Fraternity, sorority recruitment styles vary

Greek life at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln attracts many students each year through primary recruitment. Recruitment, or “rush,” is a process that allows students to learn more about individual chapters for both fraternities and sororities.

Although the process for sororities and fraternities is different, they both allow potential members to eventually find a chapter. Primary recruitment for fraternities at UNL occurs during the summer. Fraternities invite incoming freshmen to events and dinners as they encourage students to join their chapters.

Fraternity rushing

The process begins by contacting incoming students and others who have expressed interest in Greek life. Chapters at UNL gather students’ names through referrals and through ChapterBuilder, a program that allows students to submit an application form for specific houses.

Some chapters, like Beta Theta Pi, spend time looking through the applications, while others rely more heavily on referrals. According to Beta Theta Pi’s former recruitment chair, Tanner Haas, the chapter looks at every application it receives.

“It’s worth the time,” he said. “We found a few guys on there that are in the house now that weren’t recommended. This guy seems like he’s very well put together, he’d fit in well, let’s take him out and meet him more.”

Justin Henry, former recruitment chair for Alpha Gamma Sigma, said he was “picky” while looking through applications and relied more heavily on referrals.

“If somebody in the house or alumni gives me a name, I can most likely trust that,” he said. “I’m good friends with everyone in the house and the alumni, I know I can trust their judgment of character and most of the time, that potential member, if he’s friends with a guy in the house, I’m going to be friends with him also.”

Recruitment chairs often look through applications and look for qualities that match the values of the house. For instance, Blake Coen, vice president of recruitment for Sigma Phi Epsilon, said he looks for men that well-rounded and in accordance with the fraternity’s values.

Additionally, the chapter pays attention to legacies, or men who are related to current members or alumni of the chapter.

“Legacies are a big deal in the Greek system,” Coen said. “We take that into account heavily for us because we know if the dad was in SigEp, the kid probably portrays a lot of the characteristics that the SigEps want because that was probably the way he was raised by his dad.”

Haas said Beta Theta Pi looks for men who are passionate. While looking through applications, he looked for signs of hard work such as leadership positions or awards. Additionally, he paid attention to potential members’ involvements and GPA.

“For us, we’re looking for guys who are interested in becoming better in what they did, and we really wanted guys that when we brought them into college, into a fraternity, that they would find what they’re passionate about in college and they would look to pursue those passions and make them greater,” Haas said.

“Legacies are a big deal in the Greek system."

- Blake Coen, vice president of recruitment for Sigma Phi Epsilon

Chapters then invite men to dinners and events in order to learn more about individuals. With the events, members from the chapter will meet with multiple applicants, but with dinners, they will meet with just one potential member.

“I always thought it was kind of weird because they’re trying to impress you because they want to find good people, but also you’re trying to impress them because you obviously have to be accepted into it,” freshman biochemistry major Drew Harrahill, a member of Pi Kappa Alpha said. “It wasn’t awkward; it’s just kind of how it is… I just tried to be as genuine as possible.”

According to Austin Hoffman, former recruitment chair for Pi Kappa Alpha, events are less formal. For example, Pi Kappa Alpha invited potential members to a College World Series baseball game and also hosted events at chapter members’ houses.

“Recruitment is basically just making friends,” Hoffman said. “Although we do promote all of the positive things we do on campus, GPA, involvement, things like that, you’re not going to join a fraternity just for that. Joining a fraternity is more like you have a group of guys who you feel comfortable around and can have a good time with.”

Students will receive a bid at different points in the summer. According to Hoffman, Pi Kappa Alpha recruits members whom he knows will represent the chapter.

“My main goal was recruiting someone who [could] benefit us in some way,” he said. “Your goal is to recruit a pledge class that you yourself couldn’t get into. You want really high-standard guys that are really cool.”

Oftentimes, fraternities’ recruitment chairs take the opinions of fellow members into consideration while offering bids. “A big factor with anybody going through recruitment is that you feel at home,” Haas said. “We take our chapter’s opinions into great accordance into what we’re doing with bid cards and stuff like that. It’s really clear when a kid comes in and he’s just vibing really well with everybody in the house.”

For Sigma Phi Epsilon member Ben Johnson, applicants usually accept a bid if they feel welcome to the chapter. Johnson, a freshman computer science major, said he appreciated how the chapter helped its members become well-rounded men and also saw similarities between him and other members.

“I just loved it… I thought it was the perfect fit for me,” he said. “I am very happy with the decision.”

Fraternity recruitment is a more relaxed experience compared to sorority primary recruitment, according to Coen. He encourages all men to be genuine so they can find a chapter they like.

“[Chapters] want to recruit you for what you bring to the table, not from what you’re trying to portray,” Coen said. “Go out. Be yourself. Talk to as many people as you can. Talk to as many houses as you can… Don’t get too worried about it; just be yourself.”

Sorority recruitment

Chelsea Bryant of Phi Mu poses for a portrait outside her sorority house on March 11, 2018, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Sororities at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln participate in primary recruitment: a week-long event designed for potential members to meet women in sororities and ultimately join a chapter.

The recruitment process is value-based, meaning women are discouraged from conversing with fellow potential members about their perspective on a chapter. A chapter should be chosen based off the individual’s opinion, according to the Office of Fraternity and Sorority life.

The primary recruitment week occurs before the first week of the academic year. Each potential member follows a specific schedule in groups with other potential members led by recruitment guides. These recruitment guides are disaffiliated from their house for the week so they may serve as mentors and advisors to potential members throughout recruitment.

The first two days are designed for women to learn about all 16 chapters at UNL. After these two days, women complete an online questionnaire to set a preference for the houses they would like to visit the next day. This questionnaire is also filled out at the end of days three, four and five. Simultaneously, chapters invite specific women back at the end of each of these days so the chapter can learn more about the individual.

The third day is called philanthropy day, in which women learn about the chapter’s service to a specific organization.

On this day, women may be invited back to a maximum of 10 chapters. Women can be invited back to a maximum of six chapters on day four, or sisterhood day. On day five, or preference day, women visit a maximum of two chapters. The purpose of these two days is for women to learn more about life within the chapter.

Throughout this time period, potential members have conversations with members of the sororities. According to former Gamma Phi Beta membership chair Frannie Calkins, the sorority would ask generic questions during the first two days of recruitment and then ask more substantial questions as the week progressed.

“We just want to make the decision as easy as possible, and we encourage girls to find a place where they feel comfortable as the week goes on,” she said.

Sororities are given a limit to the amount of potential members they are allowed to invite back to the house after each round, according to Linda Schwartzkopf, director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life.

The National Panhellenic Conference has a protocol for recruitment week that UNL must follow. These rules determine the maximum amount of women a chapter can recruit and how the week is organized. A Release Figure Methodology specialist from NPC works with UNL to determine the invitation numbers every day for each chapter.

This number is based on the amount of women in the applicant pool and the sorority’s recruitment strength, or the likelihood women will accept their invitation to join based off of data over a five-year time period. If a house has a higher likelihood of women accepting their invitation, the chapter will be given a lower amount of invitations. This is done so each sorority accepts the same amount of members into their chapter.

“The purpose of having different invitation numbers [for each chapter] is having chapters get to [the quota] and also helping potential members be more realistic,” Schwartzkopf said.

Sorority women ask potential members to exhibit values of the sorority. Calkins said members think about whether the potential member would get along with other girls in the house.

“The way that Gamma Phi views it is that we have four core values and if the PNM [Potential New Member] meets those four core values and we can pick those values out of the conversation, she would be higher on our list than someone who does not meet those values,” she said.

Initially, Phi Mu member Chelsea Bryant, a freshman animal science major, was nervous while visiting each chapter, but she eventually became used to the process of touring the chapters. She said she had difficulty talking about herself so much and became exhausted as she was visiting chapters.

“I was getting tired as I went on, so it was hard to keep up my peppy representation of myself,” Bryant said. “So, that was also hard, trying to not make yourself look less like yourself [and] present the best representation of yourself.”

Some women, such as Gamma Phi Beta member Brooke Schmidt, a freshman pre-health major, enjoyed this process, and thought it was fun.

“I know for some people, it was a little stressful because it moved pretty quickly and [we made] big decisions, but I really really liked it,” she said. “One of the things I valued the most about recruitment was you just had to be brutally honest with yourself in order to get into the house that best fit you.”

Additionally, Kappa Delta member Vanessa Woosley, a freshman pre-health major, liked recruitment week and thought it was set up efficiently. The week was stressful in the beginning, she said, and the people recruiting her, as well as herself, weren't acting genuinely.

However, Woosley said she was pleased with how recruitment went because it allowed her to end up in her chapter.

“It was really fake the first day, but that’s just because you’re really nervous and you’re trying to be the perfect girl the first day,” she said. “As the week goes on, you mesh with people you meet and it becomes more relaxed.”

However, freshman psychology major Sydney Blumel did not appreciate the way recruitment was organized. She participated in recruitment week and did not receive an invitation to join a sorority.

Blumel said she thought the limited amount of time and the amount of people in a chapter made the week difficult.

“It kind of makes every girl going through recruitment fit into that same mold of where you have to just jump in and be like, ‘This is who I am, this is what I like, this is what I do’ and just start talking when sometimes people are slower to get into a conversation like that,” she said. “I wasn’t trying to not be myself; I just had to force myself to have a conversation like that.”

At the end of the week, potential members choose a chapter and sororities create a list of women to offer an invitation. On bid day, women are given a bid card to join a chapter and celebrate this invitation with other members in the sorority.

New members, such as Woosley, were happy with the outcome of the week. She said she has no regrets from the experience.

“[On day five,] I was bawling when I had to leave,” Woosley said. “It sounds really weird, but I was like, ‘Kappa Delta is my house.’ When I opened my card on bid day, it was just like overwhelming joy, I was so happy, I got to go see my girls. It was the best decision I ever made. I love it.”