The Inter-Fraternity Council decided to host rush orientation, fraternity open houses and the first formal round of rush — six days of its recruitment process — virtually, while the Inter-Sorority Council has opted to hold its first two rounds, or three days, virtually. The IFC’s second and third rounds of recruitment, “final hours” and bid day will be held in person from Jan. 29 to Feb. 5. The ISC is hosting an in-person second weekend beginning with house tours Jan. 28, “preferences” Jan. 29 and finally bid day Jan 30.
This decision comes amid a rise in COVID-19 cases at the University, as the highly transmissible omicron variant spreads throughout the country. According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control, omicron caused approximately 95 percent of new cases in the United States in January, and global cases have hit an all-time high with more than 15 million cases reported Tuesday. Despite this surge, the University announced Jan. 7 that the spring semester would move forward as normal, with no change to move-in or in-person classes.
Rush recruitment events are traditionally held by the IFC and ISC during January and February. They are a hallmark of the Greek life experience and were held in-person before the pandemic. More than 2,600 women are members of the ISC’s 15 chapters, while 1,700 men are involved in the IFC’s 32 chapters. Roughly 1,000 women and 900 men go through the recruitment process annually.
Last year, ISC leadership moved all recruitment events online. The IFC, however, held a mixture of in-person and virtual events. Following the conclusion of recruitment activities, the University community recorded more than 600 cases of COVID-19 in the span of one week, and numerous ISC and IFC chapters were criticized for failing to comply with public health regulations.
Maximilian von Schroeter, third-year Commerce student and IFC vice president of membership, said that this year, the IFC’s governing board worked in close collaboration with both University administration and U.Va. Health in making its decision to hold the first three events of recruitment virtually.
“The IFC has decided to conduct orientation, open house and first round fully virtual,” von Schroeter said. “This is due to an expected rise in COVID-19 cases that has been predicted by U.Va. Health officials [right when] students return.”
Open houses, which are held over two days this year, are when all potential fraternity members have the chance to get to know members in IFC chapters. After that, each round of recruitment allows potential new members and chapters to get to know each other further, narrowing down choices before they make a bid.
The IFC will then re-evaluate case numbers and, in consultation with University officials, decide whether to continue online or move to an in-person format, which von Schroeter said could include voluntary testing in order limit COVID-19 spreading among potential new members. However, such a regimen is dependent on the availability of tests at the University or in the area and, which are in short supply at the state and national level.
“The IFC will have another meeting with U.Va. Health officials before the end of first round to evaluate in-person options for the last part of rush,” von Schroeter said.
In an earlier email statement to The Cavalier Daily, von Schroeter emphasized the commitment of the IFC to following federal, state and local guidelines in the way that serves the community.
Similarly, the ISC has opted to hold the first weekend of its recruitment virtually. Last year due to a consistent elevated caseload of COVID-19 on and surrounding Grounds, ISC leadership split the formal recruitment process over the course of two weekends and will maintain the same structure for recruitment this year.
The first weekend includes two days of round robins, when all potential new members or visit every sorority once, and one day of philanthropy, when a smaller pool of selected potential new members are invited back to certain houses to learn about the philanthropic organization each sorority supports. Occurring Jan. 21 through 23 this cycle, both rounds will be entirely virtual.
The following weekend, potential new members will partake in house tours, a round during which current members show potential new members the full inside of sorority houses and have an elongated period of time to discuss, and a preference round, during which members delve deeper with potential new members into their experiences in the sorority. This cycle, house tours will take place on Jan. 28, followed by preference round Jan. 29.
The final day of recruitment is bid day, when each potential new member finds out the chapter they will join. As rush progresses, each round has fewer potential new members invited back as chapters narrow down their preferred new members. ISC leadership is currently planning to host the final three rounds in-person, but will require masking while inside houses.
Clare Scully, fourth-year Commerce student and president of the ISC, said the executive board is “prioritizing the health of our community while simultaneously providing the best experience for our potential new members.” Scully also said that the ISC has come up with “a few different contingency plans” for recruitment depending on the University’s guidance regarding COVID-19.
Other campuses with Greek life have also pivoted to a hybrid modality for recruitment, such as Virginia Tech.