The University’s fraternity council is loosening rush restrictions this fall to give an edge to smaller chapters.
Fraternities will be able to hold unofficial events for potential new members recruitment and offer bids after rush ends, moves that smaller chapters say will attract more members.
Colin O’Brien, president of Beta Theta Pi, said in past years, potential new members have sought out larger chapters, like those with more than 100 members, because the chapters have more name recognition on campus.
“Open rush has always been a brand competition,” O’Brien said in an email, “It’s then really hard for the smaller chapters to pull people to their events when all they’ve been able to distribute, in terms of promotion, is a palm card.”
Daniel Gil, president of the Interfraternity Council, said the group decided to scrap the policy because he wanted to give smaller chapters, which are not able to fund large-scale events during official rush, a chance to attract new members in a smaller setting.
The other half of the change, allowing open bidding, gives chapters the chance to offer bids after rush has officially ended. Men who received bids outside of rush would either be included in the current initiation process or join next semester’s.
Gil said his president’s council decided last spring to allow chapters to open their doors to potential rushees.
O’Brien said his chapter is taking advantage of the changes by holding events. The Saturday before rush begins, his chapter will hold a football game and entice new members with a freshman scholarship advertised each Thursday at a table in J Street.
O’Brien said the changes will also give men the chance to rush even if they wouldn’t normally go to the formal rush events and prefer a more casual setting.
Last year saw growth for GW’s smallest fraternities. Kappa Sigma nearly doubled its size, swelling from 39 members at the beginning of the year to 70 after fall rush. Sigma Phi Epsilon added 29 new members last fall, totaling 77 men by the end of the process.
Greek life leadership has historically not allowed chapters to organize events before the rush process to dissuade chapter from handing out unofficial bids that discourage potential new members to look seriously at other chapters.
Benjamin Winneg, president of Pi Kappa Alpha, said he doesn’t agree with the stigma that any communication with incoming students is an attempt to game the system.
“There is…a gentlemen’s agreement amongst IFC presidents recommending that no bids be extended to new students prior to the conclusion of Rush. I would be extremely surprised if any chapter extended a bid to a new student before September 6th,” Winneg said in an email.
Jeffrey Allen, president of Tau Kappa Epsilon, said he doesn’t think unofficial events will draw significantly larger crowds than past years because the feel of rush isn’t changing to make it more appealing to a wider range of people. He said smaller chapters could see more interest, but warned that there are pros and cons to large amounts of growth.
Allen his chapter will likely not take advantage of open bidding this semester.
“I think it’s commendable the IFC is looking to give chapters the opportunity to expand at any time, but I believe that it takes away from the significance of receiving an official bid with the rest of your pledge class and from the excitement of rush,” Allen said.
O’Brien said he wasn’t worried about this semester with open bidding because chapters wouldn’t be able to get to know new students well enough to offer them a bid.
This year, O’Brien said Beta Theta Pi won’t “force [the changes] on the chapter too quickly.” He said he plans to test out open-bidding by offering about five bids outside of formal rush, and if those members gel well he would consider taking more stock in the laxer process.
Fraternities, unlike sororities, are not limited in the numbers of new members they can take on each year. Sororities have strict deadlines regarding when bids are handed out and accepted.
Sororities can host events before recruitment starts on October 4, but are not allowed to give any gifts or presents to potential new members, Marta Cofone, president of the PanHellenic council said. She said the organization had not had issues with chapters handing out unofficial bids before.