A new era for Greek life

0
887
Muhlenberg fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi performs at Greek Sing, a concluding event during Greek Week. Muhlenberg's Zenfolio.

Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) at Muhlenberg College has had a massive project in the works for multiple years- and it’s finally come to fruition. On April 15, members of the Muhlenberg community involved in Greek life received an email from Associate Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life Natalie Shaw announcing an updated policy, allowing first-year students to participate in sorority and fraternity recruitment during their second semester.

Previously, both formal and informal recruitment were open to all sophomores, juniors and seniors. This new recruitment model puts Muhlenberg College in a similar position to most other comparable institutions. Muhlenberg was one of 12 schools left across the nation to use a sophomore recruitment process. 

Next academic year, formal sorority recruitment will take place in both the fall and spring semesters. In the fall it will be open to current sophomores, juniors and seniors, and in the spring it will be open to all second-semester first-years and onwards at Muhlenberg College, assuming that they meet requirements including GPA and overall good standing. 

The proposal for this change, authored by Shaw, 2023 Panhellenic Council President Hilary Rappaport ‘24 and 2023 Interfraternity Council President Justin Billich ‘24, was presented to Harring and senior staff members earlier this semester.

Taking a look at the submitted proposal, there seem to be very specific and direct goals that were the foundation for the change. “Through this proposed adjustment, we seek to promote early involvement and integration of incoming students into the fraternity and sorority community, ultimately enriching their collegiate experience, facilitating their personal and professional growth, and providing an additional means of retention. We also hope to expand on the current membership experience to provide a more robust and enriching community.”

When asked what the reasoning was behind this change, Rappaport said,“This change is extremely important, as many students struggle to find a community during their first year at Muhlenberg. Fraternity & Sorority Life members shared that they would have benefited from having the opportunity to go through recruitment during their first year. It is difficult to make meaningful relationships when adjusting to college life, yet Greek Life allows students to connect with individuals who share similar interests and values. Through these relationships, a sense of support and trust is established.” 

Looking at enrollment numbers of Greek organizations from Fall 2018, as opposed to Fall 2023, all organizations had their number of active members decline. The only exception is the fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi, which wasn’t yet established at Muhlenberg College in 2018. Allowing first-year students to go through recruitment will increase membership numbers at the College. However, it is still unclear just how much chapter totals will change, as they are provided by the National Interfraternal Council and the National Panhellenic Council.

It is also unclear how individual chapter finance will be impacted. With Greek chapters having budgets that are pointedly used with lots of consideration, adding a formal recruitment will raise costs for every chapter. When asked about budgeting concerns, Shaw stated,  “The Panhellenic Council oversees the recruitment process and chapters will be required to budget based on the council’s policies. Chapters will also be encouraged to reuse materials to help from a cost perspective and reduce waste. All headquarters have been notified of this change and are also prepared to help chapters navigate any challenges that may arise.”

The proposal also details the Impact Assessment as well as Anticipated Risks. Impact Assessment relates to positive impacts that can become prominent within the campus community with this change. These include higher student retention rates, increased GPAs, a greater sense of belonging, increased opportunities for student leadership, chapter education models and accountability, ease of housing, and the lessening of conflicts during the recruitment process.

Anticipated Risks include health and safety concerns regarding hazing, exclusionary practices with the lack of a Multicultural Greek Council or any National Pan-Hellenic Organization, selective membership, negative feedback from the larger campus community, and finances for new members.

Darain Khan ‘25, current Interfraternity Council President, touched upon some potential drawbacks but also plans on how to combat these risks. “We believe we may face some form of backlash from the larger campus community as this will lead to Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) becoming a lot larger as an organization, especially on the fraternity side as the sororities are already quite large. This may lead to FSL being viewed more as traditional Greek organizations on larger campuses and we may have to do our best to break away from the stereotypes that may prevail but our goal is to ensure that the values that are present in our Greek life continue to persevere.”

With membership in Greek organizations changing, there is the potential for social life to change as well. Khan touched upon this, as well. “Social lives on campus may become more robust as the larger FSL is on campus, the more cross involvement there is between organizations the more potential there is for a better social life on campus. This means that the social life on campus may be impacted even beyond just parties but also in terms of events and such.”

Matan Dolev ‘25, president of Alpha Tau Omega, also emphasized how he sees this as a positive change to Muhlenberg Greek Life as a whole, stating “I see this as a win for Muhlenberg College.  Greek life used to be a very prominent aspect here at Berg so seeing strides to revamp our Greek community is nice.   More students will be able to find their groups, and more students will have their back-bone.”

Libby Slovis ‘25, president of Phi Mu, shared these sentiments. “I think that this change will help get first years connected on campus to so many different areas outside of Greek life as well! Many organizations at Muhlenberg partner up with different groups on campus that will help first years expand their circles within the campus community. The change to recruitment will not only be beneficial for first years, but will also enrich the experience, impact, and perspective of our Greek life community as a whole.”

However, reviews from the campus community seem to be a little more mixed. An anonymous  sophomore who isn’t Greek affiliated expressed that “It’s going to shift the freshman focus away from academics, slightly.” Similarly, an anonymous sophomore who’s involved in Greek life stated “I’d say it would drive a wedge between everyone on campus.”

An anonymous first-year who’s considering going through recruitment this fall said,“I feel like a lot of first-year second-semester students start to get interested in rushing at that point in the year. I think it’s a good thing for first year students to get involved, especially here at Muhlenberg, as it seems like Greek life has a philanthropic focus. I think it’s gonna open up more opportunities for people who want to get involved, just earlier.”

There is a drastic mixture of opinion on this issue. Students both involved and uninvolved in Greek life have strong thoughts on the topic. It will unmistakably have an impact on the entire Muhlenberg community, and will continue to do so for years to come, as with any large scale transition that morphs the dynamic of the campus.

Amy Swartz ‘26 is an English & creative writing and political science double major. She is a General Editorial Assistant, and is thrilled to be a part of such an amazing organization! Outside of the Weekly, you can always find her reading a new book, updating her Spotify playlists, or rewatching an episode of New Girl!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here