With in-person restrictions and a ban on recruiting first-years, many non-Greek selective living groups have been rethinking their usual rush processes in this unusual semester.
In a January email to undergraduate students in non-Greek SLGs, Duke announced that non-Greek SLGs are permitted to conduct recruitment activities in the spring 2021 semester for sophomores, juniors and seniors. The Class of 2024 will not be able to rush until their sophomore year, per guidelines Duke announced in November when it established the Next Generation Living Learning 2.0 Committee to reimagine campus housing.
The email added that all non-Greek SLG activities, with some exceptions, must be virtual and registered in DukeGroups.
The Chronicle reached out to representatives of non-Greek SLGs to discuss their plans—or lack thereof—for spring recruitment.
Cooper, The Cube, Maxwell, Mirecourt, Mundi, Nexus and Wayne Manor did not respond in time for publication.
Short notice, no first-years: Some groups choose to cancel rush this spring
The decision to allow non-Greek SLGs to host virtual recruitment for sophomores, juniors and seniors came Jan. 28, which surprised some students.
“We had gone into the semester assuming that there would be no room for any recruitment activities,” wrote Jerry Wang, a senior and co-president of Round Table, in an email.
He added that although many Round Table members were excited at the prospect of admitting new faces, the logistics of the changed process soon caused reconsideration. In the end, Round Table decided not to proceed with spring 2021 recruitment, Wang wrote.
Rush “requires planning, time commitments, and funding,” Wang wrote. “While a virtual rush would reduce many of these demands, it would still be a daunting task to put together in only a few weeks.”
He added that “Round Table believes rush is a very important process, and those who participate deserve to be given the best possible experience, in both enjoying the activities we put on and connecting with current members. We did not want to put something together that would fail to live up to those expectations.”
Brownstone similarly canceled rush this year. Since Housing and Residence Life would not allow first-years to rush, the group was left with only the prospect of recruiting sophomores.
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“Traditionally, we take fewer sophomores than freshmen during rush, and so there would be quite a bit of effort by both parties to allow only a few (maybe 4-6) new members in,” wrote President of Brownstone Alex Oesterling, a junior, in an email.
According to Oesterling, the peculiarity of taking only sophomores during this online semester is that “the dynamics around sophomores are traditionally different because many have an advantage by knowing existing members.”
A friend of a Brownstone member would have an advantage over other independent sophomores, and this would be compounded over Zoom, where it is already difficult to meet new people, he wrote.
Delaying to an unknown future
Oesterling wrote that SLGs generally rush to fill section and comply with the HRL policy of filling beds in their building for the upcoming year. Brownstone has gotten no information from HRL on their housing status for the fall, Oesterling wrote, and thus does not intend to hold rush just to fill beds.
Brownstone plans to delay rush to the fall 2021 semester and amend their constitution to allow juniors to rush, so that the Class of 2023 can get a second chance.
Oesterling added that Brownstone has also been impacted by their inability to live together during the pandemic.
“I think the SLG’s social activity has definitely been damaged, and our overall community isn’t as close as it had been before,” Oesterling wrote. In the spring, Brownstone plans on working internally to foster community in a COVID-safe way.
Ubuntu has also recently decided to delay rush to the fall. President of Ubuntu Evelyn Chen, a senior, wrote in an email that the leadership believes that it would make more sense to do “more events in person,” rather than “holding rush entirely virtually.”
They await further information from HRL about what the next semester will look like, and specifically how rush will change.
Round Table also raised questions about the logistics of a rush happening next semester. Since the SLG has never experienced a fall rush, nor limited their recruitment to sophomores, juniors and seniors, “it will be a weird experience for all of us,” Wang wrote.
However, Wang expressed confidence that they can pull it off, with some adjustments to the usual programming depending on whether first-years will be allowed to rush. Many events, such as Marketplace brunches, field day on East Campus and faculty dinners, have been designed with the idea that most rushees are first-years, and new events will likely be centered on West Campus, Wang wrote.
Because there will be no new first-year members this year and rising sophomores will no longer be there to fill a large portion of the beds in section, Round Table “will have to await further guidance on housing,” Wang wrote.
Some groups choose to proceed with rush
In the midst of some SLGs postponing their recruitment, Alpha Phi Omega is choosing to hold a pledging process this semester. Junior Adam Lin, service vice president of APO, wrote in an email that recruitment events will run from Feb. 10 to 28, and there will be a recorded virtual open house on Feb. 10 to accommodate the different time zones of students.
Lin added that APO has modified the pledging process by relaxing social and service requirements. The pledge master will “take into account special circumstances that may make it difficult to complete meeting, social, and service mandates,” Lin wrote.
“Through the modified pledging process, APO hopes to continue its goal of bringing students into a friendly, accepting family, while also performing service toward the Duke and Durham communities,” he wrote.
LangDorm has also decided to continue with rush this semester, which will happen for three weeks around March, and will only be open to sophomores. According to sophomore Lindsay Hu, LangDorm social media chair, the SLG has been trying to make the best of the virtual situation through organized international events, movie nights and other programming, but there are worries among the community.
“It’s a bit uncertain what the future might look like for LangDorm,” Hu said. “We obviously don’t want it to die off, but there’s the fact that we can’t recruit freshmen anymore, plus the fact that this year is disrupted. I came into LangDorm as a freshman, and next year I’m going to be a junior, and we have no idea what next year will even look like.”
She added that LangDorm has basically been “cut in half.”
“We’re already one of the smallest SLGs, so it’s scary in a sense, to keep it alive and make sure that we have a presence on campus,” she said.
Oesterling wrote that on the other hand, there have been some advantages to the disruption in traditional recruitment.
“This year really showed people that you can have a lot of fun living independent, and hopefully this will decrease interest in rush which will make the process less toxic for both parties involved, with rush planning being smaller and the level of competitiveness decreasing as well,” Oesterling wrote.