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​Reflecting on recruitment

The start of the Spring semester always accompanies the beginning of the formalized rush processes for fraternities, sororities and other selective living groups on campus. Specifically, last weekend, the Panhellenic Association began its intensive recruitment process. During the two weekends of rush, potential new members find themselves scrambling to connect to current members of the sororities at Duke in hopes of receiving bids to lifelong sisterhoods and networks. However, success during the rush process for fraternities, sororities and other selective living groups is not governed by any precise formula. Couple the vagueness of the selection criteria with the limited number of spots available, and the rush process generates a palpable atmosphere of anxiety and excitement on campus.

Panhellenic Association recruitment entails a packed four-round schedule with structured “speed-dating” so potential new members can explore all ten sororities, whittling their lists down with each successive round. These meetings allow first-year students and other potential new members to participate in interview processes, that in some sense allow them to hone their personal interview skills. However, the process can be emotionally stressful and physically exhausting due to its rigidity. While the Panhellenic Association has attempted to create and modify the rush process to make it as fair as possible, fundamentally, rush is an artificially constructed environment which inevitably leads to anguish for many individuals involved in the process, in any capacity. Despite attempts to remove bias from the process to make it more equitable and fair, the recruitment process is often scrutinized and criticized.

Even though the sororities on campus attempt to be inclusive, individuals who do not fit the norms of femininity may find themselves alienated by the process. Financial constraints may also present another barrier to the rush process especially since financial aid varies across sororities. Moreover, financial aid only covers the official costs of recruitment and member fees and does not account for any additional costs that students incur to attend social events once they have been inducted into a sorority.

Beyond the Panhellenic Association, there are variety of Greek organizations on campus. The Interfraternity Council, Multicultural Greek Council, and National Pan-hellenic Council differ in their outlooks and goals in many ways, and there are benefits and drawbacks to each. While they are not the same, in some sense, each of these organizations rest on the defensible pillars of philanthropy, leadership, networking, and enduring friendships. That being said, these foundational benefits are not unique to Greek organizations and can be found through other outlets on campus.

We do not doubt that the Panhellenic Association, both nationally and at Duke, has reflected on the rush process to introduce changes that help level the playing field for all potential new members. Sororities were formed in response to fraternities and the marginalization of women on campuses across the nation. However, more introspection and modification is required to help sororities shed their current reputations of homogeneity and exclusivity. The changes that begin during the rush process will inevitably extend to other facets of Greek life. While by no means will there be a perfect rush process, it is paramount that sororities continue to recognize that adjustments must be made.

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