Officials said an unprecedented 425 potential sorority members flooded the elevator lobby on the fourth floor of the Marvin Center Tuesday night, kicking off Panhellenic recruitment. Last year 368 women initially expressed interest in recruitment.
Panhellenic Rush is made up of four rounds – open house, philanthropy, invitational and preference – before students receive bids from specific sororities. In the first round, students can visit all eight sororities; but by the fourth night, the sororities and recruits narrow down their choices.
“It’s based on a theory of mutual selection. By the end it’s coming down to the women and the chapter who have mutually selected each other,” said Fiona Conroy, president of the Panhellenic Association.
The high number of recruitment participants relates to the “significant focus the administration has placed on the Greek community,” said Courtney Barry, coordinator for student involvement in Greek affairs.
“I think it’s very unique the way the administration has supported and welcomed the Greek community. Townhouse Row is also a factor,” Barry said.
The University opened its Greek-letter Townhouse Row to five sororities and three fraternities in August.
While officials said the Panhellenic Association voted last year to refrain from using the townhouses for publicity, some members of sororities said having a house will draw in more members.
This year, the Panhellenic Association amended its constitution, allowing sororities to spend $1,900 on recruitment, mainly on the philanthropy-themed event night. Individual chapters provide the funding mainly from membership dues.
Sororities previously spent no money on recruitment.
“In the past, the philanthropy round has been ‘no frills,’ meaning it was very simple, with no decorations,” Conroy said. “This year, we’re trying to move it to a system of greater accountability and less restraint. It gives (each chapter) greater room to represent themselves.”
Officials said the Panhellenic Association has strict policies about “dirty rushing,” or having sorority members speak to recruits outside of recruitment parties in a way that would be beyond anything classified as “common courtesy,” Conroy said. Activities such as gift-giving, bid promising or inappropriate social interactions are forbidden. No sororities have been cited for violations this year.
Although “dirty rushing” rules have exited since the beginning of the Panhellenic Association in 1902, there are no strict consequences for violators.
“An individual chapter comes forth and tells executive board members and…its just medication where we talk things out and come up with a solution together…it’s really kind of informal,” Conroy said.
Sorority members said they often handle violations within their own sorority.
“Every sorority runs into something, things are brought up,” said Kim Brownstein, president of Sigma Delta Tau. “I would personally just tell them they can’t do it anymore, maybe pay a fine or maybe not be allowed to come to rush.”
Despite rules, officials said joining a sorority is beneficial.
“(Being in a sorority) helps you build a community, and join a community instantly,” Barry said. “There are leadership possibilities within a chapter. A sorority would help build leadership qualities but also provide a leadership position. Also, there are excellent networking possibilities for a career. You have sisters across DC, nationally, and worldwide in a lifelong membership.”
Potential members said they are excited to participate in recruitment, which lasts until next Thursday.
“I’m a new transfer student and despite what I’ve heard about the typical stereotypes, I’ve always wanted to check it out for myself. I’m so excited,” sophomore Kelly O’Neill said.