Sorority recruitment goes virtual during pandemic

Due to COVID-19 restrictions limiting gatherings to 25 people, sorority Bid Day took place virtually this year. 

“Six of our seven sororities are bigger than twenty five women without new members so as they add new members they just get bigger and bigger. So normally bid day we would be gathering in the ARC, on the main gym floor of the ARC, before the Bid Day celebration which clearly we cannot do because there will be six hundred sorority women in Bid Day and that’s significantly larger than twenty five,” Associate Dean of Students, Carrie Whittier said. 

The women going through the recruitment process for sororities were put into recruitment counselor groups and each group of 11 women was assigned a recruitment counselor. Instead of in person activities, the women were able to gather in their groups. 

“They are meeting in different locations around campus and that’s where the new members will receive their bid for Bid Day and have a little celebration with that small group,” Whittier said. 

The new members met in Mueller Hall to receive their bids and walked from there over to the Union while members from each chapter lined the sidewalk cheering and chanting. 

“Then we will take a picture of the new members, by the new member class up in the ballrooms. So again it will just be those fifteen to sixteen women who are new members to the group,” Whittier said.

All of the rest of the Bid Day took place virtually via Zoom. In the fall semester, only a portion of Bid Day was also done virtually. 

“So significantly different than previous years,” Whittier said. 

The recruitment process also took place mainly over zoom.

“So the women will attend a sorority’s event and there’ll be a general welcome and then the women are using breakout rooms, so it is individual conversations and then the women going through recruitment will have an opportunity to meet several different women in the breakout room, get to know them and they get to know her,” Whittier said. 

The virtual format has not affected the number of girls interested in sorority recruitment.

“So we have about the same number of women going through recruitment. It’s slightly lower, but also the freshmen class is slightly smaller so percentage wise we’re right at the same number of women we would normally have going through sorority recruitment,” Whittier said.

This virtual format falls in line with what’s happening at other schools.

“So what we do know is that sororities all around the nation have been virtual Bid Day celebrations since August because now, where have they been able to gather in a traditional Bid Day the way they were pre pandemic. So the benefit to our chapters is that they have a lot of resources from their national organizations about practices that have happened at other schools,” Whittier said. 

Whittier hopes that the new members will still have an amazing experience. 

“But you know the whole day is really just about them [the new members] being welcomed home and them finding a second home here at Valpo so I think the glitz and glamour, you know all the pictures and events, the main goal is still the same,” Panhellenic Vice President of Recruitment Rose Sanchez said.

Sanchez discussed the challenges of moving to an all virtual format. 

“So I was a little worried about it at first because how great of a connection can you make with somebody through a screen? But I think we prepared the chapters and the chapter recruitment chairs for that,” Sanchez said.

The schedule was pretty similar to previous years.

“We did the first round of recruitment on Sunday instead of on Tuesday, when normally classes started on Wednesday. So we did it a day before classes started even in the revised academic calendar,” Whittier said. 

Sorority women had generally positive responses to this new format.

“They thought they had great conversations and are very, very excited about the opportunity to join a sorority at Valpo and then we also did a wrap up call with the recruitment chairs for each of the sororities and they said they had great conversations. Potentially even better than if they are in person, because it gets very loud in the room and so this way in zoom breakout rooms you can have a little bit more of a personal conversation,” Whittier said. 

Sanchez added the conversations felt more personal as there were less people in one room.

“I think the retention and conversation quality is actually a lot better over zoom because you can get that one on one interaction with new members,” Sanchez said.

Whittier hopes the women will still be able to make connections with the sorority that is important to them. 

All chapter events for sororities with groups larger than 25 people will conduct those meetings virtually.

“That includes the chapter meetings need to be virtual, sisterhood and brotherhood events need to be virtual, all recruitment events are virtual so on and so forth,” Whittier said. 

The new member class, which is smaller, can have their meetings in person with their new member educator.

“That’s the plan for most chapters that they would have their new member meetings, which are happening for the next six weeks in person. But they cannot have them at the house because in the sorority housing complex you cannot have more than twenty people in the chapter room at any given time because of spacing,” Whittier said.

Whittier praised the women for their hard work in making virtual recruitment a success.

“I think overall I’m very proud that the community has been able to pivot and make the adjustments to the COVID guidelines and they’ve done so with a really positive attitude and a really positive perspective,” Whittier said. “So genuinely nobody knew how recruitment was going to look in a global pandemic so I’m really proud of the undergraduate student leaders for stepping up to the plate and making good decisions for the health and safety of everyone involved.”

While recruitment may have been different this year Sanchez stressed the bonds that sorority women form on campus. 

“The main thing is we’re trying to make it really values based recruitment. We want to show that sorority women are more than just sorority women, they’re leaders in different organizations around campus and I think that really shines through. We really want to promote that you’re joining the community of sorority women not just joining an individual chapter,” Sanchez said. 

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