HARRINGTON: Lifestyles of the rich and Greek

The ISC recruitment fee should be lowered in order to give more female students the opportunity to rush

Months before I decided that I would accept a bid to a sorority, I had to pay $95 just in case I wanted the chance. While I could have paid only $75 if I registered for January’s Inter-Sorority Council formal recruitment before the end of September, at that point in time I was not sure if Greek life was for me. However, the common advice is for women to try recruitment out just to see, a sentiment obviously shared by 297 of this year’s 994 potential new members (PNMs) who dropped out of recruitment before submitting a bid card.

The culture surrounding sorority recruitment suppresses any questioning of the value of the financial commitment, as skepticism would imply an accusation that membership is merely paying to have friends. Therefore, I paid the fee without knowing it was raised from a $65 base rate in 2013 and $55 in 2012 and without realizing the unnecessary initiatives it would fund. During rush, it was evident that most of the $85,000 in fees from the 994 girls who registered went towards the Panhellenic Counselor, or Pi Chi, program. Specifically, $23,635 of it financed housing about 120 Pi Chis and other members of the ISC recruitment team in the Cavalier Inn for 10 nights. This was both disrespectful to the Pi Chis and a complete waste of money.

Pi Chis are members of each ISC sorority who chose to disaffiliate throughout recruitment so that they can be personal guides for groups of PNMs. To fulfill this role, they are expected to both keep their chapter affiliations a secret from the PNMs, and the PNMs’ thoughts a secret from their chapters. ISC Vice President of Recruitment Anna Powell said the Pi Chis were housed in the Cavalier Inn so their chapter affiliations remained unknown and so they were not tempted to breach PNMs’ confidentiality. While the former excuse is illogical as PNMs are unlikely to walk outside a chapter house at the precise moment that their Pi Chi is walking into one, the latter is upsetting because it demonstrates a lack of trust in the Pi Chis.

Every Pi Chi I interacted with or heard praise about did a fabulous job at the bizarre combination of being an advocate for every sorority, a counselor to the women who had become self-critical when facing others’ evaluations and a life coach to the women who dropped out of rush. To inconvenience the Pi Chis and house them separately, out of fear that they might disclose information to their sorority sisters, does them a disservice. They were trusted for 10 days not to divulge such information in phone calls, texts or emails. Surely they could have been trusted when at home as well, or, in the case of my Pi Chi, when living in her lawn room.

The ease with which the ISC spent PNMs’ money is also problematic. Powell explained that the decision to house the Pi Chis in the Cavalier Inn resulted from insights gained at the Southern Panhellenic Conference. The conference also revealed that other schools were charging higher recruitment fees than the University. But spending PNMs’ money just because it can makes the Greek system look bad. Realistically, the ISC could continue to raise fees, and first-year women would still pay them to try out the Greek experience, which superficially appears to be at the core of the University experience. While one might argue that Greek organizations’ dues make it no place for low-income students, some would continue to pay the recruitment fee without subsidy, as such is the first hurdle in the hope of getting into a chapter and then finding financial aid.

This power, however, does not mean that the ISC should treat fees lightly. Rather, they should admit the Cavalier Inn initiative was a waste of money. They should then cut spending on glossy booklets and Pi Chi apparel so that the fee can return to $55, the level paid by the upperclassmen who so casually recommend rushing just to try it out. Lastly, they should disclose what the fee is funding, just as chapters reveal to their members the breakdown of their dues. While this would not solve every problem in Greek life on grounds, it would be one step towards dispelling the notion that the Greek system is the University’s exclusive social network, and is only accessible to those rich enough not to notice its price tag.

Elaine Harrington is a Viewpoint Writer.

Correction: an earlier version of this column said that last year’s rush fee was a $65 flat rate. The column has been amended to say that last year’s rush fee was a $65 base rate.

Published February 26, 2014 in Opinion

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