As an eager freshman moving into college, there were many activities and organizations with which I was looking forward to getting involved. Rushing a fraternity was at the top of that list.
Even though the University officially implemented the deferred rush policy this year, I assumed I would still be able to mingle with the brothers of the fraternities and get a feel for the different chapters before formal recruitment began in January. Deferred rush is intended to give freshmen the opportunity to better settle into college for a semester before formal recruitment, while also allowing them to preemptively meet members of the Greek community to determine where they would fit. But as the first pre-rush semester ends, many of the Greek chapters, particularly the fraternities, should plan to host more events for first-semester freshmen and better advertise them in future fall semesters. This will allow fraternities to better engage prospective members and ensure that student interest translates into a substantial recruitment class.
The second weekend of school, the Greek community put on the Meet the Greeks event in University Yard. I spent a whole afternoon joyously signing up for email lists and introducing myself to members. In the two months since I gave my phone number and email to eight of the 14 fraternities, I’ve received notifications and invitations to only five official events in total. I was disappointed by my sorely limited opportunities to get to know members of the Greek community and learn about the various chapters.
Understandably, the Greek chapters can’t invite prospective freshmen to every single general event they hold. Most regular Greek events, especially social ones, are limited to members only. However, like the three chapters who have sent me invites, all the Greek organizations should plan more social events designed to meet the first-semester freshmen, like casual hangouts or open houses designed for interested first-year students to get to know members of the chapter. This would increase their potential new member pool and bring in larger, more diverse rush classes.
Although fraternities and sororities across campus planned events this semester designed to keep freshmen engaged, they have fallen short of expectations. Most chapters have had no publicly advertised events for freshmen after the Meet the Greeks event Sept. 9. Although freshmen and other students interested in joining Greek life next semester must attend at least one of the 19 new member days, which are presentations about Greek life overall and the rush process at GW, these events did little to educate me about the individual fraternities and mainly acted as deterrence for hazing and binge drinking behaviors.
Another type of Greek event that can be open to all students on campus are philanthropy events. One of the events I attended was “Eat Around D.C.,” a buffet-style event at a sorority’s townhouse where non-members were charged an entry fee that was donated to the chapter’s national philanthropy cause. This event was hosted by a sorority, but fraternities should host more events like this to allow freshmen to meet and engage with brothers. I also only knew about the buffet event because I happened to have friended an upperclassman on Facebook who was a member of the hosting chapter. Incidentally, three of the five fraternity events I’ve attended were originally advertised at the Meet the Greeks event, and the other two have come from email lists. Since Facebook is usually the main source of event advertising, one’s Facebook friends list can drastically influence what campus events they may or may not hear about. These Facebook events are hard to find and not typically sent out via mass invite to the student body.
Fraternities are also hosting some philanthropy and social events that are open to the public, but unfortunately the events are not being effectively communicated and advertised to freshmen. With this being the first year of campus-wide deferred rush, the idea of having to broadly appeal to freshmen is a new challenge. However, this Facebook event system is inefficient, and generally limits who even hears about the event. There are many potentially better ways to improve the overall reach of event advertising so that more freshmen know about them. Chapters could hang fliers around campus, have RAs in freshman residence halls send out blast emails for them and create a Greek-system-wide newsletter detailing public events coming up in the near future. This would increase event turnout and success as well as better advertise the chapters and their involvement on campus to the freshmen.
I understand that one problem Greek chapters run into when engaging too much with the freshmen is dirty rushing, which is the practice of chapters getting freshmen to agree to rush their fraternity or sorority before the formal recruitment process begins. However, they stand to gain the membership most suited for them if they allow information about upcoming events to reach prospective new members, a practice that falls quite short of the “dirty rushing” threshold.
To make myself clear, I thoroughly enjoyed the Greek events I attended, and my few interactions with brothers gave me reason to look forward to formal recruitment in the spring. However, the Greek community needs to understand the lack of connection I perceived them having with the brand-new freshmen, and should work to fully engage the Class of 2022 when they come to campus next fall. I know I’ll push my chapter to.
Ethan Shuchart, a freshman majoring in political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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