Pledge Prep Response…

In response to the article Pledge Prep.

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Do the problems addressed in this article exist? Yes. Do we need people like Rushbiddies and poorly done pieces in the NYTimes further perpetuating the problems? No. I’m not blind to what sorority recruitment is like for women. I’ve seen the horror stories  firsthand. It isn’t always pretty BUT we need people to transform the culture of sorority recruitment and not “train” or “coach” women to play into the sometimes detrimental culture of this mutual selection process. Let me take that back– we don’t need “people “to create that change. We need to create that change!

What is described in Moore’s article is a piece of the truth. However,  her generalization of sorority recruitment is just that, a generalization. Indiana does not use NPC’s Release Figure methodology which leads them to have large numbers of women who are left unmatched during the formal recruitment process whereas for a campus that does subscribe to this method the whole goal is to match the most women possible to sororities. Some institutions also have  an upperclass quota which gives sophomores and juniors a better chance at being accepted into a sorority. Women become members during the continuous open bidding process and adding new chapters creates more opportunities for our women to join.

Letters of recommendation are not required at many schools but instead, if the inter/national organization requires these letters, it is up to the chapter to obtain these letters for the potential new members. They do this by contacting their local alumnae chapter to pitch in with this effort. The  National Panhellenic Conference does not require these letters. I’ve actually seen these letters hurt women depending on the campus climate. Letters of recommendation are quite classist and leave many first –generation college students in a bad position because they and their families might not have the social capital that would give them access to sorority alumnae. I am a first generation, African American, college student from a low socioeconomic status. To my knowledge I didn’t know a single person who is a member of an NPC sorority/women’s fraternity.  This could be the same for international students who are often completely unaware of the concept of Greek Life. On top of that, I didn’t know what Saks Fifth Avenue was when I was 18 and Lilly Pulitzer could have been someone who lived on the next block for all I knew. There are many women coming to college who are in a similar position and people are realizing that by requiring these letters they could be harming the diversity of their membership. We are doing a great service to the sorority experience by not engaging in tactics that could hinder the diversity of our chapters. Our campuses are steadily becoming more diverse and access is crucial to sustain the existence and the relevance of the sorority community.  Are sororities the most accessible extra curricular option on a college campus? Absolutely not. As long as the prices of membership continue to be in the thousands problems of access will never be easily solved but with limited scholarship help, payment plans, and jobs women are choosing to find ways to cover membership costs.

Potential new members are strongly encouraged to go into recruitment with an open mind. Everyone will not be able to get their first choice. Some women will drop out of the process for a variety of reasons and some women will not get bids. For those women who go into the process willing to maximize their options they have a large chance of securing a bid on Bid Day. For those that come into the process with tunnel vision and only want the “most popular” chapters she might not achieve what she has deemed as success. Because of this, perspectives on chapters are greatly shaped by the results of each day’s membership selection. A woman who never thought she’d be an XYZ finds that by the time she gets to Round 4 all she has left is XYZ. She has a large decision to make at the time; do I pursue XYZ or drop out of the process? The vast majority will continue on with XYZ. For the majority of the women I’ve seen during the five formal recruitments I have played a role in during my graduate school and professional years —it more often than not works out in the end.

The fact that these women are getting paid to “coach” these women adds a befuddling dynamic. The stuff they are teaching is quite basic and things that many students, without coaching, come to college with a basic understanding. If not, where are the parents in the socialization process of their children? I never had an $8,000.00 coach but I know not to center conversations with people I’ve just met on politics and religion.  I also know to present myself at a nice event.

Recruitment is emotional for everyone involved. This is why we have a counseling center, Gamma Chis, Greek Life Staff members, friends, and family members. There isn’t any need to pay someone to be your daughter’s “on-call recruitment consultant”. For most of these women that person is their mom, their roommate, a sibling, the Panhellenic advisor, or their friend who is going through the same experience but it is certainly not a paid stranger.

Yes, recruitment can be incredibly superficial. Part of this comes from the format of formal recruitment. Try inviting a group of 60 women over to your home  to get to know you and 130 of your closest friends. What do you think that will look and sound like? Oh, by the way you have to accomplish this goal in 35 minutes and once they leave make decisions about whether you’d want to invite them back to tomorrow’s scheduled party always with the thought in the back your head, “Do I want this person to be my sister?” So, yes there are flaws in the process and it doesn’t allow the students to explore each other in depth the way that might be needed in sorority land. Values based recruitment is making its way into our chapters but we have a long way to go.

Being in a sorority is about becoming a better version of yourself and not a totally new person. The goal is to find a group that has values that resonate with you. Can you live a congruent life while being a member of this organization? If the answer is yes, then they should be a part of your selections but if the answer is no, then it is okay to not pursue membership in that group.

There are some positives in this article:

  • PNM will need to fill out a registration form that will ask them to list leadership positions, campus/high school involvement, community service, and GPA. This does come into play when chapters are selecting members. This isn’t a bad thing as these are organizations that value leadership, academic excellence, service, and involvement. Yes, PNM will also be asked for their photo. This is mainly because each chapter sees, on our campus, around 600 in the course of one day and they need to be able to tell the Katie they met in Event 1 from the Katie they met in Event 3. Imagine seeing 600 people in one day and having to sit down at the end of the day and tell them apart. Eek!
  • Sororities are an incredible social network that you are a part of for a lifetime and they are an extension of community service and leadership development began in high school.
  • Sorority membership is growing which is fantastic. However, we need to weary of the growth and the reasons behind it. Why do women want to become members of sororities in increasing numbers? Is it because of the valued reasons of membership or the Lilly Pulitzer prints, cooler painting, and idyllic southern lifestyle that are strongly promoted in social media? On every campus there are groups that are highly sought after but once gain I urge you to inquire as to why this is the case. Is it because they have high academic standards or because they hang out with the most handsome fraternity men?
  • Women can be “released”, as we no longer say “cut”, from recruitment because of grades. We have a minimum standard of 2.5 but chapters may have higher standards. Women should strive for the best grades possible. They are students first.
  • Yes, we give the women a dress code but we do not bring in Saks Fifth Avenue to hold a fashion show. Our women vetoed bringing in Rent the Runway because they felt it sent a message that women had to go out and purchase a brand new labeled wardrobe for recruitment when that is not the case. Dress codes are common as women navigate the world but looking professional and polished  or chic and cute does not have a price tag. I manage to do it on a Target budget and these women can too. Some schools are creating the same t-shirt that each PNM wears during certain rounds of the process in order to take off the pressure of finding the right outfit.
  • Receiving help with putting your best foot forward and the proper ways to network is helpful.  However, this article makes it sound incredibly elitist and based on name brands as opposed to getting to know the person behind the overly expensive dress and shoes. Coach them to help them figure out what they value and to articulate all they have to offer. I can get behind that movement. Also, let’s make these services more accessible.

An article like this, as opposed to positively promoting the sorority experience, is actually having the adverse effect. Responses from many non-Greeks have included them feeling even more affirmed in their decision to not go Greek in college. I am sure that many potential new members are now scared out of their minds to pursue membership, and sadly there are probably some daughter’s begging their parents or using their summer earnings to fork over $100-$8,000.00 to hire a “coach” for recruitment. From my colleagues in Greek Life, I have seen mostly negative feedback. Many sorority women I know are embarrassed after reading the article and are finding it difficult to defend.

We want the world to take sororities seriously as women’s leadership, social, service, and scholarship organizations. Charging women an obnoxious amount of money to tell them to wear strappy black sandals isn’t helping our cause. We have to do better and instead of dressing these women up to fit on some southern sorority Pinterest board let’s focus on helping them become comfortable with who they already are and putting their best foot forward whether that is in an Ugg Boot, a Jack Roger’s Sandal, or the newest Payless BOGO deal. Let’s empower them to be strong and motivated women leaders with a positive body image and high level of self efficacy instead of making them nervous that someone might know their dress is from Target or last season. Instead of telling our women to lose 10lbs. let’s make sure they are engaging in healthy habits and love themselves regardless of their weight.

Once again, sorority recruitment needs work on many levels. We have made formal recruitment into the superficial mess that it has become. Values-based recruitment is happening slowly but surely. NPC’s Unanimous Agreements concerning membership recruitment have been helping to change communities. There is so much work to do and there are great people out there doing that work BUT companies like RushBiddies and articles that showcase their usage continue to push us into the wrong direction. I have no doubt that these women have good intentions and have great belief and passion in the power of sorority but somehow this has been mangled into an article which, like way to many other articles, puts sororities in a bad light. True, the sororities have to stop providing the fodder for the media. I love to work with professionals and students who want to create positive change in the sorority recruitment process and luckily, I get to do so everyday. Recruitment has, in many cases, become about the value of your clothing and not the value of your character. How do we get Greek back to good if we can’t recruit with the best part of who we are as sorority women? We don’t like this article so we have to do something about it. Time to get back to work.

Check out this video.

 

*These are my personal views and do not serve to represent the institution at which I work. Just an exercise in reflecting by writing.

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