After almost a year of planning for in-person recruitment, sororities were met with the emergence of the Omicron variant at the end of January, forcing them to move recruitment events mostly online.
Loyola’s recruitment week — which spans from Jan. 24 to Jan. 31 — was moved almost completely online this year for sororities on campus. Throughout the week all seven sororities on Loyola’s campus meet with new members through three rounds to help those interested find the sorority best for them. All days except for the final day of recruitment, called preference round, were held virtually, forcing new members to meet their future sisters through Zoom.
Junior Abby Layton, vice president of recruitment operations on the panhellenic board, said she and Vice President of Recruitment Education Maggie Bittinger worked closely with the Student Activities and Greek Affairs (SAGA) department throughout the 2021-2022 year, to create a virtual or hybrid “plan B” for recruitment in the case of a COVID-19 surge.
“We looked at all the days and the one that stuck out [to be held in person] was preference round for two reasons; the first is that it’s the safest COVID-wise,” Layton, 21, said. “At this point, [potential new members] only go to a maximum of two chapters, so a lot less exposure to each other and it’s probably the most important event.”
During preference round, which is held on the last day of recruitment, potential new members (PNMs) decide on their two most preferred sororities after attending their last meetings called rituals. Ritual meetings are where PNMs can experience the sorority in a more intimate environment due to more personal stories being shared, according to Layton.
Bittinger said despite the extra planning for a hybrid recruitment, sororities and the panhellenic board faced challenges such as scheduling changes that required recruitment guides to attend more events.
“Those were situations I couldn’t personally own, that I couldn’t personally apologize for, it was really challenging for me to say this isn’t my fault and I need you to show me grace and understanding because we’re all in this together,” Bittinger, 22, said.
This year was not the first time recruitment had been adapted to an online platform. The 2021 recruitment term was held entirely online and was estimated to recruit approximately 260 new members compared to 336 PNMs this year, according to Bittinger. The last entirely in-person recruitment term involved over 400 registered new members, Bittinger told The Phoenix.
“They were higher than they were last year which was incredible,” Bittinger said. “We were worried that they would continue being lower like they were in 2021.”
Like Layton, Bittinger was grateful for the guidance and help of SAGA during the transition from in-person to hybrid planning.
“The support that was given by my advisor, Emily Koneval, was above and beyond what anyone expected,” Bittinger said. “She helped us communicate with advisors and we got support from her boss and her boss’s boss. Everyone who knew about recruitment was so supportive because they know what a big endeavor it is to make this happen.”
Emily Koneval and SAGA didn’t answer The Phoenix’s questions.
To ensure the final day of recruitment was safe during the Omicron surge, sororities required mask-wearing and structured the event tables and chairs to promote social distancing.
“I felt comfortable at all times,” said Ally Marmo, first-year and new member of Chi Omega. “I only went to two chapters on Sunday, all the girls did, so it wasn’t like you were going room to room full of hundreds of girls and everyone was wearing their masks.”
Sophomore Lily Anderson, a new member of Alpha Chi Omega, was unable to join last year due to missing the deadline but says she was grateful to experience part of recruitment in person.
“I think they did the best with what they had and were able to do,” Anderson,19, said. “I really enjoyed it. I talked to a lot of different people and I came out from a very exhausting weekend very excited and ready to start a new chapter.”