May 19, 2016
By Glenn Baxter&Simar Malhotra
This year saw unusually high enrollment and retention in ISC sororities’ recruitment. While sororities met their new sisters with excitement, some housed groups are now facing a shortage of space.
According to Spencer Atkinson, the student affairs professional in charge of Fraternity & Sorority Life, a possible reason for the rise in students rushing could be due to a gradual shift in the stereotypical image of Greek life.
“On our campus, we believe this is likely due to changing perceptions within and about the Greek community, as well as increased efforts toward making the organizations more diverse and inclusive,” Atkinson said.
Kappa Alpha Theta and other ISC sororities are welcoming more sisters than usual this spring (Courtesy of Stanford Kappa Alpha Theta).
Each chapter is given an estimated number of Potential New Members (PNMs) based off historical records. This year, however, many more students participated in recruitment than the PNM estimate.
Ellie Robertson ’17, the president of Pi Beta Phi, said, “we were told we would have to take more than 42 new members … We ended up taking 52.”
Isabel Prado’17, the president of Delta Delta Delta concurred, adding that retention rates were “very high” this year.
Last year, about 55 percent of girls rushing joined a sorority. This year, about 50 percent of the freshman class rushed, of which 80 percent ended up accepting sorority bids.
When asked why Greek life membership was taking such a direction, Prado suggested that Stanford’s alcohol policy, ban on Full Moon On The Quad and stricter rules on fraternity parties acted as instigators.
“Freshmen are looking for a party experience that they typically get during their freshman year,” she said. “But when they don’t, they look at Greek life as a source for the same.”
Robertson also claimed that ISC made a huge push towards making sororities more accessible and inclusive in their values, allowing more people to become comfortable with entering Greek life.
“More and more people are looking at Greek life as a way to build community and join a network of people,” Robertson said.
Although the chapters are very excited about having new members, the increased number of recruits causes potential logistical problems, especially for housed sororities.
When asked about why more members were given bids than they were able to accommodate, Robertson said that the number of new pledges is determined by the ISC, along with the authorities of Fraternity & Sorority Life. The chapters are informed about these numbers on bid day itself. Unlike fraternity rush, in which the fraternities have complete control over the number of new pledges they want, sorority rush is much more formalized, giving very little leeway to the individual chapters to make decisions about new members.
Normally, in housed sororities, upperclassmen live in the house with the new pledge class, but the coming year’s housing dynamics may change. In order to accommodate all the new pledges, Pi Beta Phi is ‘stuffing’ girls into the house. Fifty out of the 52 are living in the house this year. As for Delta Delta Delta, of the 53 new members, 46 are living in the house, and the rest entered the draw. ZAP, also located in the Cowell Cluster, was seen as a good housing option, permitting the new pledges to remain involved in their sorority community despite not living in the house.
This may lead to spillovers in housing on campus – with fewer seniors living in their sorority houses, more of them are likely to take part in the draw, thus increasing competition for spots in coveted row houses. However, Rodger Whitney, R&DE’s Executive Director of Student Housing, has said that Title IX ensures that the number of spots available in a row house are divided in proportion to male and female populations participating in the draw on campus, effectively solving this issue.
Regardless of the new logistical problems and cultural changes that will result in the houses, most sororities remain excited about having more people join their tight-knit communities.
“Everyone is super, super happy that we’re increasing the pledge class … it’s the structure that could be worked on in the future,” said Robertson.