Sorority Recruitment Disempowers Women

For most of this weekend, Emory women stood in straight lines in business casual attire and cocktail dresses, had their cell phones taken away, were told they were not allowed to speak to one another and eventually chose one of the seven Emory Panhellenic Council (EPC) sororities to join during Sorority Recruitment, which started Friday, Jan. 16 and ended this past Sunday.

This year’s recruitment brought high levels of participation, with 501 women undergoing recruitment and 374 women placed into sororities. However, we at the Wheel take issue with some of the steps and processes that occur before women are placed into sororities, specifically with the classist, homogenizing and generally exclusive implications of many of the practices.

At each sorority house, potential new members (PNMs) talk to sorority women for a few minutes at a time. Based on these impressions, each sorority has a different, specific internal process to decide which women they want to invite back the following day, while the PNMs choose which chapters they would like to revisit. Despite the fact that there is no guarantee that a woman will be placed in a sorority, every girl must pay a registration fee to participate in recruitment (this year, the fee was either $65 or $80 depending on whether a PNM registered before a certain date). ​

Before entering the houses, the women are yelled at, herded into single-file lines and told they may not wear watches. In the houses, both PNMs and sorority women must limit their conversation topics to exclude the “5 Bs:” booze, boys, Barack (politics), Bible (religion) and bank accounts (money). Conversely, IFC rush involves more time, freedom and agency, with potential members able to speak with fraternity members with less rigidity. EPC sorority PNMs are judged, for the most part, on a five minute conversation. Some sorority women may already know or have heard of a PNM and have already determined whether they want them to be in their sorority; the conversation serves simply to confirm this prior notion. ​

Each day of recruitment has different wardrobe guidelines: the recruitment t-shirt for the first day, casual attire for the second, business casual for the third and formal or cocktail attire for the fourth. While the women are not pressured to dress to a particular style, heavy emphasis is placed on dressing to impress.

During the week between the two weekends of recruitment, “strict silence” is enforced, meaning no sorority women are allowed to speak with PNMs. It is a widely accepted fact that many PNMs will be upset, feel rejected and even cry throughout the recruitment process.

While EPC sorority life certainly has redeeming factors, and while these independent organizations have the right to have their own rules, we at the Wheel are taking up this issue due to the large presence that sororities have on our campus, with over 30 percent of undergraduate women in a sorority and even more participating in recruitment.

For the practices listed above, sorority recruitment is objectifying, superficial, discriminatory and in need of vast reformation.

The women involved in this process are forbidden from talking about some of the topics that can significantly shape a person’s identity, including politics, religion and sexuality. PNMs can receive invitations based on arbitrary and superficial conversations. At worst, PNMs are cut based on a variety of ambiguous and unexplained factors.

​​This propagates stereotypical gender roles, where women are shut out from weightier conversations about politics or religion — which has many historical antecedents. The EPC process may encourage women to be unopinionated, which contributes to a conscious sublimation of individuality. Women should not be restricted from expression — especially when trying to join a sisterhood of other women. Recruitment de-emphasizes complex conversation and over-emphasizes appearance. As a large aspect and attraction for EPC sorority life may be fraternity interactions through date parties and mixers, the flaws in the EPC recruitment process play into patriarchal notions of competition among women for male attention.

Additionally, the process discriminates on the basis of class. The strict apparel guidelines engenders pressures on PNMs to buy new outfits and wear clothes that will indicate a level of status, which contributes to producing a self-selecting population of students who decide to undergo recruitment in the first place. Even more significantly, joining a sorority is a considerable financial commitment. While women can get the registration fee required to go through recruitment waived, they still have to pay between $400 to $800 in dues. The exact price, however, is not disclosed to PNMs until after they join a sorority.

While there are some scholarships to help women pay dues once a PNM has joined a sorority, women cannot count on receiving one, which means sorority women must be prepared to pay the full costs of dues. Many Emory students ​pay for their tuition in Pell grants or other financial aid and may not have the means to pay for this investment, which is considerable. ​Consequently and due to the size of the population that participates in Emory Greek Life, the sorority (and fraternity) recruitment process can serve as a de facto economic stratification mechanism.

The process also erases the identities of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals (or individuals who do not identify within the gender or sexuality binaries). EPC sororities use “boys” as one of the forbidden topics of conversations, assuming every PNM is heterosexual, and there’s little discussion of whether transgender women can participate in recruitment. As a University that routinely nationally rated as an LGBT-friendly campus, we find this process, which engages so much of campus, to be against Emory’s ethical values.

Additionally, it is difficult to believe that very many other factors are considered during the recruitment process other than appearance, pre-conceived notions and snap-judgments on a PNM’s personality, which may foster an environment for prejudices to emerge against those who do not meet conventional standards of beauty.

We recommend several reforms. First, EPC sororities should assess their racial and ethnic diversity and determine whether their diversity matches that of Emory. It is possible that flaws in the EPC sorority recruitment process may contribute to less success for people of color being accepted into the sorority.

Furthermore, EPC should take away the clothing guidelines to de-emphasize appearance and wealth in the recruitment process, and to be more accessible to people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, EPC sororities should diligently pursue significantly reduced or zero-cost recruitment registration, as well as increasing other scholarships, aid or reduced costs for dues.

Sorority recruitment in its current form does not reflect the University’s commitment to ethical engagement. The objective of recruitment and sorority life is to foster healthy female relationships and empower women to support each other, but we find the EPC recruitment process to be exclusive at best and oppressive at worst. In order to get into organizations that intend to empower women, women must first disempower each other through EPC recruitment.

The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.
Anyone who reported on the 2015 Recruitment did not vote.

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  1. Ellen Shapiro 3 years ago

    *compares recruitment process to a job networking event or interview* (i.e. $$, dress code, no talking about relationships, no talking about partying/drinking, short conversations, information gathered prior to recruitment process, etc.)

    Oh and btw, Theta’s rush chair is a lesbian.

  2. Rehan Bhiwandiwalla 3 years ago

    Breaking news: SJW gets offended and triggered by everything.

  3. Bob 3 years ago

    I cannot support Greek Life at Emory University until it becomes more accepting of individuals who identify as toasters.

  4. Alison 3 years ago

    The difference between recruitment and a job networking event, at least for me, as an engineer, is that a job event is to determine how competent I am at certain skills that the company requires. I am always asked to display my programming skills, and I am never asked my sexual orientation, because it has no effect on whether I am a good programmer. The skills on which the company is judging me certainly do include some interpersonal skills like communication and the ability to be a good team member, however the company is not judging me on whether I am a suitable person as a whole.

    In particular, I think the contrast between men’s recruitment, where the topics are not banned, and women’s recruitment which does have the limitations, to be especially interesting. To me, it seems as though women going through recruitment are required to display a very bland, watered-down (whitened, perhaps?) version of their personality.

    1. Katie Stout 3 years ago

      ADPi’s former Director of Standards and Ethics is bisexual. There are several others throughout the different sororities who are a part of the LGBT community. Also, members of Greek Life are actively trying to join forces with the LGBT community on campus and bridge this stereotypical gap.

      1. Katie Stout 3 years ago

        Also, would you care to divulge in what you think fraternity recruitment is like? Because I assure you there are many ethical issues to be raised there – some worse than what this author laid out in their depiction of sorority recruitment. We don’t “water down” anyone – we simply try to stick to appropriate, ethical conversations. You don’t need to divulge the juicy secrets of your life in order to make a wildly good impression on someone – some would say that takes character.

        1. Alison 3 years ago

          I’m neither trying to imply that fraternity recruitment is ethical nor that everyone should divulge their “juicy secrets” during recruitment. I merely meant to highlight a freedom that the men seem to have that is restricted to the women. I also do not think that every conversation should center around the (often controversial) topics that have been restricted, but I do think that the topics make up a part of who we are, and that each person should be able to speak freely about topics that may be of great significance to that person.

  5. J. Quinn 3 years ago

    What a ridiculous article. Thanks for reaffirming that Emory’s GDI are all bitter.

    1. Dissident 3 years ago

      Actually not at all.

  6. emorystudent123 3 years ago

    God damn geeds.

  7. Dissident 3 years ago

    Hmmm these GDI comments don’t make me feel bitter. They make me thankful that I’m not part of an organization who intentionally seeks to separate themselves from the rest of the student body by making labels like GDI.

    1. J. Quinn 3 years ago

      My friend, if it were up to me, you wouldn’t even be a part of the student body.

      1. Dissident 3 years ago

        (Says the Wheel’s resident sarcastic racist)

        1. J. Quinn 3 years ago

          Well to be sarcastic again: great job pulling the race card!

        2. J. Quinn 3 years ago

          Besides, at the end of the day, so many student organizations seeks to separate themselves from the rest of the student body. Do you think ICE & FIA work to include EVERYBODY?

  8. Alison 3 years ago

    I believe that the US discriminates not only against black people, but also against Asian people. I used black people as an example, but certainly they are not the only group that faces discrimination.

    Also, I don’t think there is a conscious discrimination by class necessarily, so I don’t think that acknowledging a different background would be damaging towards entering a sorority. The classist discrimination that I believe is most damaging is the fees, both for recruitment and for being a member of a sorority, as well as expectations towards clothing.

    1. emorystudent123 3 years ago

      Black people are also 5-7 times more likely to get into college with the same credentials as white people. That is discrimination on white people.

  9. Anonymous 3 years ago

    Nothing in this article indicated that The Wheel considers women in sororities to be bad people, nor do they say that sororities themselves are bad organizations. The Wheel Editorial Staff is not passing judgement on members of sororities, nor is it saying that Greek Life should be abolished. It is actually preposterous to claim that that is what the article is saying.

    What the article does in fact say is that the sorority recruitment process is not perfect. Anyone who tells you that the sorority recruitment process is perfect is either grossly misinformed or lying. Even women in sororities often feel uncomfortable with the recruitment process, as it forces people to dilute their personalities and make snap judgments based on short conversations. While common sense dictates that it is a good idea to stay away from certain conversations during any interview process, the format and strict restrictions on topics may be a detriment for many women. Women who are particularly politically active or spiritual, for example, would not be able to share a large part of their identity with their future sisters because of these restrictions. It is true that fraternity recruitment does not impose such strict rules, and they can discuss whatever they want. While it may not be beneficial to have so few rules, it does allow for a lot more freedom and an opportunity to show a greater view of the pnm’s personality.

    As for the classism issue. While pnms cannot discuss money, there are many visual indicators of wealth that could play a part in a current member’s judgment. Clothes, weight, and hometown are all indicators of wealth that are obvious to current members interviewing a pnm. While I personally doubt that there is little that can be done to “even the playing field” between classes during sorority recruitment, it is undoubtedly an issue in Greek Life.

    The LGBT issue. Although it is doubtful that sororities actively discriminate against LGBT individuals, it is probable that LGBT individuals felt uncomfortable during recruitment or were deterred from rushing in the first place due to fear of bias. (Like the article says, the registration fee is approximately $80 whether you are placed into a sorority or not. Someone who perceives that they could face discrimination during rush that would leave them bidless would likely be reluctant to pay the $80 fee).

    That being said, it is understandable how members of Greek Life would be upset by this article. The tone of this article was needlessly aggressive and even somewhat objectifying (describes the women as being yelled at and herded. While that is true, it makes the pnms sound more like cattle than like people). If The Wheel wants to see meaningful reform in the recruitment process, it should be more considerate of people’s feelings.

    1. Emory Mom 3 years ago

      I appreciate your comments for the most part. The Wheel came in with an axe to grind and the platform on which to swing. The adage ‘Good news, bad news, just don’t spell my name wrong’ certainly holds true here. This author has received far more than her 5 minutes worth. (Yes – I’ll judge that it was written by a woman).

  10. Anonymous 3 years ago

    I find it ironic that the people most vocal in their opposition to this article are girls in Theta–the best house at Emory. Obviously, the girls who had the best possible outcome at rush are going to support the current system. I’d bet the 100 or so girls who dropped rush would have different opinions.

    Furthermore, Greek life is controversial, both at Emory and on the national level. You can’t really dispute that. However, Greeks get REALLY angry when you make any critique about their organization, or Greek life in general. I can’t understand why people voluntarily join a controversial organization and then shut out all criticism. Instead of putting your head in the sand and lashing out at criticism, why don’t you accept your organization’s flaws and work to make it better?

  11. Anonymous 3 years ago

    What truly disempowers women is telling women what disempowers them. And judging women for making the decisions that they previously felt comfortable and confident making.

  12. Emory Mom 3 years ago

    Re: clothing requirements. Fine. Remove the clothing guidelines for the PNM’s. Tell them to wear whatever they want. Do you REALLY think that will level the playing field at Emory? Money aside, how stupid will they feel when they show up to a house, decorated in formal flair, with everyone INSIDE the house dressed in formal dresses for pref night? The Wheel author honestly thinks the greatly under dressed woman will fit better because she had no specs on attire?

    Yes the process sucks but when we think back to grade school when everyone got a trophy for participating on a team, did it really mean anything? The recruitment process is imperfect and it isn’t just at Emory. At Indiana University, 2200 women go through recruitment for less than 1000 spots. National headquarters are always looking for ways to improve the process. National chapters are involved in the recruitment process. This isn’t all on EPC and you’re kidding yourself if you think this “enlightening article” will now change everything! Thanks for alienating and isolating everyone.
    Nice work.

  13. Anna 3 years ago

    I think part of what may anger so many members of the Greek community is that this is yet another example of the Wheel writing something negative about Greek life. The examples of the Wheel highlighting positive aspects of the Greek community are practically non-existent. While the editors of the Wheel may claim that their purpose in penning this editorial is to change the Emory recruitment process, it’s hard for the members of this community to really listen to what is being said when this seems like just another negative article from the Wheel. Perhaps if the Wheel showed more objectivity in its reporting on Greek life, your target audience would be more receptive.

    Furthermore, there are number of errors in this article. Though, I’ve heard the Wheel is already working on retracting and correcting certain statements made in this piece. Perhaps the Greek community would have had a better reaction if the Wheel had done its homework and had tried to avoid printing blatant misinformation.

    It also strikes me as irresponsible for the Wheel to publish an editorial that so starkly fails to even consider the explanations for why certain rules are in place during sorority recruitment. The 5 B’s are restricted topics because your entire identity does not in fact revolve around your economic status or your political affiliation. Since the Wheel seems to be so concerned with the classist element of sorority recruitment, they should be glad that we don’t allow women to talk about what exactly it is that their parents do and how much they make. I can almost guarantee you that, that is a part of the fraternity recruitment process. When you can no longer talk about booze, boys, bank accounts, Barack and Bibles, it helps women better connect on different levels and find other common interests. Yes, the conversations during recruitment are limited in time but the other option would be to have a month long recruitment process and then the next thing you know is that the Wheel feels the need to write an op-ed about how sorority recruitment is disempowering women because they are taking away time from the academic aspect of College. Choosing a sorority is a highly personal thing and we want women to be able to make that decision with as little influence from their friends as possible. While your friend might belong in one house, a different house might be better for you and we want women to make that decision for themselves.

    While sorority recruitment isn’t perfect, very few things in this world are. Maybe the Wheel should consider all the positive aspects of sorority life and see the experience as a whole. As someone who was in an Emory sorority and served as President of her organization, I can tell you that I would not be the type of woman I am today without having been a member of the Greek community. I know that I am the confident, well-spoken, and successful woman I am today in large part due to my membership in a sorority. Maybe if the Wheel published some articles about all the charity work done by sororities and the positive effect that sororities have on women I would be more liable to take this op-ed seriously.

  14. Pingback: EPC Responds to ‘Sorority Recruitment Disempowers Women’ | The Emory Wheel

  15. anonymous 3 years ago

    As a very recent Emory alum who went Greek, I can say that this letter does hit some nails on the head. Could diversity be better, socio-economically, racially? Absolutely. Does appearance play a role? Sure. I don’t think anyone in any Greek organization in this nation would disagree—I also don’t think there is that much any organization can do about it. You can’t change who shows up at your door, and appearances inevitably inform first impressions.

    However, this assessment smacks of a very superficial understanding of recruitment. Recruitment is often a harrowing experience for everyone involved—PNMs and full-fledged sisters. As a PNM, you feel that everything you say, every aspect of your appearance, and every awkward moment will be recorded and harshly judged. You might be utterly devastated when some friends are invited back to one house, or when you don’t know any other PNMs in the room on pref night. This letter doesn’t even get into Bid Day, which is notoriously the most awkward day of the whole sorority experience. No one knows each other, but now you’re all sisters. It’s weird and many people leave the day feeling disappointed or unsure about their choice.

    Once you’re on the other side, all of these anxieties are laughable in hindsight. As a sister representing her house, I always wanted to make a good impression and meet people. I was shocked when year after year, I’d be paired with some girl who very obviously didn’t want to be in the house and just gave me the silent treatment for five minutes. (You have to visit all houses the first day.) Other new anxieties developed during rush on the house side, since it’s essentially speed dating for eight hours straight with virtually no break (how to remember names, how to keep track of girls you talked to, etc.). And just because all involved are encouraged to stay away from certain topics, doesn’t mean that everyone does. I always felt that rule is in place to not make PNMs (and sisters) feel put on the spot or uncomfortable. As for judging on appearances–for any recent PNMs out there, please be comforted by the fact that we are meeting SO MANY people, no one has time to judge you that harshly. I was proud if I could remember the names of a few girls who seemed really awesome.

    Which brings me to what I think is actually the biggest problem with recruitment, which is completely glossed over here. Girls who do “well” in recruitment are those who are really outgoing and can talk to people easily. Girls who are shy or even somewhat reserved are usually forgotten. In other words, you have to be memorable. This is precisely why sororities host all those events at fairs in the fall and encourages members to keep eyes out for PNMs—which earns the accusation of this letter, that girls are already chosen. To actually get to know girls, houses have to be proactive and try to build relationships with freshmen. Rush is not conducive to this. (By the way, oral bids—telling a girl she’s already in, or even saying “see you later,” implying there will be a return to the lodge during rush—is not only strictly forbidden, but a fined offense.)

    When I came to Emory, I hadn’t planned to go Greek. But I loved my experience and I wouldn’t have met some of the great friends I did had I not joined. Granted, every house is different. I was lucky to join a group of amazing women who were diverse and supportive of each other. And that was empowering.

  16. Caroline Pilewski 3 years ago

    Most people would say that it would be a bad idea to bring up politics, religion, or money the first time that they meet anyone, regardless of the situation. That’s called having good manners. So why is it seen as being such a terrible thing that PNMs are told that those topics are off-limits during recruitment? This editorial is grasping at straws in an attempt at making some claim that sororities disempower females.

  17. Anon 3 years ago

    The lack of journalistic integrity exhibited in this article is astounding.

  18. Bridget_Riley 3 years ago

    Making the most of 5-minute conversations – could be the name of a workshop at Goizueta. Dress to impress – sounds like a training session held at my company last week. Avoiding the 5Bs – shucks, I do that at every interview. If you take a look at this from an entirely different stance, that sorority rush actually empowers women for success in business, you could draw out a similarly passionate argument. Does that make it more correct? No. It just means that you’re playing out the liberal arts college cliche of calling every edifice sexist/racist/homophobic. In life after college, you have to affect change or shut up. So enjoy this time, enjoy the soapbox, find out what fits you and where you want to make actual change (not fussiness over words) happen.

  19. Anonymous 3 years ago

    The fact that all you got out of my comment is what I said about Theta says it all. People need to stop making straw man arguments and actually comprehend that sorority rush has some issues, and can severely damage the self esteem of people who get cut. Is it actually that hard to accept criticism? What is going to happen to all of you guys when you get your first critical job evaluation?

    1. emorystudent123 3 years ago

      I think sorority rush sucks, but it is the best thing for everyone and free of a lot of bias. I only took that out of what you said because it was literally the only thing i disagree with. The rest of what you wrote was very well said.

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  21. Bob 3 years ago

    “The process also erases the identities of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals (or individuals who do not identify within the gender or sexuality binaries).”

    Why should women’s organizations have to accept non-women members? Especially so called trans-women who are just a bunch of pervy dudes roleplaying their fantasies about true womanhood.

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  25. Emory Mom 3 years ago

    Amen. All of the Supreme Court Justices were in Greek life in their respective colleges. It is a great leadership tool.

  26. Anonymous 3 years ago

    I graduated a few years ago and was in a sorority all four years. I am bi as were a few other sisters and it never came up as an issue. One girl rushed openly gay and was perfectly accepted as well.

  27. EarlVanDorn 3 years ago

    This editorial is six months old, but I still want to comment on a few things.

    Many of the policies this editorial complains about are actually designed to reduce the influence of wealth and social class. For example, the enforced silence is designed to encourage prospective members to make their own choices about sorority membership rather than to be influenced by peers or the inevitable “ranking” of groups that exists. As for the prohibition against talking about “The Five Bs,” this is known as being able to engage in a polite conversation. Again, the idea is that prospective members should choose and be chosen for membership based on factors other than what church they attend or who they plan to support in the next election. Sororities are social clubs, and membership decisions are and should be made on the ability of prospective members to engage in socially appropriate behavior.

    I would hope young women wouldn’t have to go out and buy new clothes to go through rush. They should already have these clothes in their closets. The ability to dress and act appropriately is a life and career-preparedness skill, and it is good to know that Emory sororities are promoting these very important skills. If Emory wants to eliminate class distinctions then the school should require all of the students to dress in “Chairman Mao” outfits and drive Yugos. Of course, if the school were to do so the enrollment would quickly drop to zero, because few people really want to live in a society where absolute equality is enforced from above.

    I suspect that those who wrote or approve of this editorial are socially awkward types who couldn’t gain admission to most Greek orgainzations, and so go around exclaiming that they would never want to anyway. So the newspaper staff is their “fraternity,” and their chapter meeting consists of whining and complaining about their fellow students who have dared to join with those of like mind and ability to improve themselves. Why not just stop and allow students he right to make their own choices?