Greek life leaders see mixed results in first year of deferred recruitment policy

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Panhellenic Association sororities saw a spike in participation in formal recruitment this year, but men in fraternities said interest seemed to lag behind previous years.

Updated: March 1, 2018 at 2:56 p.m.

The first year of the new deferred recruitment policy drew mixed reviews from the Greek community.

Panhellenic Association sororities saw a spike in participation in formal recruitment this year, but men in fraternities said interest seemed to lag behind previous years. Greek leaders were divided over the new policy with many saying it allowed students to establish themselves on campus before joining a chapter, but others called on officials to revaluate the process.

For the first time, students were required to complete a semester on campus before participating in formal recruitment. The shift frustrated Greek life leaders, who said they were shut out of the decision.

Students participating in the Panhellenic Association’s recruitment process rose from last academic year. Fraternity leaders said Interfraternity Council chapters gave out fewer bids this semester, though both IFC leaders and University officials repeatedly declined to provide specific numbers.

Christina Witkowicki, the director of student involvement and Greek life, said the new policy allowed incoming students to “develop sustainable relationships with classmates and fully learn about the GW fraternity/sorority community” before going through recruitment.

She noted Panhel’s increase in interest and said she expects IFC will give out a similar number of bids this spring compared to last fall, the last formal recruitment period. The IFC’s formal recruitment process concluded last month, but students are still allowed to informally join chapters.

She said officials will assess and evaluate the policy “to make appropriate updates and adjustments to recruitment and intake processes.”

She declined to say how the policy would be evaluated. IFC President Jacob Schafer declined to comment for this story.

Sam Vercellotti, the president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, said reeling in potential new members seemed to be a struggle across IFC chapters this semester because there were “noticeably less people” who entered the process.

Of the students who did seek to join a chapter, he said men had already developed ideas of where they were looking to rush and hampered what should be a more free-wheeling process.

“Only allowing yourself to be exposed to the places you are already interested in as opposed to trying it all out – people are set in stone kind of before the process starts,” Vercellotti said. “I hope this school re-evaluates this policy.”

An IFC chapter leader, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid retribution from the Greek life office, said he views the deferred recruitment policy as an attempt to cast Greek life in a negative light. He said there is a continuing lack of trust between chapters and the University.

“You can’t really trust the Greek life office to really do what’s in the best interest for students,” he said. “It’s really a shame that they do that because it creates a relationship where the Greek life office is the adversary to these people that they’re supposed to govern and oversee.”

Fraternity leaders have expressed frustration with officials in recent years over drawn out investigations into chapter misconduct and an overall contentious atmosphere.

Jared Levinson, the IFC’s vice president of recruitment, said students looking to join a fraternity are “situated best for their convenience and comfort” under the new policy.

“Deferred recruitment is a strong addition for the student experience at GW,” he said. “It assists in allowing incoming first-year students to adjust and find their fitting here on campus.”

He said the IFC is drafting “innovative ways” for men to find the chapter they seek, but declined to provide specifics.

Fraternities and sororities hosted events throughout the fall semester to keep freshmen engaged.

The outreach paid off for Panhellenic organizations, where the deferred spring recruitment participation climbed to 619 women in 2018, up from the 572 women who rushed during the previous fall recruitment period.

Panhellenic President Elizabeth Jessup said while some chapter members prefer fall recruitment, the Panhel community banded together to smoothen the transition to the new policy.

She said Greek organization leaders from the IFC and Multicultural Greek Council are working with Ashley Ann Renz, the vice president of recruitment for Panhel, to revamp programming and “promote our Greek community as a whole” during the recruitment process.

“We’re still in the process of adapting to the transition, but it’s been a really positive change from my perspective so far,” she said in an email.

Jessup declined to say how the deferred recruitment policy could be re-evaluated in collaboration with the Office of Greek life.

Greek life experts said a drop in participation could mean that fraternities need to advertise their chapters with events throughout the fall semester to retain interest before re-evaluating the policy change.

Matt Burchett, the director of student activities at Baylor University, said under a deferred recruitment process, Greek letter organizations “thrive” because members are more likely to involved once they join.

He said “consistent and respectful” communication between Greek organization leaders and administrators ensures that any discrepancies are heard and resolved.

“It’s imperative that there’s open dialogue between students and administration,” Burchett said. “We’re all in this together and we’re going to ensure that we are putting the university and the Greek community in the best possible position to be successful.”

Lauren Peller contributed reporting.

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