The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many cancellations or event changes as a result of guidelines meant to help keep people safe. Sorority recruitment is one of those events that has undergone drastic changes this year.
According to Carrie Whittier, Associate Dean of Students, about 90% of sorority recruitment has moved online.
“The sororities all host interest events in the month of October and early November and so all of the chapters moved those into a virtual format because we didn’t want students to be gathering in large groups, for them to be in close proximity, things like that,” Whittier said.
She described the sororities as being thoughtful and creative in shifting to a virtual format.
“We also have an event in October called sorority recruitment preview, again that would normally be in person, and we moved that into a virtual format as well. And it’s just an introduction for women who are thinking about going for sorority recruitment so we wanted to make sure that the introduction would be similar to what they would experience in January,” Whittier said.
There will continue to be virtual events held in the winter and spring semester.
“Moving forward all of the sororities will host another interest event in the month of January, in the two or three weeks before we return to campus and then the sorority recruitment orientation and then the first two rounds of sorority recruitment will also be virtual,” Whittier said.
To hold virtual events the sororities have turned to Zoom.
“Using Zoom, the chapter members will have an opportunity to meet the women going through recruitment and they’ll be using the breakout room feature so still kind of those individual one on one conversations and then they’ll have an opportunity to meet lots of different women through the breakout room in that way,” Whittier said.
They plan to hold the final recruitment event in person.
“At this point in time, the plan is to have the final round of recruitment to be in person. We have secured the six largest spaces available on campus because only six out of our seven sororities fully participate in the primary recruitment process. So for those six at this point in time the plan is for that to be in person, we will review and see what COVID levels look like in Porter County and Indiana as people return to campus on January 25,” Whittier said.
Yet they are also preparing for the need to be all virtual again in the spring.
“There’s a possibility that even the final round, which is called the preference ceremony, will move to a virtual format and the chapters are prepared for that. So we’re planning both ways: for an in person option and a potential [to] move it virtual if need be in order to ensure the health and safety,” Whittier said.
Bid Day will also be held virtually, instead of the traditional celebration involving all sorority women and new members in one space.
“Women going through recruitment will open their membership invitation in person with their small recruitment group so that’ll be twelve women or fewer in a room together but they will not go to their chapter. There will be no large chapter activities for Bid Day, that will all happen virtually,” Whittier said.
Whittier does not believe anything is lost from the recruitment process by it taking place virtually.
“So for example, the interest events in the fall in October were intended to introduce potential new women to philanthropy or the philanthropic partner of each group and so the chapters were able to have women pick up a bag that had their activity items in it before the event and they all did that activity together while they were on the zoom call,” Whittier said. “So that was a very fun way for it to still be interactive, for it to still have a touch point as it relates to the philanthropic partner but not have to be in the same room as one another.”
The number of women going through does not seem to be affected by the pandemic at this point.
“Our numbers right now are trending right along with what they were last year. It is a little too early to tell. But registration opened in the early part of October and we’re kind of right where we would normally have been at this time. However, we also know that women can register right up until school starts, so the Saturday that would be the twenty-third, women can register up until the evening of January 23,” Whittier said.
Yet, she expects a drop due to the smaller size of the freshman class as a large number of women who go through sorority recruitment are freshmen.
The National Panhellenic Conference, which six out of seven Valpo sororities are a part of, made the call to move online.
“At the National level the groups all get together and make decisions, and so the decision has been that campuses need to move all of recruitment virtually. So that decision came down probably in the early part of October that now that the deferred recruitment campuses, or campuses that recruit in the spring, will also need to go virtually,” Whittier said.
Valpo sororities have chosen the hybrid option.
“There is a hybrid option and we are advocating to use that option. So primarily virtual but having that last event be in person with limited numbers of women in the room. So the whole chapter would not be in the room for that event and we’ve been approved to do that,” Whittier said.
The sororities were not planning to move recruitment entirely online until meeting with administration and National counterparts.
“We were planning to wait, just to see what COVID numbers would look like and we knew we would not host recruitment in houses, we knew it would have to be in larger spaces because right now in the sorority houses they can only have twenty women at a time in the chapter room in order to be able to physically distance appropriately so we would have to use the ballrooms and the refectory and the community room anyway,” Whittier said. “So I think everybody was hopeful that we might be able to do some more recruitment in person, but when the mandate came down from the National Panhellenic Conference then it was less about a decision to be made and more about the logistics.”
The spring semester recruitment schedule has also had to be adjusted due to the changes to the schedule.
“Also with classes starting on Monday, normally classes would start on Wednesday so we had to adjust the whole schedule so now the first round of recruitment is on Sunday before classes start on Monday so that’s very different. And then the second round is on Friday and then the third or final round is on Saturday and the virtual bid day will be on Sunday,” Whittier said.
Chapters will be allowed to continue recruitment after January if their numbers fall below a certain threshold.
“Each chapter is allowed to recruit to a specific number and so if chapters still have space or more women they can recruit to get to that number, or the word that we use is campus total, then chapters can continue to recruit after that primary recruitment period in January and we would encourage all of the chapters to do those events virtually as well,” Whittier said.
Women who have questions regarding the virtual recruitment process can email Panhellenic.email@example.com for answers.