After being postponed from its originally scheduled dates in early September due to a surge in COVID-19 cases on campus last month, Panhellenic hosted its recruitment last weekend from Wednesday, Sept. 29 through Sunday, Oct. 3.
The Panhellenic Council, the governing body for Colgate’s sororities, was forced to upend its original plans for the weekend’s events upon new guidance in response to the case surge, according to Panhellenic council president senior Elizabeth Morin.
“We had to make some last-minute changes to our schedule in order to abide by indoor capacity limits placed on residential spaces,” Morin said, noting that the first two days of recruitment, Sisterhood and Philanthropy rounds on Thursday and Friday, took place in tents outside each of the sororities houses. Saturday’s preference round took place at limited capacity inside the houses.
“This led to our Saturday schedule being so long, but I think it worked out well and we were able to still have the indoor experience and follow all guidelines.”
Despite the last-minute changes this year, members of the Panhellenic Council were relieved to have an in-person Recruitment week, as last year’s was held entirely over Zoom.
Colgate is home to three sororities, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Delta Delta Delta and Gamma Phi Beta. Delta Delta Delta Recruitment Co-Chair Jordana Kaller expressed her frustration with the initial ambiguity regarding the impact of the recent surge in on-campus COVID-19 cases on fall recruitment.
“I had been working hard with my co-chair since this summer and we were disappointed when it was pushed back,” Kaller said. Despite the initial uncertainty, she felt that the overall experience was very successful.
“Although it was super cold out, having smaller groups of [potential new members] (PNMs) in the tent and in our house allowed them to have a more intimate experience talking to our members,” Kaller said, adding that Delta Delta Delta was able to bring PNMs on one-on-one tours of their house on preference round as a result of the new format.
Senior Hayley Jackson, who served as a Recruitment Counselor (RC) and guided a group of PNMs through the recruitment process, also expressed her excitement regarding the return to in-person recruitment activities, despite the unanticipated delay. Jackson noted the uniquely rewarding experience of guiding PNMs down Broad Street.
“It was frustrating at first to have it postponed because we were uncertain about whether or not we would be able to hold recruitment in person, and all the houses had done a ton of planning, but I’m very glad we were able to have the tents and make it work with Colgate’s rules,” Jackson said. “ I found my experience as an RC to be super rewarding because, after having everything online last year, a lot of my PNMs had questions and concerns about the process, so it was really nice to be able to talk with them and provide support in person. All the RCs were great and I am super proud of all the work that was put into this weekend, even though it looked a little different than what we originally planned.”
New member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, Sophomore Izzy Olavarria expressed her appreciation for the postponed in-person experience, despite masking protocols and other COVID-19 guidelines.
“I’m so happy it was in person, but wearing masks definitely made it hard to remember faces and names,” Olavarria said, adding that she enjoyed being able to see the inside of the houses on the last day. “We were frustrated when it was postponed for multiple weeks due to COVID, and that it ended up being right before midterms, which was very tiring, but everyone was so friendly during the process.”
According to Morin, the challenges of the pandemic have made the bonds made in Greek Life Organizations stronger.
“Sisters leaned on each other a lot for emotional support during these hard times and still do. We have very close bonds given the hard situations we have been experiencing and know that we will be there for each other no matter what arises,” Morin said.
Panhellenic recruitment does not represent a system of sisterhood and support for all students. Many students each year choose not to involve themselves in the recruitment process, and some students advocate for a complete abolition of Greek Letter Organizations on campus. Abolish Greek Life (AGL), a nationwide movement that came to Colgate last fall advocating for the eventual abolition of Greek Life, argues harmful practices including hazing are inextricable from Greek Life Organizations.
“While there may be more news coverage about hazing and sexual violence in Greek Life recently, this is not new at all. Greek Life has always sheltered perpetrators of many forms of violence,” argued a statement drafted by AGL Colgate as a collective group.
Recently, Abolish Greek Life Colgate has created a virtual form for students to “Pledge Not to Pledge.” In this form, students have listed their reasons for not joining Greek Life. Members of AGL Colgate have varied reasons for joining the movement, including serious concerns with racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, classism, transphobia, normalization of sexual violence, substance abuse, social pressure and exclusion at Colgate and other colleges. Their website also includes testimonials from graduated students on why they disaffiliated, past articles of legal and administrative cases against Colgate’s Greek Life Organizations and their hopes for abolition.
“We do not plan on abolishing Greek Life overnight,” the collective statement from AGL said. “Long-term, we imagine Colgate as a place that does not need exclusive, monetary based social groups based on oppression, and will in fact be a place for all students of all identities and backgrounds to feel welcome. As a group, we pride ourselves on the creativity necessary to envision a Colgate without Greek life, and invite our student body to envision a new Colgate with us.”
Members of the Panhellenic Council understand the concerns of AGL Colgate, and are working towards more transparency in the Panhellenic Recruitment and membership processes.
“As leaders in the Greek Life community, we too share the concerns of the Abolish Greek Life movement; we have zero-tolerance for occurrences of sexual assault and racism across any of our organizations and we actively engage in preventative activities through our SAPAS and DEI chairs,” said Morin. “We are currently working on being more transparent about all of our processes, especially those relating to recruitment […] For the future, we have more initiatives planned, such as the Broad Street Open House, to bridge the gap between affiliated and non-affiliated communities that we hope will foster a more accepting and inclusive community and social scene at Colgate.”
The Panhellenic Council and Abolish Greek Life Colgate welcome readers to explore their Instagram accounts and websites for more details on their respective organizations and goals.