As it does every year, Hope College’s Greek Life flourishes with the falling snow, captivating the attention of first-year students, the surrounding community and the campus itself. The college is presently home to seven sororities and seven fraternities, but the numbers have grown and fallen throughout the years. Trials and tribulations arise in any number of activities and organizations, and the pandemic has certainly provided its fair share of difficulties for an organization that essentially breathes through socialization. Acclimation has been a necessity for everyone, and these years have presented extra adjustments.
This year, as well as last year, the college and Greek Life came to the consensus that the rush process would undergo changes on account of the spread of COVID-19. Initially, the sororities and fraternities were intending to proceed as normal with their rush process and regard the previous year’s disruptions as a one-time setback. Typically, rushing involves a two to three-week period of “open” and “closed” events in which “rushees” — students interested in being part of a sorority or fraternity — socialize with the active members during in-person activities. The previous rush season did not grant rushees the opportunity to interact face to face; it was completely virtual. All of the events were held via Zoom meetings, and there was no socializing in-person until the orientation after the rushing process finished. It seemed to be headed in that direction at the beginning of this year’s process as well when Dr. Ellen Awad and other Hope officials noticed the sudden surge of COVID cases for students and staff. The entire first week of events took place online through Zoom meetings even though the organizations had intentions of hosting in-person events.
However, as of Wednesday, January 26, rush events were able to be held in-person in outdoor settings, and on Friday, January 28 the organizations were able to have all activities in-person and indoors. For the first time since 2020, the rushing process headed in a completely normal direction. The efforts of both Greek’s Panhellenic Council and Dr. Awad went into managing the predicament of offering a semblance of normalcy to new rushees amid the COVID climate on campus. Active members of the Greek community were tested regularly to keep track of the number of cases within the organizations and decide whether or not large gatherings would cause a spike in campus’ numbers. For a brief period, there was consideration of testing active members for a week and then switching to testing the rushees the following as a method of tracking spread but the plan fell through. When the number of cases finally displayed a downward trend, the note about shifting socializing methods was released.
Campus was alive with the sound of sororities and fraternities emerging from their technological cages. Large auditoriums like Schaap or the Bultman Student Center were quickly reserved by sororities and fraternities to maintain a bit of space and prevent taking their events outdoors in the cold. Masks are still required during any activity occurring indoors, but the change in method did not stop the organizations from coming up with engaging activities for both online and in-person delivery. Some organizations like Alpha Gamma Phi played games like Pictionary and Kahoot online, collaborated to make Spotify playlists for everyone like the Aletheans, or had alums visit and offer wisdom to those rushing for the first time like the Delphis. The Sibylline sorority had a costume night where the participants made TikToks fully dressed in the getup of their choice; the Emmies had a dodgeball tournament in the Dow; the Dorians painted tote bags and made tie blankets for charity; the Phi Sigs went to Top Golf for a quick match against each other. The shift to in-person only gave the organizations wider options to work with.
It took adjustment and thought-provoking work, but the organizations wanted to keep their process with as much normalcy as possible. They worked closely with Dr. Awad and the Panhellenic council so that regulations were followed and that enjoyment was had by all. As a new member of the Panhellenic council and a first-year member of her sorority, Emily Mann (’24) experienced both the insider process of decision making and rushing through somewhat normal and entirely non-traditional years. Mann is currently a Representative for the Sigma Sigma sorority on the Panhellenic council and talked about the shifts throughout the year’s rush process. She states that the primary struggle was attempting to accommodate the process to the ever-changing COVID protocols and that, “our rush chairs had to develop plans for if rush was in-person, virtual, hybrid or anything in between… [they] did an amazing job with evolving our plans and developing activities that were still fun, yet fit into the COVID guidelines.” The complication with this year’s process was that the initial transition back to campus after break yielded minimal case counts. But things change quicker than the blink of an eye with such a vicious virus. Mann mentioned that “Last year was hard because it was all new terrain, but after [that], I think this year was much smoother” and the transition to beginning virtually then in-person was more gradual.
The rush process ends quickly after it starts, hibernating again until next winter when it can prosper in the campus community. About 20% of the college participates in Greek Life, and each year the new member numbers range from one to two hundred men and women. Greek Life continues to prosper and attract all kinds of people, and it will continue to do so no matter what method of delivery it needs.