Michigan’s Sorority Dilemma

There have been many changes within the Greek Life community over the last year on campus, affecting everything from fraternity parties to sorority recruitment. These changes have led to much speculation about whether or not President Schlissel is trying to “phase out” Greek Life at Michigan. 

To a student not involved in Greek Life, this may seem like it wouldn’t substantially affect the Panhellenic community. However, this was likely a decision deliberately made to discourage women from rushing to weaken the Panhellenic presence on campus.

One of the most drastic alterations to Greek Life came about in 2019. The University decided to move the Panhellenic (sorority) Primary Recruitment from September to January, beginning in January 2020. This decision was originally intended for all of Greek Life, but the Interfraternity Council was able to resist this new rule, and continue rushing at the beginning of the fall semester. To a student not involved in Greek Life, this may seem like it wouldn’t substantially affect the Panhellenic community. However, this was likely a decision deliberately made to discourage women from rushing to weaken the Panhellenic presence on campus. Furthermore, this alteration unreasonably affects only women, whereas men are able to continue their recruiting events unhindered. This change was presented as a way to encourage freshmen women to explore clubs and organizations outside of sororities, while also providing time to think about whether they want to commit to Greek Life. But, the repercussions of this change will negatively affect both the sororities on campus, and those women interested in going through recruitment.

Even though this time change is only a few months later than usual, this creates a large housing problem for every sorority on campus, and for the freshmen women considering rushing in the winter. This raises the issue of the individual sorority’s needs to fill their houses to capacity, but the freshmen needing to sign housing contracts in the fall semester. In previous years, the freshmen that went through primary recruitment in the fall didn’t have to worry about their housing contracts for their sophomore year. Those participating in rush would know by the beginning of October whether or not they were given a bid to a sorority, and would then know if they are able to live in the sorority house the following year. Previously, if these women chose not to accept their bid, they still would have time to find housing and sign a lease for the upcoming year, since most leases are signed in September through December. However, by moving primary recruitment to January, all freshmen women must decide whether they wish to rush a sorority in hopes of living in the sorority house, or to forego rushing to have guaranteed housing for their sophomore year. As a result, the sororities must also decide whether they will require their current live-in members to live in the house again next year, or hope they will recruit well enough in the winter to fill their houses to capacity with new members. 

Either way, the sorority will be putting their chapter at risk: on the one hand, if they require their members to live in chapter house for another year, they risk many of those members dropping out of the chapter so they can live off campus for their upperclassmen years.

Either way, the sorority will be putting their chapter at risk: on the one hand, if they require their members to live in chapter house for another year, they risk many of those members dropping out of the chapter so they can live off campus for their upperclassmen years. On the other hand, if the sorority waits for the new members from the winter 2020 recruitment, they might not receive the number of women needed to fill the house, resulting in the chapter’s increased likelihood of losing their house. 

These changes would affect many individuals and organizations outside of the Greek community, such as clubs on campus, freshman involvement, and off-campus housing options. On the bright side, this change to winter primary recruitment would likely increase the freshmen women involvement in clubs and organizations outside of Greek Life, and relieve some of the pressures freshmen might feel to join a sorority. This could increase the presence of many clubs on campus, resulting in more active, involved, well-rounded freshmen. 

This change will almost certainly cause the number of women in the Panhellenic community to decrease, possibly causing the presence of Greek Life altogether to fade, and over time disappear completely.

Nevertheless, it is very possible for women in sororities to still be engaged in the larger University of Michigan community in a beneficial way, such as through their sorority’s philanthropy events. In addition to philanthropy, sororities promote unwavering friendships between women as well as academic excellence, since many have minimum GPA requirements. Finally, joining a sorority makes it easy for freshmen to befriend women that share the same values and goals as them.

For those women that know they want to join a sorority, this switch to winter recruitment could drastically decrease their likelihood of joining Greek Life. This change will almost certainly cause the number of women in the Panhellenic community to decrease, possibly causing the presence of Greek Life altogether to fade, and over time disappear completely.

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