For the second consecutive year, sorority sisters welcomed their new members Wednesday without the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial as the backdrop of their photos.
The Panhellenic Association could not hold its annual bid day on the National Mall again this year, where it was held for at least six years before officials moved recruitment to the spring. Sorority members said this year’s location in Potomac Park worked better than last year’s event in Kogan Plaza, but finding a suitable spot on campus has been a challenge since unpredictable weather and poor lighting pushed them from the National Mall.
Panhellenic Association leaders attributed last year’s decision to hold bid day in Kogan Plaza to a government shutdown at the beginning of the academic year. While sororities found themselves in a similar situation this year, student leaders said the mall wouldn’t have been an option anyway because dark lighting prevents sororities from taking photos, and it is unsafe for new members to run across the street during rush hour.
“Given that we need a space that can hold about 1,500 people and allows for noise during a time when there are classes occurring has made finding a location challenging,” Panhellenic Association President Izzy Griffith said in an email.
Panhellenic leaders chose Potomac Park, the parking lot behind Tonic Restaurant, this year because it could accommodate the large number of students without noise restrictions. They opted for the space over Kogan Plaza, where bid day was held last year, because the noise was disruptive to students and could not accommodate all participants, Griffith said.
She added that the association will review its annual post-recruitment survey distributed to sorority sisters and check in with officials to receive “feedback and suggestions for next year.” Members of the Panhellenic Association are still looking into possible locations for next year, Griffith said.
Elizabeth Jessup, the former Panhellenic Association president who graduated in December but oversaw recruitment this year, said the group has struggled to find a good spot to host bid day on campus since deferred recruitment took effect. She said the National Mall “doesn’t really work” for bid day anymore because the weather is unpredictable in the winter.
“It’s a beautiful day today, so it really worked out,” she said in an interview Wednesday. “But if it was going to be snowing, we wanted to be closer to indoors so we wouldn’t be outside too long because of the cold.”
Senior Nadia Wiggins – a member of Pi Beta Phi who served as a pi rho chi, a sister who temporarily disassociates themselves to guide potential new members through recruitment – said the National Mall was “really fun” in the past, but sororities can still head off campus to celebrate.
Wiggins added that this year, the Panhellenic Association did not receive permission from the law school to host the “entire bid day celebration” in University Yard, forcing the Panhellenic Association to gather new members in the yard and bring them over in groups to sorority members waiting in Potomac Park.
“I’m very happy we’re not in Kogan this year,” Wiggins said. “I think being in Kogan was disruptive. I think we were too close to the classes, and we wanted to be respectful of people in the library, so having it here was a little bit easier.”
Senior Jessie Fairbanks, the former vice president of recruitment for Alpha Delta Pi, said this year’s location was “perfect” because it was more open than Kogan Plaza, and sisters could spread out around the parking lot.
“I think it’s not about the location,” Fairbanks said. “I think it’s more so about letting the new members feel welcome, and regardless, we’re so excited about the new members and that’s what it’s all about.”
But Claire Todd, a junior and a member of Alpha Phi, said hosting bid day her freshman year on the National Mall was a highlight of sorority recruitment that new members will miss out on.
“You recruit with, ‘Your bid day will be on the National Mall next to the Lincoln and Washington monument,’ which is dope,” she said. “Last year it was Kogan, which is still cool, it’s a central part of the GW campus. And this year, everyone is like, ‘Where is bid day going to be?’ And it’s, ‘Oh, the parking lot behind Tonic.’”