As the leaves start to vary in color and the light breeze gets cooler, Greek life at the University of Oregon prepares to welcome new members. The 11 sororities participate in a week of recruitment while the 16 fraternities recognized at the UO go through a two-week rush.
Now, you may be wondering what this all means, and you might have heard about Greek life from social media, word of mouth or through Bama Rush, a film documenting sorority rush at the University of Alabama, where recruitment is full of high stakes and emotional complexities. The UO’s Greek life is different and holds values of scholarship and learning, community service and philanthropy, brotherhood and sisterhood, leadership and engagement and community awareness.
I had my own assumptions about sorority life from movies like Legally Blonde before I went through recruitment as a freshman during the fall 2020 term at UO. None of my family members had any experience in Greek life. I had moved halfway across the country, away from anyone I knew in Colorado, during the COVID-19 era. It was incredibly hard to make friends as everyone stood six feet from anyone coming their way. I made my decision to go through recruitment on the last possible day to register. I needed to find my forever friends.
Recruitment looked a lot different than it does now. Three years ago, I sat at my wooden desk cramped in the corner of my dorm on the fourth floor of Hamilton Hall. Dressed in a business top and pajama pants, I hopped on my first Zoom link. In breakout rooms, I talked to numerous women in different chapters. I watched house tour videos and went through each of the themed days. When it came to bid day, the day we were told which chapter we were “running” home to, I remember being anxious and impatient. After long awaited hours, I finally found out. It was Gamma Phi Beta (GPhi). I hopped on another Zoom, which showed every woman in our chapter within tiny boxes spread across my screen. I had found my home within Greek life.
I wasn’t alone in joining the virtual world of sororities and fraternities. Bentley Freeman, a senior at UO majoring in journalism and minoring in history, found his home in Delta Tau Delta (Delts) through the online world. Freeman joined Zoom calls from different fraternities during his 2020 rush experience and described it as “stiff and awkward” at first. “Then I joined the Delts call. We were in breakout rooms, and I was able to meet several older Delts who were juniors and seniors,” he says. “Those were the guys who were like, ‘this is a cool place and unique house because it’s not a stereotypical frat. We want people of diversity.’”
Fast forward to this year’s recruitment and rush. All events are in-person, rain or shine. Sororities spend one week, Monday through Friday, before school starts called Work Week to prepare current members to recruit. Each chapter chooses fun themes including Barbie, pajama party, Adam Sandler and more for their members to dress up.
This year, recruitment runs Oct. 6 to Oct. 10. The first two days are for conversations where potential new members (PNMs) go to each chapter and have short conversations. The next day is dedicated to chapters presenting their philanthropy. Membership Experience Day follows, where the financial commitment is addressed and house tours occur. The last day is Preference Day, where PNMs travel in smaller groups and the parties are longer. Different days are split into parties with groups of PNMs to help organize which groups will be where and at what time.
Bid Day ends recruitment and is one of the most special days for sorority members. This is the day when PNMs are told what chapter they are now a member of. Each sorority gathers together on campus in different themes to await their new members. Once everyone finds their sorority, everyone “runs” home to celebrate.
Alicia Santiago, a junior majoring in public relations and journalism, is an RC this year. RCs are sorority members from different chapters who disaffiliate during the recruitment process because they are guides for PNMs. Santiago says she chose to join a sorority to gain a support system and a group of friends within Greek life. To be in a sorority is to be “surrounded by a group of very passionate women who are involved in so many different things,” she says.
During recruitment, RCs are there to give advice and support because the process can be long and stressful, but it’s also a rewarding experience for PNMs. “It’s such an emotional process that you kind of need someone there to support you and tell you that it’s going to be OK,” Santiago says. She became an RC to “represent the non stereotypical sorority girl.” When she became a UO student, she says, there was a lot of diversity, not within ethnicity, but within types of people.
“One thing I fell in love with about my chapter is that it felt very inclusive,” Santiago says. “You could be basically from any background and they were going to accept you.”
Fraternity rush takes a different approach to gaining new members. From Sept. 26 to Oct. 8, each chapter hosts events such as basketball tournaments, bull riding, barbeques and more. Events toward the end of rush are often by invitation only. PNMs must attend the Interfraternity (IFC) orientation and at least one event from each chapter while also registering to rush.
Freeman was inspired by his mom to go through rush. She was a sorority president in Pi Beta Phi at the University of Oklahoma in the ’90s. His entire family went there and joined Greek life. He’s the first one to further his education elsewhere. COVID-19 pushed him more to join a fraternity, and he was “not going to have a lot of opportunities to get outside the dorm room,” if he didn’t, Freeman says.
The Delts hosted an Oregon football watch party for the Stanford game, a Delt story time with Toxic Wings, a field day and will host an invite only poker night Oct. 6.
“Delts are in the business of helping each other. We like to build each other up and not make each other feel uncomfortable or hazed,” Freeman says. “It’s a really cool, unique and accepting fraternity. I don’t think I would want to be anywhere else.”
Whether you join a sorority, fraternity or any of the cultural fraternities and sororities, Greek life offers opportunities to get involved with the community and build a support system. After formal recruitment and rush ends in the fall, continuous open bidding is a possibility for different chapters to participate in. You don’t have to wait a full year to join Greek life.
“The biggest piece of advice I have is, just get rid of any stereotypes or any expectations you have because it’s going to be different for you than it is for maybe even the person sitting next to you,” Santiago says.