Sorority and fraternity recruitment: What’s the difference?
Recruitment of new members is the lifeblood of fraternity and sorority life at the University of San Diego. While sorority formal recruitment is highly regulated by Panhellenic, the governing body of all sorority chapters on campus, some fraternities have gone surfing at Wave House, hosted beach barbecues, and even smashed an old car on campus to get to know potential new members (PNMs).
The image of USD sorority sisters gathered in a parking lot beating an old car is far from the reality of formal sorority recruitment. There are a number of differences between the recruitment processes for fraternities and sororities within their chapters. There are discrepancies between the severity of their rules, where and what types of events can be held, and possible fines—or lack thereof—for violating rules during recruitment. The differences between the two are almost polar, so the question remains: why there is such a huge discrepancy between the sorority and fraternity recruitment processes?
Sorority and fraternity recruitment process
Emily McCue went through recruitment as a freshman and has recruited for her chapter twice. McCue now sits on the Panhellenic Council as Vice President of Recruitment Operations. She is in charge of planning formal recruitment and working with the recruitment chairs from each sorority.
According to McCue, the sorority recruitment process has several steps. Each chapter elects a member as its chairwoman, the woman who will represent her chapter from springtime until fall while they plan recruitment. PNMs register for recruitment during the fall semester. During this time, Panhellenic hosts several Sorority Recruitment Informationals where students are free to browse each chapter to get to know them.
The week before spring classes resume, active sorority members return to campus for Polish/Camp week. During this week, ladies practice songs and chants, learn how to have value- and character-based conversations with PNMs, and participate in sisterhood bonding activities. Once formal recruitment starts there are four days of recruitment.
In comparison, Josh Kracoff, Vice President of Programming for Interfraternity Council (IFC), described that the fraternity recruitment process works very differently.
“The great thing about fraternity recruitment is that the process is fairly laid back, and the conversations are pretty relaxed and genuine,” Kracoff said.
Men’s recruitment usually begins on a Sunday where PNMs are allowed to casually approach the fraternities they are interested in and talk to active members at scheduled, on campus events. The following days are designated for individual chapter rush events for each fraternity, typically with three events throughout the week. The final few days are dedicated to “Preference Events,” where chapters invite PNMs of their choice to more formal events. Fraternities then vote on the PNMs that they would like to keep and give bids to. Traditionally, the following Tuesday is “Bid Day,” where PNMs receive their bid card which lets them know which chapters have extended bids to them.
Kracoff explained the significance of fraternity “Bid Day.”
“The PNM will sign off on the bid card of the fraternity that he wishes to join, and [he] runs into the arms of the fraternity members that he has chosen and officially becomes a member of that fraternity,” Kracoff said.
Rules and fines
At the end of each sorority recruitment cycle, the Panhellenic Vice President of Membership meets with each chapter to discuss how the process went. During these meetings, they review the rules used for the last recruitment and revise and vote on any additional rules that may be needed.
“There are 16 sections in the Panhellenic Recruitment Rules, as well as an appendix,” McCue said. “These rules are constructed to maintain a fair and values-based recruitment. The most common punishment for not following rules comes as a fine. There are fines for many different violations of the stated rules. There are also punishments that can be assigned from within the chapter. These are typically fines for being late or missing recruitment events.”
The most common fine is the “social media post violation,” a $25 fee that occurs when women do not deactivate their Facebook accounts during recruitment week and are seen having an active account. Each chapter can also be fined up to $100 a day if their recruitment budgets are not turned in on time or if recruitment events run late or are missed. Chapters may also be fined if PNMs leave recruitment rooms with any object or item, including water cups.
“PNMs are offered water during events, but no food,” McCue said.
Sorority recruitment is also a mandated dry period. This means that any active sorority member documented using any type of alcohol or drug will be fined. There can also be fines for checking out late for the day from the chapter’s assigned recruitment room or leaving the room dirty. These are general rules for sorority chapters during the recruitment process only.
McCue explained that if there is a serious rule violation, an infraction is documented and representatives from that individual chapter are called to a meeting.
“Representatives from the chapter are required to attend a standards board hearing to discuss repercussions for their actions,” McCue said.
Rules for fraternities work a little differently. Kracoff said that there are only a few rules to follow for chapter members during recruitment.
“A few general rules to follow are to not talk negatively about another fraternity and to not hang out with any of the PNMs outside of the individual events,” Kracoff said. “This is known as ‘dirty rushing.’”
Kracoff explained that he was not aware of any consequences for rule violations during fraternity recruitment.
“[I’m] not sure,” Kracoff said. “Nothing I’ve experienced so far has resulted in a fine.”
However, in the case of “dirty rushing,” Kracoff shared that, if a chapter is caught using such tactics, the fraternity will probably be disqualified from receiving any new members for that semester.
In regards to sorority recruitment events, McCue described the usual sorority event as structured and conversation-based.
“Typically, an event just consists of conversation, but we have had chapters do some sort of activity on Philanthropy day,” McCue said.
All sorority recruitment events must be hosted on USD’s campus and they are all conversation-based. Sorority women speak to PNMs about different aspects of their chapter on each day. Conversation topics include personal values, chapter’s philanthropy events, sisterhood events, and are meant to cover meaningful subjects. Some chapters have PNMs pin ribbons of solidarity onto decor or sign their name on a card in support of the chapter’s philanthropy. Any interaction between PNMs and active sorority members is strictly prohibited outside official events.
McCue explained why sorority recruitment events are so highly structured.
“The process is called Spring Formal Sorority Recruitment, so it is a formal process,” McCue said. “The experience is very tightly scheduled and organized to a tee. The reasoning for this is to ensure a fair experience for all chapters who are recruiting and to give the PNMs the most unbiased and positive experience possible.”
For fraternities, however, there are a wide variety of recruitment events available for each chapter to plan, both on and off campus. During his recruitment, Kracoff said that the fraternities planned beach barbecues, trips to the driving ranges, batting cages, and played basketball at the Sports Center. The only stipulation for these events is approval by higher-ups.
“Each event must be first cleared by administration, so obviously nothing that puts any of the participants at serious risk [can be planned],” Kracoff said.
Kracoff admitted that fraternity recruitment is much less formal than sorority recruitment.
“Overall, the fraternity recruitment process is pretty informal compared to sorority recruitment, but the Vice President of Recruitment for IFC works tirelessly to ensure that the entire process runs smoothly,” Kracoff said. “Overall, the guys who come out to rush are just looking to have great conversations and meet new people.”
Actives weigh in
Junior transfer student Elizabeth Rivette, an active sorority member, commented on her experience recruiting for her sorority. Though Rivette joined a sorority at the first university she attended, she transferred to USD’s chapter when she changed schools.
Rivette commented on the similarity of recruitment events within sorority recruitment.
“As for recruitment, each day is the same for each sorority,” Rivette said. “The days are fairly uniform from one sorority to another, with the difference being the individual values, philanthropy, and sisterhood.”
Rivette also mentioned that sorority members must be extremely careful to make sure that PNMs do not feel that they are being “bid promised” during events. This means the active member must not allude to the PNM that she will receive a bid.
“As I understand it, the repercussions [for bid promising] may depend on the sorority,” Rivette said. “Generally, it involves being called into standards and then having a discussion to explain your side of the situation.”
Overall, Rivette acknowledged that recruiting for a sorority is difficult, but she said the outcome is rewarding. Though receiving new members is exciting, Rivette also stated that sororities are aware of the discrepancy between men’s and women’s recruitments.
“It’s hard for both parties, but it’s entirely worth it,” Rivette said. “The difficult moments are understandable for any process that’s worth it. It’s not about the process anyway; it’s about the destination. I think it’s pretty clear that the sororities have a more structured formal recruitment process.”
Senior Ian Lituchy, active member of Beta Theta Pi, discussed his recruitment experience as a PNM. In the spring of 2014, he attended events hosted on the Mission Field at the Sports Center.
“I attended a rush event at the Wave House which was really cool,” Lituchy said. “On Friday, all the fraternities do beach barbecues which was definitely my favorite.”
Lituchy noted that fraternity recruitment is an informal process.
“I definitely think it was an informal experience, in relativity to sorority rush and fraternity rush at most universities,” Lituchy said. “I guess if I went back, I wouldn’t necessarily try to make it more fun, but maybe a bit more formal. It’s confusing as a freshman just exactly what events you need to attend.”
Written by: Cynthia Yantz, Contributor