Students looking to join GW’s Greek-letter community will have the opportunity to get involved within the first month they are in D.C. Although Greek-letter organizations at several other universities recruit new members when students are second-semester freshmen or sophomores, GW’s fraternities and sororities look for pledges in mid-September.
Although the University holds an informal recruitment in the spring, the majority of students join in the fall. Recruiting new students a few weeks after they arrive at GW gives newcomers enough time to adapt to school before making decisions about organizations, officials involved with the Greek-letter community said.
“Traditionally, at many (state) schools, the student body comes prior to classes to start their (recruitment),” said Michael Gargano, associate vice president of Student and Academic Support Services. “Ours is slightly delayed because it allows students to better acclimate to their classes and time management, and to become educated about Greek life to make a better value judgment as to whether it’s right for their co-curricular education.”
Although GW’s 13 recognized fraternities and eight sororities hold recruitment at about the same time
in the fall, men’s and women’s activities and policies differ. While fraternities host parties at places including Hooter’s and pool halls, women go through a more formal process.
Sorority recruitment – run by the Panhellenic Association – takes place in the Marvin Center for about a week. Women interested in joining must attend parties for a set amount of time at each one of the sororities. Potential pledges then narrow their choices at the end of each night of recruitment, ending up with two sororities by the last night.
Women participating in recruitment must meet with all sororities and can only attend additional sorority parties if asked.
Men can attend events for whichever fraternities they choose, and do not need to formally narrow down their top choices
“We do a wing bowl night, an Old Glory night and a casino night for some of our events,” said Keith Raine, secretary of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. “Anyone can show up even if they’re not interested in joining, and just want to come out, meet the brothers and have a good time.”
Toward the end of the recruitment period, fraternity members ask some potential pledges to attend “invitation only” parties.
Student leaders in the Greek-letter community said they have mixed feelings toward first-semester recruitment.
“I think the disadvantage to rushing first semester is you don’t always get to feel around for what you’re looking for – you might jump into something and realize it’s not for you,” said Brian Taylor, president of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.
But he said the weather is “still nice” in the fall, and the timing “frees up the frats to have a lighter variety of events that can utilize D.C.”
“It also gives an opportunity to meet people and (for freshmen) to still be themselves and find their niche,” Taylor said.
Greek-letter leaders also said their level of enthusiasm about recruiting new members is high in the fall.
“It’s definitely better to rush first semester because second semester you don’t get the full experience,” said Kris Hart, president of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity and president of the Student Association. “First semester everyone is really behind it and challenging the freshmen to get involved and become leaders.”
Members said the recruitment period lasts about one to two weeks, while the pledge period lasts around eight weeks depending on the group.
Once students who have gone through the recruitment process decide they want to become members, they must go through an extensive initiation program to learn about
“The idea of the pledge process is to build brotherhood and character,” Hart said.
On average, pledging is a commitment of about eight hours per week, fraternity and sorority leaders said.
“We try to do a brotherhood dinner once a week and have a membership information session once a week. We hold study hours and we have optional intramural sports,” Taylor said. “It’s basically things they’d be doing anyway.”
But several universities do not allow first-semester freshmen to participate in recruitment.
“This gives first-year students a whole semester to get acclimated,” Gargano said. “The downside to this, though, is there is lost revenue for fraternities and sororities since new membership is lost.”
Students at universities that follow the trend said they enjoy having a later recruitment date.
“The majority of our rush is in the spring, which is when it’s structured, but you can rush in the fall if you have enough credits to be considered a second semester freshman,” said UMD rising sophomore Marissa Lefland, a member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority.
Tracy Wallach, corresponding secretary of the Alpha Phi sorority at Lehigh University, said participating in recruitment second semester “gives students a chance to get acclimated to school and meet many people without worrying about rushing.”
But she also said it gives time for students to be influenced by stereotypes.
“If you’d rushed first semester you’d just judge (the organization) on the girls and wouldn’t really know what’s a ‘bad house,'” Wallach said.
-Julie Gordon contributed to this report.