Debunking the differences: fraternity vs. sorority recruitment

Recruitment? Rush? Think it’s all the same? Think twice. At the University of San Diego, recruitment and rush are processes of mutual selection for Greek life membership. In these processes, potential new members (PNMs) determine which chapter they fit into best, and the chapters decide which PNMs would fit best as a member. Despite the same goal, there are large discrepancies between the two when recruiting new members for their chapters.

The most noticeable difference between the two, at first glance, is the names. While both fraternity rush and sorority recruitment mean the same thing, sororities seem to have changed the rhetoric to reflect a more respectful process. Often times, the term “rush,” and referring to new members as “pledges,” is negatively associated with hazing.

One of the major points of contention among sororities and fraternities at USD is the time frame. Two weeks before classes resume for the spring semester, female students involved in Greek life are required to return to campus for sorority recruitment. One week is spent preparing for recruitment events, while the second week is spent actively recruiting. These days are long, and women face penalties for missing them, including fines and privileges being taken away.

Male students, on the other hand, wait until school is in session to go through fraternity rush.

Some sorority members explained that they think that it is unfair to have to cut their breaks short, while fraternity members are able to continue to enjoy their time away from school.

Senior Ashley Joshi mentioned that coming back early from break is certainly bothersome. However, she added it does give the girls more time to get to know PNMs and form more authentic relationships.

“I honestly don’t think it’s very fair that girls in a sorority need to come back two weeks before classes start in order to participate in recruitment when guys are able to balance their recruitment events during the semester,” Joshi said. “It makes me curious how they are able to develop the same relationships you find in a sorority, and how the guys are able to create a brotherhood with such little time.”

Panhellenic Vice President of Membership Emily McCue explained that sororities choose to operate recruitment during winter break to allow the women to devote all their focus to the process.

“To me, the main reason for the sorority women coming back two weeks early is convenience,” McCue said. “In the last four years alone, formal sorority recruitment at USD has attracted over 350 PNMs which is significantly larger than the typical 200 men who participate in spring fraternity recruitment. There are also more active sorority women on campus than fraternity men. It is easier to coordinate such a large group if the Panhellenic recruitment team knows that they are all in the same places at the same time.”

Sorority recruitment is often times a stressful, highly-regulated process for both PNMs and sorority members. Recruitment lasts for five days, with each day focusing on some aspect of sorority life, for instance sisterhood. PNMs visit several different chapters each day until they are left with their final choice.

Junior Meagan Wilkinson mentioned that, although many women try to remain positive, the process is physically and mentally draining.

“Recruitment is a pretty exhausting week due to the long hours of straight conversation,” Wilkinson said. “Many members try to keep a positive attitude, but it can also be stressful contemplating whether you are doing your best in each conversation, even the ones at the end of the day. It can be a bit of an emotional roller coaster because you never know what kind of conversation you might step into when you are learning about each other’s values.”

To add to this stress during the recruitment process, both sororities and PNMs must adhere to a set of guidelines administered by Panhellenic.

Examples of these rules include guidelines about the conversations members hold with PNMs, mandating that active members deactivate their social media accounts, and rules about the color of nail polish girls are allowed to wear during the recruitment week. If these rules aren’t followed, members receive fines.

Chapters force the offending member to pay them out of pocket. These fines are on top of the hundreds of dollars of dues chapters pay per semester.

Another seemingly unfair rule comes at the very end of the process. On the last day of recruitment, women must narrow it down to one top choice and hope that they receive a bid to join that chapter. Alternatively, men can receive multiple bids and choose which chapter they want to join after seeing and weighing all their options.

In a process that starkly contrasts that of sorority recruitment, a typical fraternity rush consists of casual preliminary events to introduce the PNMs to Greek life. Rush week starts with events open to all, and it isn’t until the last night, preference night, that men have to be invited back to a chapter. Sorority women, however, must be invited back each day to attend events.

Junior James Douglas, who recently rushed a fraternity, noted that the events during rush were generally fun.

“Rush was filled with new faces and people to meet,” Douglas said. “It’s a lot of names to remember, a lot of man-flirting. I think the rules that we had to follow were just to go to all of the events and to the informational. I didn’t even know that the sorority recruitment was so much more formal than fraternity rush. At the rush events, though, we just hung out and talked to all the active boys. One night, we went to a driving range, another, we hung at the beach and played Spikeball. [Rush is] really just socializing, getting to know the boys who are already in the chapter.”

Sophomore CJ Garza agreed that rush week is a light-hearted and entertaining process. Garza pointed out the stark contrast between sorority recruitment and fraternity rush.

“I wouldn’t hesitate to rush a fraternity because it seems a lot more fun,” Garza said “Sorority recruitment seems like a lot of work [because] it is really formal and professional. That’s just not a good environment to recruit in. When you have it so formal, you have people putting on a face, trying to sell themselves into a sorority, and you don’t get to see who they really are. That is why we do more casual events, like the car bash, so that PNMs can see we are also a bunch of degenerates, so they can relate.”

The Interfraternity Council (IFC) establishes a few guidelines to be followed by each fraternity during rush. Garza noted that most of the rules surrounding fraternity rush are understandable.

“The rules for rush are pretty black and white, [with] the biggest being no alcohol present at a rush event,” Garza said.

The lack of stricter guidelines for fraternities is a source of frustration for sorority women, one of whom served as Recruitment Chair for her chapter and prefers to remain anonymous for fear of repercussion from her chapter or panhellenic, noted.

“Fraternity recruitment is not regulated whatsoever,” the woman said. “They plan their events last-minute, don’t have IFC to monitor their every move, and hold whatever kind of events they want. Sorority recruitment has rules that need to be followed to the tee or else fines will result. When I planned recruitment, we spent four months creating [the] Panhellenic Recruitment Rules document, that was 16 pages long and full of restrictions. We also started planning our events in February for the following January. We held several preparation workshops, full of instructions on what we’re allowed to do, say, wear, and decorate with, and what we’re not.”

The USD Vista checked with other officers and executive members of sororities who confirmed this is the case.

These seem particularly unfair when you think about all the effort put in by the chapters to adhere by policies that fraternities are not subjected to. It begs the question of why the university allows men to get away with more than women.

Junior Nicole Barden said she thinks that this less regulated environment means that the fraternities can more authentically get to know their PNMs.

“I think sorority recruitment at USD is definitely less intense than a lot of universities, and I appreciate the shift Panhellenic made this year in regards to focusing on values,” Barden said. “However, this was the first year I was ‘on the other side’ for recruitment, and I was blown away by the amount of time and effort sororities have to go through to prepare. There is so much pressure to be flawless that it creates a stressful and tense environment.

Barden explained that the differences between rush and recruitment are polarizing.

“When I talk to my guy friends about their recruitment process, I can’t believe the informality of their events. I admire their laid-back approach and letting the introductions and conversation occur naturally.“

Because the women have to behave a certain way, PNMs might not be able to truly get a feel for how the chapters behave on a regular basis. This means women are choosing to join an organization that they will be in for four years based on five days of highly-regulated conversation, while fraternity men can get a glimpse into what being in the chapter would be like.

It is hard to see all the minute differences between sorority and fraternity recruitment, but the changes seem to be blatant enough for students to notice. That being said, Panhellenic and IFC are working to make several changes to ensure the processes are more fair.

One of these efforts is to change the rhetoric surrounding the process, so that everyone uses the word recruitment instead of rush. Both governing boards are also trying to move toward a more value-based recruitment, focusing on each PNM finding his or her best fit. While these changes seem to be a step in the right direction, until men and women are subjected to the same regulations during recruitment, the process can still be improved.

By Taryn Beaufort, Contributor