Spring fraternity and sorority life recruitment: bids, breakout rooms, and bonding

Alpha+Epsilon+Phi+executive+board+members+during+fall+2020+recruitment.

Photo: Courtesy Haley MacMillan

Alpha Epsilon Phi executive board members during fall 2020 recruitment.

By Frankie Rowley, Assistant News Editor

As Zoom hangouts and bids subside and anticipatory new members  take their places in their new fraternities and sororities, Fraternity and Sorority Life at Emerson has officially been brought back from the ashes amid a fully remote resurgence. 

Recruitment week serves as a way for fraternities and sororities to bring in new members, attracting students by holding social events. With COVID-19 restrictions and freezing-cold temperatures throwing off normal strategies, the student organizations have been forced to get creative to attract new members.

The spring saw a spike in the number of chapters who participated in recruitment, with eight of the nine chapters taking in a new class. In the fall, three chapters took in a new class, with many opting out due to COVID and trying to navigate the new norm for Fraternity and Sorority Life. 

Student Engagement and Leadership Program Coordinator Jenna Coviello attributed the jump to FSL organizations learning how to operate amid the pandemic. 

“In the fall, we had less chapters that were recruiting because a lot of them were just trying to get their wits about them,” Coviello said in an interview. “This semester was very different in the sense that we had more chapters that were recruiting and we also had more interest.”

Get This Week's News

All the big stories delivered to your inbox every Thursday morning 

Of the eight, seven participated in the college-wide recruitment week which spanned from Feb. 1 to Feb. 6. Sigma Alpha Epsilon extended their recruitment past the Feb. 6 deadline and will be recruiting until the end of this week.

Phi Alpha Tau did not take in any new classes this academic year following accusations of sexual misconduct within the organization. Since then, the fraternity has “engaged with on-campus resources for mandatory training, constitutional review, organization structural changes, and how to be accountable to past wrongdoing,” SEAL Director Jason Meier wrote in an email. 

Sigma Pi Theta fared well during their recruitment week. President Clarah Grossman said she was delighted to see many of those who showed up to Sigma Pi Theta’s fall semester “extended recruitment events” return for spring events. 

“It was really nice knowing that going into the semester, we already had like a good seven or eight people [that] we already knew we were going to continue getting to know,” Grossman said. “A lot of freshmen were a little hesitant, maybe, to join in the fall, and now that everyone’s kind of dipped their toes in it, a lot more people are finally stepping up and going out for these things, which we think is really cool.”

For sorority Kappa Gamma Chi, which took a semester off due to COVID and allegations of sexual misconduct involving Emerson alumn and member of Phi Alpha Tau Jackson Davis, spring recruitment was a chance to make the process as personable as possible. 

“Recruitment went super well,” President of Kappa Gamma Chi Lindsey Broder said. “Especially considering so many of the people that came out are either freshmen or transferred here, [and] meeting new friends is so difficult this year.” 

Broder said the Davis scandal prompted conversations about the way the sorority had handled similar incidents in the past. 

“We were all very alarmed and discouraged by the way that Kappa at the time had addressed the past scandals and was always referred to as a ‘Title IX thing’, and there was no real acknowledgement of the structural seriousness of the situation where Kappa and Tau enabled each other historically,” Broder said. 

To adapt to the online events, many chapters relied on catchy recruitment themes and inviting social media posts that promoted the theme and Zoom events that happened each day.  

Alpha Epsilon Phi President Haley MacMillan said breakout rooms helped ease initial tensions.  

“Our recruitment week was really successful,” MacMillan said. “Because it was online, you don’t get to actually meet anyone in real life, but it went, surprisingly, pretty well. We kind of learned that smaller groups do better in terms of making people feel comfortable to talk. We got a lot of really good feedback that people enjoyed themselves.”

Kappa Gamma Chi transformed into “Camp Kappa” for recruitment, publishing camp-themed posts to their Instagram and handing out “Camp Kappa field kits” with items stocked full of supplies for recruitment week events, such as s’mores-making and collage-making kits. Field kits were handed out by sisters in 172 Tremont, according to the Kappa Instagram, though some were handed out by sisters who lived in the same dorm buildings as new members, according to Broder. 

Broder said social media played a huge role in spreading the word about the events Kappa was putting on during recruitment week.

“The Instagram would post specific slides updating the public on who’s in what position, giving our Instagrams and, in some cases, our contact information [so] they can reach out,” Broder said.  “We really just tried to emphasize closeness through social media, constantly coming up in your feed and trying to have that exposure and constant communication.”

Some of the typical recruitment week events, such as sister speeding dating and informational sessions, were still a part of spring recruitment. However, some fraternities and sororities came up with more unconventional events to promote bonding between the active and prospective members. 

Alpha Epsilon Phi hosted a sketch writing night as a part of their SNL-themed recruitment week where participants were put into breakout rooms to create a group skit. 

“They all really enjoyed that one, and it was nice to see them contribute their ideas and stuff and feel comfortable on the Zoom,” MacMillan said. 

Sigma Pi Theta, which took on the energy of Donna and the Dynamos for their Mamma Mia!-themed recruitment week, hosted a movie night in place of their usual crafts night. 

“The biggest event that probably switched was our final event, our formal event night with Sigma,” Grossman said “Usually, it is held off-campus at a sister’s apartment—obviously, that did not happen. So instead, we had it all online… it didn’t change anything logistically, it just took away a lot of the in-person bonding moments.” 

Kappa Gamma Chi concentrated their recruitment week on teaching incoming new members Kappa’s history and reimagining the professional focus of the sorority while also hosting lighthearted events such as “kraft with Kappa”. 

“We had a lot of fun moments and a lot of moments [where] we tried to replicate the spark and fun of being in person,” Broder said.

Moving forward, FSL plans on addressing the oppressive foundations fraternities and sororities were created upon, said Coviello. The organizations aim to reflect on their own history and take responsibility for past mistakes. SEAL and FSL plan to hold meetings with chapters to discuss the implications of the discriminatory past of FSL and how they plan to make their chapters more inclusive for everyone. 

“A system is going to perpetuate how it was created and what it was created to do,” Coviello said. “We really have been working with our chapters to acknowledge those things and work through those things. And I’ve been really proud of all of our chapters because there’s a lot of awareness, movement and change that’s happening for our chapters to make them a more inclusive, and better, and a more inviting environment for everybody.”

Katie Redefer, the editor-in-chief of The Berkeley Beacon, did not edit this story because she is a member of Sigma Pi Theta.

Show your support for essential student journalism

News and the truth are under constant attack in our current moment, just when they are needed the most. The Beacon’s quality, fact-based accounting of historic events has never mattered more, and our editorial independence is of paramount importance. We believe journalism is a public good that should be available to all regardless of one’s ability to pay for it. But we can not continue to do this without you. Every little bit, whether big or small, helps fund our vital work — now and in the future.