Greek life adapts recruitment for COVID-19

Peter Moens

On Tuesday, September 15, 2020, the Augustana College chapter of the sorority Epsilon Sigma Alpha had their formal rush, recruiting brand-new members into their ranks. Contrary to what one may expect, though, it was not an energetic get-together in a packed house.
Instead, prospective recruits were holed up in their houses, apartments, or dorm rooms, speaking to other newcomers and active members through a Zoom call. Breakout rooms, which divided active members into four or five each, hosted two or three potential new members each, rotating them through every ten to fifteen minutes.
Whether you think this is an awkward hassle or a convenient way to get exposure from home, it’s hard to doubt that this is a necessary evil given the current coronavirus outbreak.
Social gatherings have been limited across the board: even in-person classes require face masks, regular desk cleanings, spaced-out seating charts, and even divisions of students into multiple smaller sections in some cases.
Augustana’s current restrictions on social gatherings have necessitated a change in philosophy as to how rush is organized, and as a result, virtual rush has been inducted.
“We did have a few technical hiccups ‘cause it was over Zoom,” Brooklyn Shelling, vice president of ESA and junior, said, “but after that we got to meet a lot of really amazing people and a lot of people were really interested in getting to learn more about ESA.”
Sigma Alpha Iota, a music fraternity, had similar experiences in pursuing online registration. “I would say, in many ways, it’s easier,” Lucy Kebler, vice president of SAI and senior, said. “The booking of rooms and things like that could get tricky at Augustana just in a normal year. I think we’ve had better attendance among our actual chapter.”
It may have been complicated to set up and to get used to, but rush and registration have not been significantly more difficult than usual. “It was probably the same amount of work going into rush, it was just a different type of work,” Shelling said. However, induction is not the only thing affected by COVID-19 and the resulting restrictions.
“We decided to just try and do everything as virtual as possible so that way we can serve both distance learners and in-person people,” Katie Zenisek, president of ESA and junior, said. “It’s a lot more creativity, and you have to do double of every single option.”
Without the ability to meet in-person to socialize and partake in other activities, flexibility and creativity have been needed. Bryn Gatz, ESA’s publicity chair, put forth one specific idea: virtual movie nights. “ESA has been planning on doing a movie night as a get-together, trying to find new ways to connect over things that are not in-person gatherings,” Gatz said.
Other options pertain to ESA’s status as a service sorority. “We’re actually offering a lot of community service that is not necessarily in-person, which is something that’s kind of never been heard of before,” Gatz said. “We’re gonna make masks, which is pretty cool. Each person gets a job and they do it on their own time, and they pass it on to the next person,”
Melina Thurmond, president and recruitment chair of Sigma Pi Delta, doesn’t feel that socialization in general has been gutted too much during the pandemic. “Even if it’s virtual, you can still find ways to hang out,” Thurmond said. “Snapchat, Facetime, there’s a multitude of things you can do and going Greek is the start of that.”
These alterations have not only been made to satisfy restrictions from administration, however. ESA’s handling of the situation and use of virtual events was influenced by a survey sent out to members, which showed the majority were most comfortable with said virtual events. SAI has also been “checking on everybody’s own standards for what they are comfortable for,” said Kebler.
It does not seem that active members of these groups have been put off by the new activities. “No one’s deactivated because of the pandemic,” Zenisek said, “but we have had a few members who have gone inactive this semester because they’re either at home or they’re here and they’re struggling a little bit with all the changes.”
Attracting new members, by contrast, seems to be somewhat more difficult. “It’s really hard to get people interested when you can’t see them face to face,” Schelling said.
“It definitely was a little bit harder to reach out to people, but we did our best,” Zenisek said. However, Greek life is confident that people will still be attracted to joining groups.
If someone wants to make a difference, find a community and home, fill their time, or make lifelong friends, Greek life is still a valid option despite new changes.
“If I had the opportunity now, it would be a “yeah, let’s do it” mentality,” Thurmond said. “I’ve got nothing to lose and it never hurts to make some friendships with people.”
Despite recruiting in a time not conducive to socializing, members of Greek life are confident in their organizations. Greek life at Augustana is resilient: it will not fade, it will adapt.