It might be time to adjust the recruitment process.
By Lauren Clohessy, Northern Illinois University
Upon entering college, I had no intention of joining Greek life; the thought never even crossed my mind.
I had developed a negative stereotype of Greek life over the years from various TV shows, movies and social media. For example, fraternities had a reputation that included boat shoes, colored shorts and pants, hazing and an insane amount of partying. Sororities, on the other hand, had a fake connotation surrounding them: fake bonds, fabricated sisterhoods and fictitious friendships.
Despite all the negativity surrounding the organizations, people still love them. I’ve found that Greek life is definitely not defined by all of the stereotypes listed above. Fraternities and sororities are philanthropy-based organizations that work to help at least one charity each year. Along with providing members with philanthropic opportunities, sororities also allow you to develop great networking skills that you can use throughout and after college. People pride themselves in being members, and that’s what I found intriguing about Greek life.
So, when I found myself on a small campus during recruitment with only four sororities to choose from, I figured why not try out Greek life? The recruitment process for my school’s campus took place over the span of four days. For a small fee of about $30, participants were given a shirt and access to the long weekend procedure. Upon entering the process, participants were told they’d leave as a member of one of the four sororities on campus at the Running of the Stairs ceremony, where new members run into the arms of their sisters.
Nights one and two were Meet the Sorority Night. Students who participated were split into groups, and both met with two different sororities each night, as well as completed a charitable project between sessions. The meetings were different with each individual sorority, but basically consisted of mini, speed dating-like conversations with the “sisters.” Students told the girls what encouraged them to join Greek life and their college, former philanthropic experience and high school activities.
From those conversations, participants ranked their favorite sororities one through four. At the same time, the sororities ranked the girls and decided who’d they ask back on day three. Participants would receive either two or three invitations for day three if three of their choices asked them back.
Day three consisted of more one-on-one conversations with the sisters, along with another activity for their designated charitable organization. At the end of day three, participants once again ranked their choices from the invitations they received. Simultaneously, the sororities continued to rank which girls they wanted back for day four.
Day four, the concluding day, was all about final impressions. Girls either received one or two invitations to a sorority’s final gathering. Girls who received only one invitation back had an automatic in to that one sorority. Sororities considered it their last chance to sell their specific sisterhood, while participants thought of it as their last chance to sell themselves.
Both groups that I went to preformed some of their “secret” ceremonies, spoke about what sisterhood meant to them and sold it well, but I was stuck on only one of them. My top choice wrote me a card full of encouraging words like, “We can’t wait to see you run down the stairs to us” and “I can’t wait to call you my sister.” With the other group, I felt no real connection. They weren’t a group I was prepared to call my sisters for life.
Then came the tricky part of ranking our choices; this part still confuses me. If I were to rank my top choice as number one, but my second choice had me rated higher on their list compared to group one, I’d automatically be placed in group two, no matter my preference.
With the help of advisers, and mainly because I had no interest in being in the second group, I chose to do what they call a “suicide bid.” That meant I only chose one group and there was no guarantee I’d actually be recruited by them. Even with those deterrents, I felt fairly confident in my decision. My advisor told me I should be safe, because of what the sisters told me and their reactions toward me. I wanted to join a sorority that I enjoyed and related with, rather than be in one where I felt no connection to the girls.
A few hours later, I got word that I wasn’t accepted into my top choice, therefore I wasn’t a member of any sorority. The past four days had been for nothing. I was rejected from the Greek life system, or at least that’s what it felt like. It left me kind of butt hurt, I’m not going to lie. But, I used the feeling to channel my energy into other campus activities and classes, with a kind of “I’ll show you” attitude.
In the end, I left the school a few weeks later for personal reasons, so I think the rejection was a secret blessing in disguise.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against people in fraternities and sororities. I loved the people I met while rushing and some of the things they stood for. I’m writing this because I believe the system they use isn’t always fair. We’re secretly ranked on where we’re from, who we know and, sadly, what we look like. Maybe that’s a different type of hidden hazing that the system has to work on. Has it gotten better over the years? Yes, but there’s still room for improvement.
Over a year later, at my new school, I found myself fascinated by a different type of Greek life. My big campus has the typical fraternity and sorority life, yet they also had something completely different and more up my alley. I found myself rushing a co-ed service fraternity. The frat had everything I wanted in a Greek organization: philanthropy, personal development and campus involvement. Plus, I get brothers and sisters.
So, my first attempt at Greek life didn’t work out for me, and I’m glad for it. Without that rejection, I would have never found the right Greek atmosphere for me.