by Haley Cahill-Teubert
It’s not the right time for a lot of things.
It’s not the right time to try out that new restaurant in your town.
It’s not the right time for graduation parties.
It’s not the right time to visit grandparents.
It’s not the right time to go see that new movie at the theater.
So what is it the right time for?
Could this be the right time for us to truly transform Panhellenic recruitment?
We’re in a really weird time. Everything that’s non-essential has shut down. Anything and everything is moving to a virtual format. And nearly every aspect of our daily lives have taken on a totally new identity.
There’s a lot of panic and frustration about that.
Amid all the chaos though, there’s also some really beautiful discussions happening right now about this being an opportunity for us to slow down, assess what matters, and redefine what “normal” life should really be when all this is said and done.
It’s time for sorority to do the same thing.
Many of us feel that we are in a weird, chaotic, unknown time. We’ve had to move off campus unexpectedly. Classes have moved online. Graduations have been cancelled or postponed.
But like nearly everything else in our lives, we have the opportunity right now to have a really beautiful conversation about what matters.
We already know the answer: relationships.
Relationships are the essential business that needs to remain open. And it is truly beautiful to see so many chapters rally into action to move sisterhood to a virtual setting. Is it ideal? No. Is it worth it? 100%
As we identify what’s essential, we also start to realize, what’s non-essential, which brings me back to my initial question: Could this be the right time for us to truly transform Panhellenic recruitment?
I truly believe this could be the right time to transform our recruitment process. I truly believe that these circumstances are our opportunity to realize all the frills and fluff don’t matter, but our relationships–our sisterhood–does. I truly believe this is the right time to rethink our priorities and our “work week” schedules, and make that week together in August before recruitment a time for fun, bonding, and celebration. That is our time to strengthen the foundation of our current chapter membership before we open the doors of our houses to new members.
I know how you’re feeling. You’re stressed because the spring semester was your time to get ahead. It was your time to start teaching songs and chants. It was your time to start doing outfit checks. It was your time to assign door stack positions. And now, you’re trying to figure out how to squeeze all of that into one week (or how to do chant practice on Zoom). Let’s just take a lot of unnecessary stress off our plates and just dump it. Seriously.
In your respective communities, let’s decide this year will be different. This year we are going to be bold and do something that’s never been done before.
Can you imagine how your members would feel about sorority if instead of a week of hellacious prep work for 10 hours a day, we had a week of non-stop fun? “Fun week” sounds way more appealing than “work week” or “polish week”, right?
Let’s re-imagine work week and recruitment to be a time for some important prep work–yes–but some important relationship work too.
A week of sisterhood (with some prep work too) is going to give me something to talk about to PNMs during recruitment. It will energize your members before recruitment, not make them exhausted and resentful. It will remind members just how much they love sorority after a semester apart from sisters. It will remind them of the value of sorority.
We have to be intentional with our time, now more than ever. Does that mean we still do some necessary prep work? Yes. But here are a few practical tips to help you work more efficiently.
This semester has been a good reminder of just how many of those “essential” meetings could have just been an email. Keep meetings as short and efficient as possible. And if a meeting doesn’t require the whole chapter to be in attendance, don’t make them. Think smart.
Prioritize sisterhood. When our members come back in August, they’ve likely not seen each other for four or more months. They need concentrated time together. They need fun time together. We can’t just move into organized song practices like nothing ever happened. Those sisterhood events during recruitment practice are some things they can talk about to PNMs in recruitment. If you’re worried about being pressed for time, find something that’s fun but also teaches a skill. Speaking of songs…
Decide as a community to remove the songs, chants, and door stacks. We’re in a position when we have to choose how our time is best used. And given the choice between hours of practicing chants or hours of strengthening relationships, I surely hope you’d choose the latter. Make a community decision to just play some music through some speakers when PNMs enter your home and not overthink it. The world won’t fall apart. Sorority is amazing and worth joining without door stacks–I promise. Use your work time to prepare for meaningful, authentic conversations and relationship-building.
“A few of the chapters on our campus have already been playing songs instead of chants–maybe 2 or 3 chapters of 13–but it seems like once they make the change to songs and dancing and they have a good time, they don’t go back to songs and chants,” said Karen Buynak, the vice president of Panhellenic recruitment at Virginia Tech. “With songs everyone loves, you can dance and have genuine fun and save time. We’d probably practice for at least 30 minutes every day and that’s time you could use for something else that is really important.”
Move funds around. Thinking about your decor and recruitment video budgets… There are a lot of ways to better use that money right now. Consider the businesses in your college community that you love. They’ve taken a major financial blow this semester with students being gone. Use some of that decor budget to give back to the town that’s given you so much and made your college experience what it is. Or maybe use those funds to plan better sisterhood activities over the summer to keep people engaged. The worth of sorority is questioned all the time, and it is definitely being questioned right now by members wanting to know why they should continue paying dues when they’re not on campus. Use some of the “fluffy stuff” budget to provide some real value to members and to your college community at this weird time in life when people need that most.
“This is something we’ve been talking about a lot in our community,” said Greer Vinall, coordinator of fraternity and sorority life at Texas State University. “What can go from your recruitment budget to help support your sisters? Because you’re going to have sisters who call their membership into question because they lost a job or their parents lost a job–some financial hardship. Sorority is going to be the first thing that gets cut from their budget and lives. How can you finesse your budget to keep those members and support them? Our chapters need to be thinking about that now.”
Be united as a community. There’s strength in numbers. This is a bold plan I’m suggesting, but it’s one worth implementing. It will be harder to execute, though, as an individual chapter because it’s just hard to go against the status quo–I get it. Be united as a community in your decision to re-invent work week and recruitment, which means gathering your leaders now (virtually) and making some important decisions about the future of sorority on your campus.
Everyone keeps talking about adjusting to a “new normal.” And it’s not all bad. This weird time in life is really shedding light on the things that matter… And the things that don’t.
Like everything else, sorority will have to adjust to a “new normal.” And that will provide genuine clarity about the things that really matter.
Member health? Essential.
Providing value to members? Essential.
Transforming Panhellenic recruitment? Essential.