Juliette Dallas-Feeney: Reinventing sorority recruitment

Last weekend, in an attempt to see if the sorority life was for me, I decided to attend formal fall recruitment. I hadn’t gone through recruitment as a freshman. Admittedly, I was skeptical about sororities. I had just graduated from an all-girls high school, which I loved, but I was ready for a different experience.

Come spring, I realized I missed that small community. I was involved in the activities I enjoyed, but I wanted to meet more people at GW. I decided I would go through recruitment in the fall to see if there was a particular sorority that could fill that void.

Sororities are meant to foster the feeling of kinship with a group of women; being a part of a sorority means that you are part of something bigger than yourself. Social sororities, especially here at GW, are active in philanthropy and rich in history and rituals. More than 18 percent of undergraduates at GW are involved in Greek-letter life.

But last weekend, I found that process of recruitment is inconsistent with what I believe to be true about sororities. Recruitment counselors lined us up like a herd of cattle and came around with mints. We were told to smile as we entered each sorority party. The process seemed superficial and hurried. It was like speed dating for girls. Sororities are social groups, and this process felt far from social.

At the parties we would be asked the same standard questions. I felt like there was an entire science behind determining whether a girl was “right” for a sorority’s chapter. Yet I also felt like much of the process was random. There is a mutual ranking system between the chapters and the potential members that goes into a computer quota system at the end of each round. The computer would “match” us up with the sororities we would go back to the next day. Personally I don’t see how talking to a few sisters in a chapter for a few minutes each can allow anyone, sister or potential member, to make an authentic judgment about a person.

Furthermore, this is a pretty serious decision and I couldn’t help feeling that it was reduced to a lottery. Was a computer really going to have a say in who my new sisters would be? But despite the system, there was one chapter I really thought I could see myself in. When I didn’t get a bid from them, my self-doubt and insecurities inundated me. I felt like I had been used, exploited and dumped – all in a four-day whirlwind and by a group of girls.

I took a step back and realized that I was reacting ridiculously to a ridiculous procedure. I had gotten so caught up in the recruitment process, but I recognized that the world wouldn’t end. My bitterness and uncertainty of myself would pass.

Perhaps many sisters would say that the current system does not need be to changed. However if you love an institution and want to see it flourish, you should be willing to critique it. Not only is it stressful for potential members, but the current recruitment system is stressful for the chapters. Themes, decorations, food, songs and matching outfits are prepared well in advance and recruitment practice is religiously rehearsed. To me, some of these preparations take away from the elements that form a sisterhood.

I believe that sororities are fundamentally good; after all, I wanted to join one. Most people I know in sororities love Greek-letter life. But for these positive messages to tangibly get across to potential members, I think that the Pan-Hellenic Association should consider different approaches to the recruitment process. The fraternity rush process is one method.

For fraternities at GW, rush lasts about two weeks with potential members attending the events they want to. If you’re serious about one fraternity, you’ll go to all of their rush events. Hanging out and eating Chipotle burritos with a bunch of guys at a fraternity house is a much more casual, more personal and less intimidating atmosphere than recruitment. Brothers are prepped on the facts and history of their respective fraternities, not on what to ask potential members, so the conversation isn’t forced. There is no intervention from a computer system that factors into deciding who will become a brother and who won’t.

If the recruitment process was adjusted, I believe that a lot of stereotypes about sororities would diminish and a lot more skeptics would come out for recruitment. Perhaps some of the common stereotypes about sorority girls stem from the recruitment process.

I do not regret my decision to go through recruitment. I don’t feel like I wasted my time because I didn’t get a bid from the sorority I thought I wanted. I learned a lot about myself. I doubted myself and trusted myself again. I could see myself in a sorority; I just don’t believe I’m cut out for the recruitment process.

So maybe I’ll rush a fraternity next fall.

The writer is a sophomore majoring in journalism.

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