Like much of the college experience, Greek life looks a lot different this year. COVID-19 has forced fraternities and sororities to develop new recruitment strategies and find ways to preserve the typical social aspects of Greek life in an unprecedented online environment.
While the IFC and ISC have each decided to allow for virtual and in-person recruitment this spring, the University’s Multicultural Greek Council allows individual chapters, such as international Asian-interest sorority alpha Kappa Delta Phi, to conduct rush processes at their own discretion. Similarly, professional and honor fraternities have prepared their own respective plans for this semester’s recruitment. Among the 40-plus Greek-lettered organizations, co-ed national honor fraternity Phi Sigma Pi and business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi begin their recruitment processes next week, while aKDPhi kicks off its spring semester rush Sunday.
PSP plans to virtually hold all of their usual rush events via Zoom, including information sessions and mixers, with the exception of their coffee chats. While attending coffee chats will be completely optional, they are meant to provide potential new members with a chance to engage in in-person conversation with a few PSP members prior to the final rush event. PSP will also offer virtual coffee chats for people who are either not comfortable with in-person events or are currently not residing in the Charlottesville area.
“These events will be in small groups in accordance with the University’s gathering limits at that time, will take place outside to allow for proper social distancing and face coverings will be required when not eating or drinking,” said Emma Clark, PSP rush co-chair and third-year College student, in an email to The Cavalier Daily.
Since the start of COVID-19, most Greek-lettered organizations have been holding virtual chapters and events for their members. Last fall, aKDPhi took advantage of Zoom and its online features to ease the transition to a completely virtual rush. In particular, the breakout room feature was used for “speed dating,” and screen sharing was utilized to play online games as a large group.
“The breakout rooms were especially successful as it allowed for an organized and comfortable environment for rushees to get to talk with every sister,” Ashley Tern, aKDPhi vice president of membership and fourth-year College student, said in an email to The Cavalier Daily.
Similarly, AKPsi plans to mirror their recruitment process format from last fall. From information sessions and an internship panel to smaller coffee chats and breakout rooms, all of AKPsi’s events have been moved online. Lindsey Norberg, president of the University’s Alpha Gamma chapter and third-year College student, emphasized that the co-ed professional fraternity continues to prioritize both the safety and engagement of their members.
“While we want to ensure that we are recruiting diverse talent, our primary focus is to ensure everyone’s safety,” Norberg said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “In our transition to online, we wanted to make sure that the ability for PNMs ... to connect with brothers was maintained.”
Amidst a virtual rush, aKDPhi was able to provide PNMs with a moderated career panel with alumnae. While travel and scheduling logistics would have made this event rather difficult to pull off if the group was in person, the transition to online rush made this panel possible. This spring, aKDPhi plans to continue using breakout rooms and incorporating alumnae panel discussions to give PNMs the best possible virtual rush experience.
Although some members of these organizations have found some benefits to an online recruitment process, COVID-19 has doubtlessly introduced a unique and challenging set of obstacles this semester. Tern explained that her responsibilities as vice president of membership have changed since COVID-19, and it has been much more difficult to successfully replicate the in-person experience of attending rush and bonding with a new member over Zoom.
“My biggest obstacle is to make sure that I accommodate for all situations and ensure the health of new members on top of my normal responsibilities,” Tern said.
Likewise, Norberg expressed the additional effort that AKPsi has had to apply in order to adapt to safety restrictions while preserving the immersive nature of their recruitment process as much as possible.
“It has been a challenge to ensure that we are maintaining the value of our recruitment and pledge education process,” Norberg said. “But [we] have found that using Zoom and small six-person max groups have been more than sufficient.”
With fewer students on Grounds, it has generally also been harder for members to spread the word about their respective organizations and interact with PNMs. This spring, PSP plans to utilize their Facebook and Instagram pages to share graphics and updates about the recruitment process.
“We are hoping for this to be a big social media push to make up for other advertising strategies that are not as feasible this semester like tabling around Grounds,” Clark said.
PSP, AKPsi and aKDPhi all recognize that recruitment and socializing this spring has had to change in order to meet public health and safety expectations. Nonetheless, each chapter is looking forward to welcoming new members into the Greek community in the coming weeks, despite the virtual setting.
“I believe that a silver lining to the pandemic’s effect on intake is that the online transition has potentially made Greek life more accessible to people who may have felt intimidated by or couldn’t attend in-person events,” Tern said.
Correction: This article previously misspelled aKDPhi in a reference to the Asian-interest sorority and has been updated to correct the error.