UMD PHA to implement changes to sorority recruitment this spring

Fraternity Row on March 22, 2020. (Joe Ryan/The Diamondback)

By Parker Leipzig
For The Diamondback

As the University of Maryland’s fall semester wraps up, many are already looking toward the spring, which marks the beginning of primary recruitment for numerous Greek life organizations.

In a typical year, about 1,000 potential new members pass through Ritchie Coliseum during recruitment, awaiting the day they will open their bid cards and “run home” to the sorority they were invited to join.

But this year, primary recruitment will look different due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lucy Wurwand, the vice president of recruitment on the university Panhellenic Association executive board, said hopes for in-person recruitment quickly disappeared, and the executive board realized it needed to alter its plans in order to make the process safe.

“We’re really lucky that we always do our primary recruitment in the spring,” the senior criminology and criminal justice major said. “We got to learn from all the schools that did it in the fall and over the summer.”

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This year, primary sorority recruitment will take place on Zoom, but that won’t be the only change.

Normally, potential new members would have to pay a fee to participate in primary recruitment. These fees would be used to book Ritchie Coliseum for four days and buy food for participants, Wurwand said.

But this year, this participation fee has been waived, which Wurwand said is a “barrier” they are glad to take down.

Wurwand also said the Financial Transparency Program has been introduced this year, which addresses transparency regarding fees associated with sorority membership.

“What breaks my heart is for someone to fall in love with a chapter and then have to withdraw because they realize that it’s not within their budget,” Wurwand said. To address that, she said, the program requires each house tell everyone going through recruitment about the dues expected of full members.

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Wurwand has been working with Paige Hawksworth, vice president of diversity and inclusion for this university’s PHA, to keep inclusivity central to sorority chapters at this university.

“Panhellenic sorority recruitment is nowhere near being perfect. And it can be a really stressful and, at times, superficial process,” Hawksworth said. “One of my primary goals was to definitely collaborate really closely with [Wurwand] and identify places that we could change things for the better.”

During her time on the association’s executive board, Hawksworth created a PHA-specific bias incident reporting form.

She said association members, alumni and potential new members can use the form to “share their experiences with bias” during an interaction with an organization in the association.

“Our primary goal in this was to create a welcoming and positive environment, as well as holding our community members accountable and allowing members to have a resource where they can feel that they can share their experiences,” the senior government and politics and history major said.

Despite the elimination of the normal in-person aspect of recruitment this year, some students are still planning to participate.

Freshman chemistry major Sarah McKay said she is nervous about recruitment because participating on Zoom might make it more difficult to get to know people.

Members of her family were involved in Greek life, McKay said. She’s heard stories of their experiences and said she feels hopeful for what recruitment could give her.

“I’m still going to rush just for the experience and see if I like it,” McKay said. “I feel like it’s a good way to make friends, because it was hard to do that with COVID.”

Wurwand said she thinks interested students should still go through the process.

“Overall, I’m really hopeful, because I know that people still want belonging,” Wurwand said. “I know that people still deserve a place to belong, and that is what we offer them.”

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