Following a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the omicron variant, many campus events — including Winterfest — have been moved online, despite the majority of classes remaining in-person.
Other pre-professional fraternities – such as Kappa Alpha Pi pre-law fraternity and Atlas Consulting Group – have also pivoted to online recruitment due to the COVID-19 surge.
The Panhellenic Association — which governs social sororities on campus — announced Dec. 29 the 2022 Fraternity and Sorority Life recruitment schedule would consist of five virtual rounds and an in-person Bid Day.
LSA sophomore Tess Klygis is the vice president of risk management at Pi Beta Phi (Pi Phi), a social sorority that participated in hybrid recruitment this month. Klygis said she personally believed the online rush process was a success.
“At its core, recruitment is about meeting people and finding people who fit in your chapter,” Klygis said. “That doesn’t really change when it’s moved online because we’re still able to meet people who want to be part of this great community. We’re still able to understand if potential new members (PNMs) would get along with our members or if they would be happier in a different chapter. Although (the pandemic) changes what recruitment looks like, it doesn’t change what recruitment stands for.”
Klygis also said she believes Pi Phi was well represented during the online portion of recruitment.
“Our main goal was to come off as genuine,” Klygis said. “And based on what I heard back, PNMs felt comfortable, so I say ‘goal achieved.’”
Klygis also said Pi Phi utilized a “two by two” format on Zoom for the first two rounds, placing two current members in a breakout room with two PNMs. She said her sorority’s values of friendship and respect guided Pi Phi’s recruitment format.
During recruitment, Pi Phi was one of several sororities that received criticism from highly popularized Reddit posts written by the PNM Princess, an anonymous gossip account that posted blog-style opinions of the University’s sorority recruitment process this year. Klygis said the PNM Princess’ comments on Pi Beta Phi were “a little harsh.”
“(Our two by two format) was the genesis of (the PNM Princess’s) unfavorable writings towards us, which I think does come from (recruitment) being virtual,” Klygis said. “The writing style that she was using was purposefully inflammatory and pitted sororities against each other. Being in the Panhellenic community is a joint endeavor, so (posting as the PNM Princess) is inherently not something a Panhellenic woman would do, which is why I think that a lot of (sorority members) disagreed with what she posted.”
LSA sophomore Linda Cai, who completed the recruitment process as a PNM this winter, preferred the virtual setting because of her comfort with being virtual throughout the pandemic.
“Online wasn’t too bad, because we’ve been so used to the setting,” Cai said. “Over the past year and a half, for me at least, I was completely online. So this actually felt kind of familiar and easy to me.”
However, Cai said she was excited by an in-person Bid Day and was thankful for the unique opportunity to meet the people she had previously only interacted with through a screen.
“Meeting in person for the day was awesome,” Cai said. “Opening an actual envelope definitely felt different. It would have been very difficult, right? To open (a bid) as an email or something like that. So I’m glad I got to do that. And also the day at the house and all the other activities that we did were really fun.”
Despite their sorority counterparts using a hybrid format, social fraternities governed by the Interfraternity Council (IFC) — are conducting a completely in-person recruitment process.
A person closely tied to social fraternity recruitment spoke to The Daily anonymously for fear of retaliation from his fraternity. He will be referred to as “James.” He said fraternities rarely follow the IFC’s rules.
“Most of the IFC’s rules are taken as a joke … because they have a deferred recruitment policy where freshmen aren’t even allowed to rush until the winter semester,” James said. “That ends up hurting a lot of fraternities. If (fraternities) do want to follow the rules, (they’re) losing a ton of freshmen.”
Beginning in Jan. 2020, the University transitioned to a winter rush semester. Per the updated rules, students had to have completed at least 12 academic credits at the University and be in good academic and behavioral standing in order to participate in Greek life rush.
In 2019, a Daily exposé confirmed at least eight of the then-18 IFC affiliated fraternities invited freshman to participate in the rush process and extended bids to freshman pledges during the fall semester.
In 2018, a group of fraternities which have disaffiliated with the University-formed The Ann Arbor Interfraternity Council. These fraternities are not required to abide by the deferred rush process.
James revealed that the unofficial winter recruitment process starts in December, with fraternities creating private Facebook groups that include information about their house’s events, many of which occur before the official information session and open house hosted by the IFC. In an interview on Jan. 16, James said there are pledge-classes — groups of new members — already being made.
“These fraternities are speeding up the rush process to where, what should be a two-and-a-half week process, which is already fairly quick all things considered, is now becoming a week and a half, if not less,” James said.
James said he was frustrated with the process, and the incentives encourage noncompliance with IFC rules. According to the North American Interfraternity Conference’s guidelines on drugs and alcohol, “Any event or activity related to the new member joining process (e.g., recruitment, intake, rush, etc.) must be substance free.”
“Fraternities have to step up and join (the fraternities that don’t follow IFC rules),” James said. “Even if a fraternity wanted to do (a substance-free recruitment process) it would be hard to convince a PNM that playing video games, talking or eating food is going to be more fun than all these other (fraternities) that are having parties… There’s still this competitive nature to (recruitment).”
James thought only about a quarter of fraternity recruitment at the University is done in accordance with the IFC rules. The rest of the process is completed by fraternities through Facebook pages and early open events, making recruitment less accessible for many potential new members.
Many professional fraternities on campus have opted for a hybrid recruitment process, having the first few rounds online and hosting in-person events as the number of PNMs dwindles.
LSA sophomore Rikki Goldman, pledge trainer of pre-law fraternity Kappa Alpha Pi, shared her thoughts on recruitment this year.
“It’s definitely more awkward on Zoom,” Goldman said. “It isn’t as easy to have an organic conversation. So that part is harder, but I think people can say their part and talk more freely, I guess. Without being afraid of being interrupted.”
Goldman explained that Kappa Alpha Pi is hosting mass meetings and the opening rounds of recruitment online, then switching to an in-person format for the remainder of the process.
“It was a hard decision because Zoom sucks, but we decided to put the first week of events on Zoom,” Goldman said. “In the second week we have cuts and a significantly (smaller) number of people coming in to talk to the members. So we are doing that in person.”
Business senior Neha Bharat is the recruiting chair for Atlas Consulting Group, a pro bono consulting organization at the University. In an email to The Daily, Bharat shared the organization’s plans for hybrid recruitment this winter.
“In an ideal situation, we would have conducted our events completely in person because it is truly the best way to meet people and develop connections,” Bharat wrote. “However, with the spread of the Omicron variant, I did not want any applicant to be at a disadvantage if they were uncomfortable coming to in-person events or had COVID-19 concerns … we are conducting both in-person events and providing an option on Zoom for these applicants.”
Bharat also provided information on the safety measures Atlas is taking to ensure a safe environment for in-person recruitment events.
“We constantly reiterate and encourage staying at home if someone is feeling unwell or had a COVID-19 exposure,” Bharat wrote. “As for within the meeting rooms themselves, we are advising against greetings that involve close contact (such as handshakes!) and spreading members of the organization around the rooms to prevent the gathering of large groups in a small area. Of course, in accordance with university policy, masks are always enforced!”
Daily Staff Reporter Carlin Pendell can be reached at email@example.com.