This article was co-authored by staff writers Gillian Skiba and Molly Douma (’22).
Each spring, Hope’s Greek world grows a little bit bigger, and even COVID-19 couldn’t put a stop to that. More than one hundred interested students, largely composed of underclassmen, go through the two and a half week process of rush, where they get to explore which sorority or fraternity might fit them best. This system typically includes a series of events put on across campus, where active members of the organizations spend time with, and eventually get to know, their potential new members.
This year, however, instead of having events where students can head to the roller rink or gather to watch a game together, each organization had to move the whole rush process online. COVID-19 restrictions meant learning to make connections, and deciding who might be a future brother or sister, through a screen.
Every Greek organization went in a different direction with this daunting task. Lots of Zoom calls included icebreakers and videos, while others saw people playing online games like Jeopardy and Kahoot. Some rushees even got the exhilarating experience of an online Zumba class at their event.
“Obviously I want to be in-person meeting all of these cool people rushing my group, however, I am pleasantly surprised with how everything went,” said Jacob Mark (’22), a member of the Arcadian fraternity.
Some members of Greek Life worried before the start of the season that there would be a decrease in the number of people who chose to rush this year, due to the online format.
However, according to Zoe Gum (’21), a member of the Sigma Sigma sorority and this year’s president of Panhel, the governing board for all sororities at Hope, the members of Hope’s sororities were still able to meet approximately the same amount of women through the rush process this year as in past years. While Gum acknowledged that some people may have chosen not to rush because of it being online, she still thinks that the country’s current situation didn’t negatively impact event turn-out.
“I really think that COVID had a positive impact on incentivising people to rush. I think that there were many freshmen who probably felt like they couldn’t find a group or felt like they were having trouble meeting people and wanted to get involved on campus. And I think that Greek Life was one way that they could do that and find new friends,” Gum said.
Rush provided students with the currently rare chance to find community. However, it wasn’t just the rushees who benefitted from the process this year. Mark shared that the online format led to new kinds of opportunities for Greek organizations that weren’t possible before.
“A bonus of being online is that our alumni event was able to include so many brothers from across the country, rather than those in the area. I’m grateful for that, and I know the alumni liked that as well,” said Mark.
Like Mark, Gum found that there were benefits to a Zoom rush. Specifically, she thinks that the use of breakout rooms helped push her to meet more women than she would have during a normal rush season.
“What I’ve noticed is when I do in-person rush, typically after a while I’m more or less drawn to talk to certain rushees that I met earlier in the process,” Gum said, “but when you’re getting put into breakout rooms you have more of an opportunity to meet a variety of rushees and it’s a lot easier to facilitate that type of new conversation later on.”
Still, even with the surprising benefits of Zoom, some members conveyed a sense of loss at being unable to meet all of their new members face-to-face in the way they would any typical year.
“I felt like people really mourned the process [of] being in-person,” said Bailey Ellens (’22), a member of Sigma Iota Beta.
Kaci Carlson (’22), a member of Hope’s Sigma Sigma sorority, admitted, “It was harder to get to know the girls [online] than it was in years past.” Carlson is concerned about the level of bonding that will be possible between her sorority’s new additions. “There may be certain things that will not be learned from our members in the same way as it has been in past years.”
Regardless of the difficulty of this online feat, each fraternity and sorority found a way to form enough connection with rushees to hand out bids to some this past week, inviting them to join their organizations.
“I think every organization made the most out of it, but it was definitely a change of pace,” said Gina Polito (’22), another member of Sigma Iota Beta. “It’s hard to meet every girl in controlled settings, so I’m looking forward to G.O. [Greek Orientation] as a way to get to know each and every one of our new members.”
G.O. will provide a new kind of opportunity for the recently added members to interact with the organization’s actives. A number of orientation events will be allowed to take place outdoors and in-person, rather than on Zoom, to a certain capacity.
In the end, active members were glad that rush was able to happen at all this year.
“I’m just really happy that we were still able to have a successful process during COVID times. We’re really blessed to live on a small campus where those connections are still possible virtually,” Gum said.
Overall, members of Hope Greek Life made the best of their situation and were able to happily welcome many excited new members into their brother and sisterhoods.