommendation to move the remainder of recruitment to a virtual format.

The first round of getting to know about each chapter was facilitated through informational videos. Round two, which is normally an open house, will be held via Zoom this weekend.

“I’m actually glad round two is online,” Lacy Mathes, freshman in biological systems engineering, said. “I don’t have to worry as much about what I wear, which made me really nervous for some reason.”

Mathes decided to rush when all of her classes were moved online.

“I’m coming to K-State without a ton of friends, so I think recruitment is kind of my only avenue for that right now,” Mathes said.

As changes to recruitment have been ongoing, Montgomery said everyone involved has worked hard to form relationships and stay connected.

“It’s brought our larger community a lot closer since all chapters are struggling with the same thing,” Montgomery said.

In addition to watching each chapter’s videos, Mathes said other online means helped her get a feel for her prospective sororities. She especially liked the social media aspect of recruitment.

“I think the Instagrams told me a little bit more because you can see who’s in each sorority, what activities they do and what they associate with as a whole,” Mathes said.

Though fully online recruitment wasn’t the original plan, Mathes said the format changes won’t affect her overall experience.

“I feel like whether I met everyone in-person or online, I’d still be nervous,” Mathes said, “But I know that where I end up is what’s going to be best. I don’t think whether it’s online or in-person really affects it.”

Montgomery said she and the rest of the Panhellenic Council are optimistically looking forward.

“We’re looking really good to have a lot of great new pledge classes,” Montgomery said.