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Sororities to change recruiting

BY ARIANA WITT | APRIL 29, 2010 7:30 AM

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Sorority officials will change their recruitment practices this fall in an effort to increase the number of students pledging.

The sororities will move away from their current weeklong event to a setup that spans the first two weekends of the fall semester, said UI junior Taylor Fuerst, the vice president of recruitment for the UI Panhellenic Council.

For UI sophomore Amy Tiffany, the switch is a welcome one.

Tiffany remembers living in a virtually empty Burge Hall with just a few other women going through “rush” and the daunting task of being introduced to 14 sorority chapters during her first day on campus.

After a five-hour trip from Plymouth, Minn., she said, the ordeal left her pretty overwhelmed.

“It was a long process and sort of tiring, but in the end I think it was worth it,” said Tiffany, who pledged to Alpha Phi.

Others in her class who pledged to join a sorority didn’t follow, through — the main reason for the change.

In 2009, the Panhellenic Council saw nearly 50 percent of potential recruits withdraw from the greek program during recruitment.

Fuerst said the withdrawal rate has been steadily increasing for years, but a sharp spike last year prompted them to rethink their process.

“Ideally, we’d like to make improvements in recruits,” said Melissa Shaub, the UI assistant director of Fraternity and Sorority Life Programs. “But I’m not expecting a 180 overnight.”

Because UI officials plan to extend Orientation to the week before classes in the future, Shaub said, the decision also prevents conflicts between the two.

The UI is one of the only Big Ten schools that used a full week of recruitment before classes.

Shaub said greek-life officials consulted other institutions when considering the change, including the University of Illinois, which has practiced the two-weekend method since 1996.

Ashley Dye, the assistant dean of students at the University of Illinois, said the school had steady sorority retention rates of roughly 70 percent since then, with a rate of 74 percent in 2009.

“I’m not alarmed by the number or concerned about it,” Dye said. “Its a good retention number.”

The National Panhellenic Conference reports that the number of students interested in joining a sorority has been decreasing in recent years, though retention of pledges continues to increase.

Shaub said the UI’s sororities have seen somewhat of an opposite effect, with more than 500 students typically registered for rush week and around 300 actually pledging.

Officials will split the one-day meet-and-greet with the UI’s 14 chapters into two days. Recruits will also have an informal day to socialize with chapter members.

“We want to find ways to showcase the unity of our chapters,” Shaub said. “Letting women know about our strong sisterhood is a big part of our community.”

Members of the Panhellenic Council said ensuring greek events don’t interfere with students’ academic work is a top priority. No events will be held Monday through Thursday with the new setup.

Officials said the sororities already promote alcohol-free recruitment events, noting the change isn’t intended to be a weekend alcohol alternative.

UI fraternity members have also explored changes to their recruitment process, though Fuerst said no decisions have been made.

Sorority recruitment will begin Aug. 27.

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