Sororities on the University of Maine campus gathered in the Memorial Union last week to kick off fall formal recruitment, a process designed to acquaint active sororities and sorority members with prospective sisters in the hopes of living out their college years together as distinguished, engaged and philanthropic professionals.
Formal recruitment is a staple for sororities and Panhellenic organizations across the country. The process employed at UMaine is similar to those practiced elsewhere and it helps ensure that prospective sisters are getting bids with organizations they consider their top choices while the organizations get large quantities of well-rounded new members.
The process in total is almost a week long. Last week, formal recruitment began on Tuesday, where all potential new members received orientation on Greek Life and what it means to join a sorority at UMaine. Eventually, all prospective sisters are separated into several “Rho Gamma” groups, or recruitment guide groups, and get initial introductions with half of UMaine’s sororities on Wednesday and meet with the other half on Thursday.
Wednesday and Thursday are when sorority members get to ask questions and interview potential new members, looking to connect with them on a personal level to decide which potential new members embody the ideals of their chapter.
“It’s not their answers [that matter], it’s more their demeanor, how they act, if they make eye contact, if they’re poised, if they’re clean and hygienic, if they keep the conversation going. It’s more like a business interview,” third-year student Sydney Tierney, a sister of Chi Omega, said.
Friday is considered the philanthropy round, where individual sororities get to pitch their philanthropic ideas and causes to potential new members.
Saturday is preference day, where organizations get to meet with the potential new members they want to extend bids to. Potential new members get to meet with these organizations at their chapter houses or chapter rooms for individual ceremonies and presentations, before bid day comes on Sunday.
“Preference day is my favorite part because we get to talk to the girls that we could potentially become sisters with. We have a ceremony, so it’s pretty meaningful to us and we get to show them our house. Whatever chapter you’re in, preference day is more collective and everyone gets to come together which is nice,” Tierney said.
The process as a whole is so important to these organizations that they look for help wherever they can get it. That’s why, even though they’re not allowed direct contact with potential new members per formal recruitment rules, alumnae of these organizations pitch in for their chapters as well.
“My role during recruitment is to support active members through the process, and to make sure that recruitment rules and policies are being followed,” alumnae and education advisor Jacqui Cormier of Alpha Omicron Pi said.
“Because I am not allowed to have any contact with potential new members, it is my job to make sure active members have all the resources they need to best recruit new members, as well as a clear vision of how they want to represent our organization.”
Over her years at UMaine, Cormier has seen the formal recruitment process change dramatically, both in the actual events held during the week as well as the marketing and advertising techniques individual chapters are using to recruit new members.
“One of the biggest changes I’ve seen is the huge increase in the use of social media leading up to formal recruitment,” Cormier said. “Instagram accounts are much more active, recruitment videos are being utilized by almost every chapter, and overall, chapters are using social media to attract potential new members’ attention far before the recruitment period begins.”
Although it is widely accepted as the norm for sorority recruitment, some sorority women have their concerns with how the formal recruitment process is employed.
“It’s actually a pretty unnatural method, but it gets the job done,” Tierney said. “I don’t know if there would be a more effective way to do it, but it is unnatural. You would never encounter a recruitment experience anywhere else in the world like this other than with sororities.”
Cormier echoed the same sentiment.
“I think the Panhellenic community has a long way to go with developing the most effective way to recruit new sorority members. I don’t have the answer as to what that method may be, however I believe that we should continue to question the process in order to improve not only how effective the process is, but how genuine the process is,” Cormer said.
The additional help from alumni comes in handy when other sisters in the organization sign up to become Rho Gammas for the recruitment cycle. Upon becoming one, all recruitment guides must disaffiliate themselves with their organizations starting on Aug. 1.
The job of the Rho Gammas is to objectively steer their group of potential new members through the formal recruitment process. This means Rho Gammas are unable to wear letters, speak with sisters in public places, or inform their group of potential new members what organization they are apart of.
“Not being able to be with my sisters during recruitment is difficult because there are potential new members that I got to know on a deeper level and I can’t vote on them within my chapter or tell them how amazing a girl is,” third-year student and Vice President of Philanthropy for Pi Beta Phi Kayla Leland said, who also participated in this year’s formal recruitment as a Rho Gamma.
“It stinks getting to watch them do such an amazing job in recruitment and not being able to be a part of it, but the reward of helping girls find their home is enough that it all evens out.”
In total, roughly 400 girls signed up for the process at the beginning of the year, 300 attended orientation and approximately 150 women received bids on Sunday.