After suspending all in-person activities amid the coronavirus pandemic, both the Inter-Sorority Council and Inter-Fraternity Council decided to hold virtual spring recruitment, while the National Pan-Hellenic Council is uncertain about plans for spring member intake. Though formal recruitment will occur virtually for the safety of those involved and to allow all interested students to participate, the ISC is planning for sororities to hold in-person bid day events.
The ISC’s 15 recruitment chairs voted Sept. 6 to hold at least the first four rounds of formal recruitment remotely, yet haven’t made a decision regarding bid day. Formal recruitment — which typically occurs for five days in a row the week before the spring semester begins — will now take place over two weekends in January to accommodate students taking January Term classes and those who will work or return home during J-Term.
Lindsey Manning, fourth-year Engineering student and recruitment chair for Delta Gamma sorority, wishes the ISC could make in-person recruitment work, but says online recruitment is best to ensure students’ safety.
“We’re all about self-governance at U.Va., and so I know a lot of the programs leave it to their own leadership,” Manning said. “With a lot of these rules in place from U.Va., I guarantee that Greek life is kind of under that umbrella of needing to enforce those rules.”
The IFC is also preparing for virtual recruitment. In an email statement to The Cavalier Daily, Kyle Riopelle, a fourth-year College student and IFC president, said that the IFC’s highest priority is the health of members in the University community.
“We know that many first years and transfer students have found it difficult to find community at U.Va. this semester, and so we’re working hard to provide a recruitment experience that will enable any interested students to find their community in Greek life,” Riopelle said.
Unlike the ISC and IFC, the NPHC hasn’t formally canceled in-person events for this semester and is undecided on whether in-person events will occur in the spring. Danielle Muriel, a fourth-year College student and president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, said that she advised all NPHC chapters to hold events online this semester, but it is up to the individual chapter to decide whether to hold in-person events so long as their national headquarters haven’t banned in-person gatherings. Some NPHC chapters’ headquarters, like the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, have suspended in-person activity for chapters nationwide.
The University has seven of the Divine Nine chapters that make up the NPHC, each of which has a unique member intake process that can occur during both the fall and spring. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Muriel said the NPHC has welcomed a similar number of members as in previous semesters.
Different from recruitment in the ISC and IFC, potential new NPHC members seek out individual chapters to join, and the member intake process takes the majority of a semester. Member intake varies between chapters, but Muriel said interested students “can expect most or all activities to be virtual” this year.
“I would encourage people who are interested in an NPHC organization to attend that organization’s events, their interesting meeting and talk to the members,” Muriel said.
Earlier this semester, the NPHC’s virtual “Meet the Greeks” session was interrupted by an unidentified user shouting a racial slur. The NPHC plans to hold an information session via Instagram Live where interested students can talk with current NPHC members.
Greek life leaders said the scheduling change comes because students have one J-Term course included in their 2020-2021 tuition, and hopefully hosting recruitment at a time that doesn’t conflict with J-term classes can lower barriers to entry into Greek life. In past years, the ISC has had over 2,000 current sorority members and around 1,000 potential new members — women looking to join a sorority — participate in the formal recruitment process annually.
Throughout the process, close interactions between members throughout the rounds of recruitment could lead to superspreading events, as outbreaks have occurred following the process in the past.
“We typically see various illness outbreaks in our community each year following recruitment, especially with the flu, and we knew that if we had multiple days of in-person events with a lot of close contact, this year would be no different,” said Katie Kirk, a fourth-year College student and ISC vice president of recruitment for potential new members.
Despite suspending in-person recruitment, Kirk said that the ISC believes that they will be able to execute in-person bid day events. In an email to The Cavalier Daily, Kirk said pledge classes only interact with their chapters on bid day — unlike during recruitment — and could meet in-person if the chapters adhere to the University’s gathering restrictions by meeting in groups of no more than 10, wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Pledge classes can range from anywhere between 30 and 50 people, and there are around 150 women in any given chapter.
With recruitment events held online, presidents and recruitment chairs are struggling with learning new technology, generating excitement about Greek life and conveying safety guidelines from the ISC and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life to members and potential new members.
Emily Kellam, fourth-year College student and president of Delta Gamma sorority, said that Greek leadership has also been challenged with little communication between the ISC and IFC and among chapter leaders.
“Our correspondence with the ISC has been really limited this semester,” Kellam said. “We used to have weekly President’s Council Meetings … but those have been limited because we haven’t had very much to talk about.”
Kirk said that Greek leadership acknowledges that women may not be able to make the financial commitment to join Greek life, due to financial insecurity from the pandemic. Dues for the first semester typically average around $1,200 in the ISC and range from $500 to $1,500 in the IFC. To aid with financial accessibility, the ISC is offering scholarships of $250 and $500 to new and current members and the IFC offers need-based scholarships. Scholarships are also available from the national Greek administrations.