This past fall, the National Panhellenic Conference released legislation regarding a greater emphasis on values-based recruitment. The changes are as follows:
- Focus on conversations between chapter members and potential new members about organizational values and member organizations.
- Establish guidelines for membership recruitment budgets and set a cap on membership recruitment expenses, including the value of all donated goods and services.
- Keep decorations to a minimum and confined to the interior space used for recruitment rounds.
- Determine recruitment event attire for chapter members that reduces individual financial burden and eliminates costuming.
- Eliminate gifts, favors, letters and notes for potential new members.
- Eliminate recruitment skits.
And the reaction between fraternity and sorority professionals and undergraduate Panhellenic members was, understandably, divided. FSL professionals have pushed for years to deemphasize the use of frills during Panhellenic primary recruitment. But undergraduate chapters, fearing change, struggle to understand the necessity in stepping away from tradition.
The issue lies not with the tradition, or the cultural norms held dear by the chapters, but rather in the lack of preparation of the chapters to create these changes in their recruitment processes. We haven’t taught our chapters to discuss with PNMs in a manner that makes them comfortable, that feels natural. It is easier and feels safer to the chapters to hide behind the frills of recruitment. Skits and décor are a great distraction. But what NPC found, and what LaunchPoint has been teaching for years, is that PNMs are not joining because of the frills. In fact, PNMs responding to NPC assessments overwhelmingly responded their selection of a chapter was determined by two factors:
- They were invited back by that organization
- Their personal interaction and conversations with chapter members (not limited to just one individual)
It really is as simple as that, so the message to our Panhellenic chapters has to be to stop wasting your time, energy, effort, and resources on songs, skits, attire, décor, etc., and train your members to be better conversationalists with PNMs. Being able to clearly and articulately talk about values is not a skill set many of our members have naturally. And we can’t continue to hide behind the phrase “From the outside looking in you can never understand. From the inside looking out, you can never explain.” We cannot afford not to explain it!
But what about the feelings of loss our members are experiencing from letting go of these long-standing traditions? How do we soften the blow? Find other ways to incorporate your traditions. Is your skit particularly important to your chapter? Could it be performed on bid day or during new member education? Are your chants and cheers special? Great, teach those to your members and use them during major chapter events and activities. What better way to kick of a philanthropy event or intramural gang than with a chapter cheer! Embrace your traditions, while utilizing them in a more appropriate way. Bring the focus of recruitment back to relationships.
Fear not, sisters, your recruitment will still be successful regardless of the loss of these frills. And what you will see as a result is an increase in the amount of time your members will have to focus on greater chapter programs and/or issues. Additionally, you may find more high quality women signing up for primary recruitment due the elimination of frills. Frills can often unfairly reinforce negative stereotypes about sororities, preventing women from considering membership.
So take the leap, and jump back to the basics of what sorority truly is: RELATIONSHIPS!