Formal Recruitment and the Decline of Greek Life

By Diana Medina and Carlos Flores

Formal recruitment can be an exciting time for those hoping to join a Greek organization. For many, it’s an opportunity to capture a glimpse of Greek life at its best and find one’s home on campus. It has been called into question, however, if all the song and dance unique to Panhellenic organizations is beneficial to the promotion of Greek life, or even necessary.

A glance at the preparations needed for Panhellenic’s formal recruitment reveals how wearisome it can be. Some members report spending up to three weeks in constant preparation for formal recruitment, memorizing songs, running through choreographed entrances and exits, and learning the art of subtly persuasive conversation. “I felt so fake and the training made me feel not genuine,” says one sister, who wished to remain anonymous. “[It seems to be] about winning people over.”

Other complaints about the regulations Panhellenic places on sororities, such as those on room decorations and carefully coordinated clothing, have also surfaced. “I could barely afford to buy the outfits,” says an anonymous sister.

Alpha Phi alumnae Jaquie Santoni ‘18 remembers much of this reputation from her time in formal recruitment, and notes that taking some of the song and dance of Panhellenic away was a welcome change. “Currently, as I understand it, houses aren’t allowed to do nearly as much ‘frill’ as we did back when I was going through recruitment and when I was a part of recruitment,” says Santoni, “I am very supportive for this idea because the parts of recruitment that should draw someone in are bonds, similarities, comfort, feeling like you can call those people your second home.”

Comparatively, recruitment for Greek fraternities are casual affairs. Events include barbeques, car bashes, or arcade nights, with nowhere near the amount of preparation needed for the events of their Panhellenic counterparts, with the closest thing to a mandated wardrobe being chapter-specific rush t-shirts.

“For me, the more casual way that fraternities do recruitment eliminates the stressfulness of recruitment. I like how it’s done, laid back events with plenty of time to get to know people make for an experience to look forward to rather than dread,” says Beta Theta Pi member Marc Ney, ‘20. “However, since there are usually 5 events, potential new members wouldn’t be able to look at every fraternity because they don’t have the time for it, especially since most events are on weekdays.”

It could be that Panhellenic’s stiff ritual approach to recruitment reaps results well worth the inconveniences placed on sororities. But with sign-ups for formal recruitment reaching a low of 54, it’s more likely that this reputation for being fake has begun to have some detrimental effects.  “While recruitment numbers were high, so was the number of those that dropped after recruitment,” remembers Santoni, “When all the ‘frill’ and fake was was taken away, the house needed to stand on its own.”

Others believe the fault may be elsewhere, as Delta Gamma member Julia Camera ‘20 says that, “Not having the school support Greek life as well as the difficulty of reaching out to girls is what leads to low numbers. Often, women know if they want to be Greek or not, so it can be hard to create interest.” Bad reputations for Greek life can also come from outside of Pacific’s campus, where Greek presence may be larger and potentially much more harmful. “Additionally, large schools’ chapters often create a negative buzz about the Greek community because of hazing,” Camera explained, “This turns people away from the thought of Greek life. If we were able to make a better name for ourselves and advertise, I think numbers could greatly increase.”

The Inter Fraternity Council and its more casual approach to recruitment has not fared much better than their Panhellenic counterparts. Their sign-ups totaled at 65, with both IFC and Panhellenic having nearly identical numbers of men and women accepting bids to join one of Pacific’s social greek organizations.

Ney believes the reason for the lower recruitment numbers lies not solely in the reputation garnered for recruitment, but for a lack of promotion on the part of the university. “I think a reason for low numbers is poor marketing strategies paired with the university’s lack of support for Greek life,” explains Ney, “It’s hard to get the word out to everyone, but if more people knew about when and where recruitment events are, numbers wouldn’t be nearly as low.”

The answer to waning recruitment numbers could also lie in how Greek organizations promote themselves. “The numbers for recruitment when I was active also rang true with high morale in Greek life as a whole. While I am unsure how the morale is now, as I walk my dog through campus, I don’t see a lot of social Greek life walking around proudly in letters like I remember when I was taking classes,” says Santoni, “And understanding that wearing letters is a privilege, an honor, and a respectable pride could start up a conversation about your chapters values, your philanthropy or cause, your sisterhood or brotherhood, anything.”

Despite the differences in processes between men’s and women’s Greek recruitment processes, fewer and fewer students at Pacific are choosing to go Greek. Numbers are waning, and perhaps the traditional ways of promoting Greek life on campus are no longer working. Rather than presenting your letters with the smoke and mirrors of formal recruitment, or presenting them through informal recruitment events alone, the strength and value in Greek life could lie within the values and purposes that define them in the first place. As Santoni explains, “Understanding that wearing letters is a privilege, an honor, and a respectable pride could start up a conversation about your chapters values, your philanthropy or cause, your sisterhood or brotherhood, anything.”

It does not take much to start up these conversations. It does not have to be within the walls of a Greek house or within the typical scope of Greek life itself. But having more genuine conversations as to what it truly means to be Greek could be the difference between a resurgence of Greek numbers in the past or their continued decline.

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Jo Ann Kirby

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