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Coordinated Recruitment: Name Change or Game Changer?

Campus | March 27, 2017

On Sunday, April 2, Tufts’ sororities will welcome their newest members into their sisterhoods, despite the voluntary suspension of spring recruitment last semester amidst accusations of hazing incidents and discriminatory practices. In an attempt to reform an antiquated process, the Panhellenic Council (PHC), which oversees the sororities of Alpha Omicron Pi, Alpha Phi, Chi Omega, and Kappa Alpha Theta, advised them to conduct coordinated recruitment, replacing its former practice of formal recruitment. An Alpha Phi chapter-wide email, sent by President Rachel Perry on February 28 and leaked to the Observer, described coordinated recruitment as a medium “between informal and formal recruitment.” It would be comprised of a less-structured bidding process intended to be more inclusive for potential new members (PNMs).

The first Tuesday after Spring Break, March 28, marks the first day of coordinated recruitment. Sororities not currently on cease and desist are able to participate in this recruitment structure. With the new bidding process, PNMs will be given more flexibility to explore different sororities. New recruits will have the opportunity to visit each chapter and attend their respective information sessions without worrying about attending every event, allowing adequate time for PNMs to become better acquainted with other prospective recruits and current members.

Senior Meaghan Annett, President of the PHC, elaborated on the specificities of what coordinated recruitment entailed. “Formal recruitment is what you’ve seen every other year in the beginning of the spring semester…coordinated recruitment was created because we wanted to make sure that potential new members could go to the events that all of the chapters hosted without the time of these events conflicting with one another,” she told the Observer.

In the past, PNMs were given a schedule to follow for the entire duration of the bidding process, and often given strict dress code guidelines. Formal recruitment imposed stringent guidelines that restricted movement or interest in other chapters that may have been a better fit for each PNM. “Coordinated recruitment is looser in that sororities have a longer time period for PNMs to come and go as they want. Now, if someone wasn’t feeling it, they have the option to leave and it wouldn’t be a big concern,” Annett said.

Attempting to hear from the perspective of other current sorority members, the Observer reached out to each sorority’s respective leader, but was unable to talk with any of them.

Alpha Omicron Pi President, senior Michaela Hurley, returned our initial request, but did not respond after being sent our questions.

Alpha Phi President, sophomore Rachel Perry, did not return our emails.

Chi Omega President, junior Hannah Macaulay, returned our initial request, but did not respond after being sent our questions.

Kappa Alpha Theta Chief Executive Officer, sophomore Sally Williams, did not return our emails.

The Director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, Su McGlone, initially offered to comment, but, after receiving our questions, said she was too busy. She did not respond to further emails.

The following are the questions we had brought up in the email:

What is “coordinated recruitment?”

What is the difference between formal recruitment and “coordinated recruitment?”

How many sororities are participating in this new recruitment method?

What students are allowed to participate in recruitment?

What improvements have been made for “coordinated recruitment” to make it more inclusive? (More specifically, referring to Chi O’s letter that elucidated the issues of Greek life relating to its exclusivity ––transphobia, classism, sexual assault, etc.)*

*I’m specifically asking for concrete action steps being made to address all of the issues brought up in the letter.

Despite this change in the recruitment process, many feel that inadequate efforts were made to address the issues brought up in “A Call for the Abolition of Greek Life, from Former Sisters of Chi Omega.” Sophomore Emily Sim, a contributing writer to the letter, said it was intended to support the sisters who did not feel welcome by Greek life. She foresees that coordinated recruitment will merely reinforce the exclusivity of Greek life rather than facilitate a more welcoming environment.

“The looser structure benefits women who already have connections to other women in the houses. Since frat events were suspended for most of last semester, the social scene has moved to off campus frat houses, sports houses, and bars. If we consider who has access to these spaces, it’s mostly affluent white folks. More likely than not, the first years who will participate in and enjoy the coordinated rush process will be other rich white women who are already acquainted with how Greek life operates at Tufts,” she said.

Additionally, Sim didn’t feel that the necessary steps were taken to address the issues she and the other former Chi Omega sisters had brought up in their letter. She said, “Frankly, this isn’t a difficult task. For instance, when I dropped Chi Omega, I suggested having a panel of women of color and queer sisters to speak about their honest experiences during the recruitment process for full disclosure. In PHC’s statements, there seems to be no consideration for these groups in the new coordinated rush process. I’m disappointed that despite us explicitly pointing out the issues that sisters of marginalized identities experienced, there has not been tangible change or even an effort made to address the problems.”

Junior Benya Kraus, a member of the Student Life Committee Review, and a contributor to the letter penned by former Chi Omega sisters, was happy to learn that there were efforts being made to deepen conversations amongst sororities. However, similar to Sim, she expressed concerns about the inclusivity of coordinated recruitment because Greek life is still contingent upon an accept-reject system. Recounting her own experiences with Greek life, she “found that there are a lot of implicit biases that occur when sisters talk about and rate PNMs for acceptance, and I don’t think changing recruitment schedules really addresses this. I hope the Panhellenic leaders will address what changes they plan to make once new members are accepted.”

Kraus further questioned the implications of what this means for Greek life in general. She added, “How will they make membership more socio-economically accessible? How will they ensure that their programming is welcoming to queer and trans sisters? How will they stand with and protect their fellow sisters who are survivors of sexual assault occurring in Greek-affiliated houses? I worry that going forward with recruitment before addressing these questions fully and sufficiently will only perpetuate the same systems of inequity that existed prior to these changes.”

In Chi Omega’s planning documents leaked to the Observer, all of the sisters were linked to a Google Doc entitled, “PNM Intel Form.” In this document, members were asked to comment on what they know about PNMs. One question titled “Personality?” asks Chi Omega sisters to describe the PNMs “in 3 words,” suggesting that the subjective and exclusionary nature of determining who is “Chi O material” remains unchanged, despite these concerns being brought up in the letter. This email, as well as the aforementioned Alpha Phi email, were sent while the respective sororities were on cease and desist orders. 

Ultimately, it’s unclear whether these changes to sorority recruitment represent deeper structural reform or whether the experience for new members will significantly differ from those of previous years. In the same email that vaguely defined coordinated recruitment, Alpha Phi President Perry wrote to her chapter members, “Social ban has been lifted!!…This means that frats can host events with alc”— only time will tell whether sororities on campus are actually changing their priorities.