Duke’s Panhellenic Association will move its recruitment from campus to the Durham Convention Center this year. In the past, recruitment has been across East and West Campuses, with potential members shuttling among all nine sororities in venues ranging from the Von Canons to Brodie Gym. Consolidating recruitment in one location will be more convenient for everyone involved. It will also hopefully ensure all sororities hold their rounds in equitable venues.
However, the content of recruitment is more important than the location. This year, Panhel must recognize in its recruitment process the most fundamental change in the Duke Panhellenic experience: housing. With the implementation of the new house model this year, sororities must fill a target number of beds, the same as any selective living group. For the first time in Duke history, the choice to join a Panhellenic sorority will likely involve living in that sorority’s section. The likelihood depends on factors including the size of the sorority, the size of the sorority’s house and the ratios of sophomore to juniors to seniors.
In last year’s recruitment, Panhel explicitly forbade sorority members from talking about housing with potential new members. “Buildings” was added to the list of traditionally taboo topics that included “boys,” “booze” and “bucks.” Given that cohabitation is now a large part of the Panhellenic experience, it should be discussed with potential new members insofar as they understand they may be effectively making a housing commitment. Especially for freshmen, the housing matter is not trivial. Small sororities or sororities with more beds to fill may impose more pressure on their members to live in section. If a freshman desires to live on West Campus, to room with a non-sister or to block with her freshmen friends, she should have a minimally good idea which sororities can ensure these possibilities remain open—preferably before she accepts a bid.
We understand Panhel’s attempt to level the recruitment playing field by deemphasizing housing differences. We agree that relatively trivial variations—such as location, layout or amenities of the different houses—do not significantly impact the overall sorority experience and are thus irrelevant to the recruitment process. However, when it comes to one of the most important factors in a Duke student’s social life—“Where will I be living?”—potential new members cannot be left completely in the dark.
There is much to gain from the newly enhanced Panhellenic experience. Living in section is a wonderful opportunity to strengthen sisterhood by creating a space the sorority can call its own. Yet without informing potential new members about housing obligations that vary by sorority, Panhel risks disappointing those women who might have imagined a different residential experience for themselves. Joining a sorority is certainly a bigger commitment this year, and potential new members should understand what this commitment actually entails. A feeling of being misled might even lead to increased deactivation rates.
As Panhel plans its recruitment, it should be both excited and transparent about the experience it is offering—excited because of the many new benefits sorority housing has to offer, transparent because those benefits may not actually appeal to all potential new members. To that end, housing should no longer be considered a dirty word in Panhel’s recruitment process.