Yale Daily News

A record number of students participated in the rush process for Yale’s four Panhellenic sororities, which was held virtually for the second year in a row.

The rush process, which concluded Monday night, was moved online in early January due to COVID-19 restrictions, posing additional challenges for prospective members in a process that hinges on forging connections. According to president of Yale’s Panhellenic Council Isabella Hay ’24, 181 of the 278 potential new members that registered for the recruitment process were offered bids by one of Yale’s four sorority chapters — Alpha Phi, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Kappa Gamma and Pi Beta Phi.

“This pool of potential new members was almost triple the number of potential new members during last year’s recruitment, and it even exceeded the number of [potential new members] from the most recent in-person recruitment held two years ago,” Hay wrote in an email to the News. “I think the number of people rushing definitely made the process much more difficult to manage from an organizational standpoint — panhel and the recruitment teams all saw a lot of late nights this past week trying to coordinate everything.”

Most participants were members of the class of 2025, Yale’s largest class in recent history, which may partially explain the uptick in rush numbers this year.

The record number of participants in the rush process “increased nerves a little bit,” Hay told the News, explaining that she received significantly more questions from potential new members, or PNMs, this year about how difficult it would be to receive a bid.

However, Trisha Victor ’23, the Panhellenic Council’s vice president of administration, explained that sororities adjusted the number of bids they offered in accordance with the number of potential new members, so the process was not necessarily more competitive than in previous years.

The decision to move recruitment online came in early January, at the first meeting of the newly elected Panhellenic Council, which supervises the rush process. Although Hay told the News that the Panhellenic Council had tentatively expected an in-person recruitment process as of November, that decision had never been “set in stone.”

Victor told the News that the council considered holding the later, smaller rounds of recruitment in person, but ultimately opted to transition the entire process online in response to University COVID-19 guidelines and the high number of potential new members.

Last year’s sorority recruitment was moved online in large part because the majority of potential new members are typically first years, who were not housed on campus last spring. Prior experience with how virtual recruitment would function made the shift online a “relatively smooth transition,” Hay said.

“One unexpected benefit was that I think an online rush improved accessibility to recruitment,” Hay wrote. “We were able to accommodate many more conflicts because PNMs were able to just log onto their computers instead of trekking to some random campus building. It also kept PNMs from having to walk from party to party in the New Haven winter, which is always a plus!”

For Dorothea Robertson ’25, who participated in the recruitment process, the virtual format also alleviated some of the anxiety associated with the rush process.

“I could sit in my dorm room, comfortable and relaxed,” Robertson said. “There was much less pressure about what outfit I had on, the brand of my sneakers and how much jewelry I was wearing.”

The virtual nature of the process, however, came with drawbacks that some said made the recruitment process particularly taxing.

Last year’s virtual recruitment, Victor told the News, showed organizers the importance of factoring in additional time throughout the process for technical difficulties and breaks from Zoom. The added time, however, extended the duration of each round, meaning that sorority members and rush participants were expected to spend up to seven and a half hours online during each of the process’s three rounds, in meetings that often did not end until after midnight.

“We just had to build in some time to make it less brutal on everyone involved, and that wouldn’t normally have had to happen,” Victor said. “I think the members weren’t particularly happy with the amount of time that it took but I think those decisions, like adding in extra time, were necessary, even though they weren’t easy to swallow.”

The “parties” held on Zoom during the three rounds of the process would typically be hosted in sorority houses or other campus buildings. But otherwise, Hay told the News, the parties were unchanged — potential new members had individual conversations with members, listened to speeches and watched presentations.

A concern throughout the process for rush organizers was the challenge of forming connections with potential new members and conveying the community of the sorority through virtual meetings.

“Personally, I’m someone who struggles to have natural conversations and to connect with people, especially new ones, over Zoom — because of this, I worried it might be more difficult for the PNMs and chapters to engage with one another,” Hay told the News. 

Robertson said that the online component made it more difficult to connect with individual members or get a sense of the differences between Yale’s four sororities.

Sofia Verich ’25, who participated in the rush process, echoed this sentiment, suggesting that the process being virtual meant that potential new members missed out on truly getting to know the sorority members they talked to over Zoom. 

“I wish I was able to meet or at least see more people because a computer screen isn’t the same as face-to-face interaction,” Verich said. “It’s hard to communicate your personality over the computer.”

Grace Albright ’25, another participant in the rush process, told the News that although she would have preferred meeting members in person, countless Zooms during the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic prepared her to meet new people online while rushing Yale’s sororities.

Although Albright commended both active and potential members for scaling up their energy during the process to make up for what was lost in the virtual format, she still emphasized the challenging nature of the process.

“I’d say what distinguishes a remote rush experience from an in-person experience would be the energy in the ‘room,’ physical or virtual,” Albright said. “I imagine that the energy during in-person recruitment is almost palpable. Without a doubt, Zoom can feel like an energy vacuum — especially after five hours of remote classes.”

Victor told the News that she spoke to several people who registered for the recruitment process but ended up deciding to drop it, citing the virtual format as the reason why.

Many of these students, Victor explained, planned to instead pursue continuous open bidding, a process by which prospective members can join sororities later in the year.

“Even though they wanted to join a sorority, the reasoning that I heard over and over again was that they felt that virtual rush didn’t really give them enough of a choice to get to know the sororities in the way that they would have wanted,” Victor said. “So they were planning on doing [continuous open bidding] instead so they could get a better chance to actually speak to them for a little longer and not just be having three-minute conversations in breakout rooms.”

The recruitment process took place between Jan. 27 and Jan. 31.

Alessia Degraeve covered student culture. She is an English major in the Saybrook College class of 2025.
Lucy Hodgman is the editor-in-chief and president of the News. She previously covered student life and the Yale College Council. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, she is a junior in Grace Hopper majoring in English.