First-years go through Greek life recruitment with COVID-19 adaptations

Shumaker Hall. Photo by Catherine Dema.

Greek recruitment, like everything else, looked very different this year due to COVID-19. Instead of new members having the opportunity to meet active members in person and seeing each of the frat houses and Shumaker complex, the recruitment process occurred virtually.

With the recent departure of Kristin Wooldridge – former director of student engagement and Greek advisor – Dean of Students Shelly King and Assistant Dean of Students Ernie Stufflebean ran sorority recruitment and fraternity rush, respectively. Despite the various challenges facing them, Greek recruitment was a success.

Sorority recruitment saw 46 women go through the recruitment process, with most accepting bids. Each sorority needed 13 accepted bids to meet quota. Quota was met by all three sororities, which is not unusual according to King. Unlike previous years, every woman who signed a Membership Recruitment Acceptance Binding Agreement (MRABA) signed a bid on bid day.

The recruitment process for the women looked much different because of COVID-19. Instead of the potential new members (PNMs) visiting the Shumaker Sorority Complex to meet the women in person and see each chapter’s wing, PNMs attended nightly meetings via Zoom. The first night highlighted each sorority’s philanthropy and the second focused on sisterhood. Friday, the final night, was Preference Night. PNMs met one-on-one with active members to learn as much as possible and answer any questions before signing their MRABA.

Recruitment week is already a stressful time for first-years, and this year was no exception.

“I was definitely nervous going into virtual recruitment this year, but everyone was really friendly and it went pretty smooth for the most part. Sometimes the Wi-Fi was really bad and it was hard to understand, but I’m really excited to be in [Delta Zeta] and can’t wait to get more involved,” said first-year Katie Reece.

Panhellenic Chair Tori Vogt, whose job was to oversee all PNMs and Greek chapters before and during recruitment, recognized the high emotions everyone felt.

“All of the PNMs and Greek women could have easily been frustrated, annoyed or angry that everything had to be virtual, but they were so positive and excited through the whole process, it made my job so much easier!” said Vogt.

Fraternity rushing looked similar to sorority recruitment in many ways. Numbers were down, yet each fraternity gained new members. Of the 40 men who rushed, 35 accepted bids – 20 went to Phi Gamma Delta, 8 went to Lambda Chi Alpha and 7 went to Kappa Alpha Order.

The first two nights of fraternity rush were dedicated to videos and presentations so that first-years rushing could learn more about each fraternity. Next, the groups were broken into breakout rooms of five to seven recruits and five to seven active members for the last two nights.

“By using the breakout room function in Zoom, we were able to create a more personal experience that is normally found in an in-person rush,” said Interfraternity Council (IFC) President Zach Dube, a sophomore political science and economics major.

It’s Dube’s job as IFC President to ensure the three fraternities have an equal playing field and all members follow IFC rules. This year he also had to ensure everyone followed Operation Safe Campus. He explained that numbers were down but should bounce back after the COVID-19 pandemic gets under control.

“The pandemic created an atmosphere where it truly was a blind leap of faith to join Greek Life for a lot, if not most, first-year students,” said Dube.

Some, like first-year biology major Hunter Griffin, were not comfortable taking that risk. Griffin decided not to rush because of the hastened rush schedule, COVID-19 restrictions and time commitment and also because he plays two sports at Jewell – football and powerlifting.

“I would’ve really enjoyed rushing if it was physical and we got house tours. Meeting the fraternity guys in person to really see who they actually are instead of just through a screen also might have changed my mind,” said Griffin.

If COVID-19 restrictions are lifted by next year’s Rush Week, Griffin said he may consider rushing.

All sororities and fraternities enjoyed a COVID-friendly Bid Day, where new members met in small groups with active members to do socially distanced activities around Liberty and Jewell’s campus.

The sororities exchanged the normal Bid Day reveal in the Union for a Zoom reveal with five different cameras set up. Groups of five came out and revealed their bid acceptance through the usual t-shirt reveal while active members watched from their computers. The fraternities used the main and second levels of Curry Hall to do a modified in-person Bid Day. It took much longer and required more coordination than normal for these reveals, but members say it was worth it to create as close to a normal experience for these new members.

Other challenges did arise, but Greek organizations said this is to be expected when relying solely on technology. Because this was an unprecedented process, the new members were very understanding of all technical difficulties and issues that arose because of Zoom. To help combat these issues, UMKC and Missouri State suggested to Panhellenic that each sorority have a tech team that could set up breakout rooms and help with any issues.

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