Unprecedented recruitment participation presents challenges, new opportunities

Current members of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity welcome new members during Bid Day at the Lakeside Patio Stage Friday afternoon. Holly Bensur // Ibis Yearbook

This year the University of Miami’s Panhellenic Association (“Panhel”) experienced record-breaking participation with 789 women registered for formal recruitment. While some Panhel members are excited about the spike in recruitment interest, others are concerned about overcrowded pledge classes.

“I think it’s incredible that we had such high numbers,” Emily Bajalia, president of UM Panhel, wrote in an email. “It means that women in our community want to be a part of what Panhellenic has to offer, which is amazing.”

According to the university website, about 25 percent of UM students are involved in Greek life. While 789 women registered this year, 654 of them actually participated and 550 were offered bids, according to a statement by former Vice President of Recruitment Samantha Spring.

Formal recruitment is a structured week of events before school resumes when potential new members get to meet with the different sorority chapters and find the best mutual fit.

Students rushing returned to campus from break on Jan. 9, attended an orientation session the next day and began formal recruitment on Jan. 11.

Over the next couple of days, for the first round of recruitment, the girls were divided into three groups to rotate through the Panhellenic suites.

The groups were staggered over two days because of the limited space in the suites and the constrained time with the recruiting sisters, which would make accommodating nearly 800 women impossible.

During the course of recruitment, potential new members visited fewer sororities each day for longer periods of time. On Bid Day the following week, the participants received formal bids to join a sorority.

Bajalia said the first few days were “hectic,” and some recruitment participants felt similarly overwhelmed.

“Going into recruitment, I heard that there were 800 girls rushing rather than the usual 500 and I was terrified,” said Dominique Rajic, a freshman biology major and new member of Sigma Delta Tau. “I witnessed my friends get dropped left and right from sororities. Now my pledge class contains about 80 girls as opposed to last year’s 60. It’s overwhelming to meet a whole new sorority, let alone 80 girls. Regardless, I actually like having such a large number of new members because I meet new people in my pledge class every day.”

Though the large crowds were intimidating to some, more participants meant more diversity.

“I got to see the great diversity of girls rushing and realized that Greek life doesn’t include one ‘type of girl’ but a myriad personalities,” said Kaici Aloupis, a freshman studying psychology and new member of Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA).

Still, Aloupis noted the consequences of having so many women go through recruitment. She said she wished she had more time in each suite to get to know her potential sisters. With groups of 20 to 30 peers in each room at a time, she said she felt that the rooms were very loud, and it was hard to communicate with some of the women.

“One way they could improve the recruitment process is to make the parties more intimate by allowing less number of girls in each suite at a time because the rooms were so loud it was hard to feel like a genuine conversation was taking place but instead a quick speed dating process occurred,” Aloupis said.

To another new ZTA member, pre-veterinary sophomore Allie Margol, the large crowds were comforting. While participants are mostly freshmen, Margol decided to rush after watching her friends enjoy Greek life.

“I didn’t expect there to be so many sophomores rushing,” she said. “It actually made me more comfortable knowing I wasn’t the only non-freshman rushing.”

Although formal recruitment started with nearly 800 girls, as the week went on, about 100 girls either dropped out of recruitment or were not offered a bid.

Xhorxha Hoxha, a freshman from Chicago, decided to go through recruitment to rush with her friends but then chose to drop. She said she did not like the formality of the process and the expectation of perfection in clothing and conversations throughout the week. She felt that the structure of the process did not allow her to best convey her personality.

“I’m glad that Greek life exists and it’s there for the people that want it,” she said. “I can see a lot of people being happy in it, but I’m glad that at a school like Miami, I don’t need it to have a social life.”

After a spike in interest in Greek life this past year, Bajalia said as long as this increased interest holds in future years, the pledge classes will continually grow.

“I do think that if our numbers continue to grow in the way that they did this semester, there will be an increased Greek life presence on campus, which is a great thing,” she said.