UF Sorority and fraternities have chosen to socially-distancing their rush week this Fall to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Although the semester begins in a month, many chapters still haven’t received guidance from their councils on how to keep recruitment safe.
More than half of rush week will be conducted online under the UF Panhellenic Council’s new rush week guidelines. For the in-person components, participants will be asked to maintain a social distance and wear masks.
Greek recruitment, or rush week, will be divided into four rounds from August 20 to 27 according to the Panhellenic Council’s plan. The rounds typically consist of potential new members visiting all sorority houses and getting to know the members who belong to each. But this rush week, new safety precautions have forced the first three rounds online, with only the final round occurring in person.
New recruits will get to know each chapter by watching a series of 18 introductory videos, each no longer than five minutes. They will also be required to submit a 90-second long video introducing themselves.
Later, recruits will use Zoom to better get to know the women in the chapter houses of their choice. On August 26 and 27, every new member will be able to visit two chapter houses in person. Only 15 new members will be allowed to attend each in-person event, according to the guide.
The council may move all rounds online if rates of COVID-19 worsen throughout the state and county, according to the plan. Plans for bid day, or the day new recruits learn what chapter they’ve been accepted into, have not yet been announced.
Rush week will continue as scheduled for Panhellenic Council, according to the council’s website. Any modifications to the council’s plans will be posted on their website and social media, according to Panhellenic Council President Alexa Young’s email to The Alligator.
“Should there be any in-person component of the recruitment process, it will be voluntary,” Young wrote. “Potential New Members will have the option to participate in a fully virtual experience, should they choose to do so.”
Recruitment guidelines for fraternities, multicultural chapters or historically Black chapters have not yet been publicly released, according to UF Interfraternity Council and Multicultural Greek Council presidents.
UF’s Sorority and Fraternity Affairs and Greek council UF leadership met with chapter presidents July 20 and discussed rush week plans, said Lambda Theta Phi President, Mauricio Perez. He added that there were no updates from leadership about recruitment.
Another meeting between SFA and chapter presidents will be held August 10, according to an email sent to chapter presidents from SFA Director Reginald Lane Thursday. The meeting was rescheduled from August 3, according to the email.
“There is a delay on some information that we want to ensure is shared out accurately as we provide your chapters with recommendations and guidance for the Fall semester,” Lane wrote.
Carlie Schelhorn, a 19-year-old UF telecommunication senior, found her sorority, Chi Omega, in 2018 during rush week when she walked into the last house of the day and felt at home, she said.
Schelhorn said she’s concerned that without the physical contact that rushing brings, future sisters will have a hard time finding which sorority is best for them.
“I think it's going to be a bit of a challenge for the girls who are doing rush this year to find the vibe through a computer screen,” she said.
UF fraternities rush differently than sororities. Instead of choosing a chapter in formal rounds, about 1,000 students flood Fraternity Row to move freely between houses, said Interfraternity Council President Stephen Greep.
This Fall, instead of hundreds of students packing houses, chapters will have to figure out how to rush while social distancing, Greep said.
The UF Interfraternity Council, which oversees most fraternities at UF, doesn’t have a final plan on how to recruit in Fall or when they will release their plans, he said. He said the council has developed three or four plans with student safety in mind.
He did not specify what these plans entail. When asked what social distancing measures IFC would take during recruitment, Greep said he didn’t know “what route they would go” and declined to comment further.
IFC will still recruit from Sept. 14-18, according to the council website.
Not all chapters face the same recruitment challenges.
The UF Multicultural Greek Council and the UF National Pan-hellenic Council oversee the multicultural and historically Black sororities and fraternities on campus. These chapters usually have fewer recruits, Perez said.
Instead of students having the option to meet with all chapters, like they do in IFC and Panhellenic Council’s rush week, MGC and NPHC recruits talk with one chapter and develop relationships with its members, he said.
For these chapters, recruitment is about building connections with incoming members, he said.
The MGC president Haily DeRigo wrote in a statement to The Alligator that individual chapters in the council will choose whether to recruit. The council will prioritize student safety and chapter compliance with university regulations during recruitment, according to the statement.
Kappa Phi Lambda and Sigma Lambda Beta, a sorority and fraternity in MGC, declined to make comments on their recruitment.
Although fraternities like Lambda Theta Phi do not typically see large groups of students during recruitment, policies requiring social distancing will still impact them, Perez said.
“It’s really about that close-knit, chosen family,” he said, “and that’s difficult to foster virtually.”
MGC and NPHC chapters do not have houses like IFC and Panhellenic Council, which removes some pressure to bring in new recruits each rush to fund rent and utilities, Perez said. But changes to recruitment are still concerning, he said.
For fraternities and sororities to remain active, they must meet certain community service, social, and academic requirements, Perez said. When there are fewer members in a chapter, those requirements fall on fewer people and are more difficult to meet, he said.
Before Perez joined Lambda Theta Phi, the fraternity was already struggling to meet these requirements, he said.
The fraternity had two members who carried all of the responsibilities to keep the fraternity active, before Perez’s line, or recruitment class, of 10 people joined in Spring 2019. The fraternity had eight members total, he added, but only two who were active by UF standards.
One semester’s recruitment gave Lambda Theta Phi new life, Perez said.
“There have been more than a few chapters that have been on the brink of dying for a couple years now,” he said. “A lot of people are considering if it’s even worth it to have a line this semester.”
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the correct IFC recruitment days.
Lianna Hubbard is a reporter for The Alligator’s Investigative Team. The UF women’s study major began as a freelance reporter three years ago. She founded her community college’s award-winning newspaper before beginning at The Independent Florida Alligator. See an issue in your community or a story at UF? Send tips to her Twitter.