Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878

Informal recruitment? It’s all Greek to me

This fall, you may have seen some of your friends sporting new shirts with Greek letters—shirts that they hadn’t worn last spring. Indeed, while spring rush for the Greek system is highly publicized, few people know about the smaller, more informal recruitment periods that occur during the fall.

Some fraternities and sororities hold a rush period during the fall. While 240 men and 250 women rushed last year during the formal recruitment period, about 75 chose fall rush this year.
For sororities, the fall process is sharply different from the elaborately planned spring recruitment, which is run through the National Panhellenic Council. “Informal is kind of the exact opposite,” said Lucy Morlan, coordinator for chapter development. “They don’t necessarily have to hold events.”

Each sorority has its own process and voting procedures for informal recruitment, she said. “If you want to hold an event—open it, broadcast it, advertise it—you can do that,” she said. “If you just want to approach two or three people that you already know, you can do that as well. There really is no structure to it.”

The process also differs for fraternities from formal recruitment, said Dave Wallace, coordinator for Greek housing programs.

“The formal process is display oriented. The fraternities will have events, show off their house, talk about their accomplishments, what they’re engaged in—a couple weeks of that,” he said. “Then they have closed events, which are more brother oriented: those people that the men have clicked with.”

“In informal, it’s basically that closed event without any of those open events. It’s more targeted, it’s more, ‘I have a friend; I think he would be very much interested in being a part,’” he added. “It is basically a time where you don’t have event after event after event, and it’s more dialogue driven than event driven.”

The makeup of the students and their reasons for pledging can also differ from those of spring recruitment. “Only women who have been in college for a semester can participate in recruitment, so fall informal recruitment is only available to sophomores and above,” said junior Melissa Bryan, vice president of recruiting.

“Transfer students, sophomores, juniors, seniors, all go through informal recruitment,” Wallace said.

“I believe people usually join that process later because of relationships they’ve built with members of that organization. And a lot of the time they’ve been asked,” he added.
Sororities see similar reasons, Morlan said.

The additional time allows some students to develop a more accurate perception of Greek organizations. “I would say that as juniors and seniors join, some of their early notions of fraternities and those organizations have been dispelled by some of the relationships they’ve built,” Wallace said. “Some people come to the University and say adamantly, ‘I will not join,’ and then some of their friends join and they realize that it’s really not this heinous media thing that has been created.”

They added that students who are unable to return early from winter break or whose schedules do not permit an intensive time commitment during the spring often choose fall rush.
“It all kind of depends per [person],” Wallace said. “There’s no cookie-cutter reasoning.”

The experience of the fall pledges is little different from that of spring pledges, Bryan said, although in that first semester the small size of the pledge class creates a more intimate experience than in the spring. Because of how they are structured, fraternities are able to make greater use of informal recruitment than sororities.

The National Panhellenic Council rules include placing a cap on membership to ensure a quality experience, Morlan said. “Historically because that number is set at 90, and our groups are already significantly above that mark, that’s why we haven’t done informal recruitment before,” she said. But the number was raised two years ago to 115 per sorority, giving some sororities with remaining spaces after formal recruitment the option to fill them in the fall.

“About half of our community was eligible to do it,” Morlan said, although not all chose to.

Twenty-six women pledged this fall—an increase from 15 last year. But Morlan attributed the rising number to the presence of a new sorority last spring: Alpha Omicron Pi (AOII). As a new sorority, AOII also engaged in informal recruitment last year, holding a rush period in the spring the week after the formal period.

Morlan anticipates that in the upcoming years, informal recruitment may not be an option for sororities because different pledge class years have recently been the same size, leaving no gaps in younger classes. But she added that this could change if the cap size were changed, and that it is reviewed and reconsidered every year.

Fraternities, on the other hand, have no cap on their memberships, so they may hold informal recruiting at their discretion. According to Wallace, the number of men rushing in the fall has risen from 40 to 70 during his three years here.

“I think that’s a positive direction, because I think there was a thought process out there, ‘If I don’t join my second semester freshman year, I don’t join,’ and that’s not necessarily the case in all of our organizations,” he said.

Morlan, however, cautioned women against thinking of fall rush as an alternative to formal recruitment.

“We don’t want women to miss out on the opportunity of joining here and bank on the fact that it’ll be available next year when it might not be,” she said. “If you don’t want to go through formal recruitment, that’s completely fine, but there might not be a chance for you to join during fall semester, and we don’t want you to get the wrong impression.”

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878