Fall is typically the peak semester for fraternity and sorority life on campus, who usually welcome a new member class through recruitment events. But this year, as yet another consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, FSL organizations are forced to reevaluate their recruitment strategies to accommodate social distancing guidelines imposed by the college.
FSL organizations typically rely on in-person gatherings to meet new members, forge friendships, and educate them on the inner workings of their groups. Now, organizations are now heavily reliant on EmConnect, the college’s dashboard site student groups use for events and outreach.
Chapters gave students interested in joining FSL the opportunity to drop in on meet-and-greets, virtual speed dating, and other activities hosted on Zoom. Anybody who wishes to become a potential new member must attend these virtual recruitment events in order to receive a bid, also known as an offer to join a specific FSL organization. From there, new member education begins.
Student Engagement & Leadership Program Coordinator Jenna Coviello said SEAL has worked closely with FSL through these unprecedented times.
“There was definitely some frustration of the fact that things can’t move the way that they normally can, but I think they really dug in and embraced it and figured out what was possible for them,” Coviello said in an interview.
All of the fraternities and sororities worked diligently since the summer to discuss possibilities for the fall term, Coviello said. An advisory board of FSL presidents, as well as other FSL members, was created this summer to ask and answer questions about the virtual setting they would work in this year.
Coviello went on to explain how chapters have taken it upon themselves to meet in socially distanced ways. Whether it is meeting in small groups, gathering outside, or planning a virtual Disney+ watch party, SEAL helps to keep people involved while maintaining proper safety measures.
“We tried to be as accommodating as possible just because we want people to be involved in things,” Coviello said. “Still, the amount of people coming out was a decent amount.”
At least three out of nine chapters have decided to continue recruitment this semester, Coviello said. These include Alpha Epsilon Phi, Alpha Phi Omega, and Xi Gamma Nu. Chapters have yet to give SEAL their new member lists.
On the other hand, some chapters opted out of recruitment this semester, including Delta Kappa Alpha, a national co-ed professional fraternity for filmmakers.
“Our national board will not allow us to recruit this semester for COVID-safety reasons, so we actually have had no recruitment events thus far,” DKA President Fiona Torrese said. “We’ve been holding our weekly [chapter] meetings via Zoom.”
Many chapters are instead taking this semester to focus on their current members and properly prepare for the spring season.
The fraternity’s secretary, sophomore Benjamin Peterson, commented on the transition leading to a decrease in attendance.
“We made the transition okay,” Peterson said. “Attendance has definitely been down compared to last year, but it’s mostly from people who have taken a leave of absence this semester.”
DKA Vice President Antonio Vega-Torres, a junior, mentioned online events the fraternity has done since the summer, which includes creating their own Minecraft server.
“Because we’re a professional fraternity, we have the benefit of being able to do events that aren’t purely social, so those have been online and they’re easier to do online,” Vega-Torres said. “In terms of social events, one really big thing we did last semester and a bit over the summer was making a Minecraft server that was open to DKA. We also have a Discord that we all use. Otherwise, it’s planning things like online screenings that we can all take part in together.”
Another chapter that opted out of a recruitment class this semester is Kappa Gamma Chi, a local professional sorority. Senior President Maria Suevo said they have dedicated themselves to philanthropy by sending postcards to remind people to vote, rewriting their histories, and amending their constitution.
“When we think about rewriting our histories and our constitution, it’s because we knew we were in a transitional period for the better, and we didn’t want to take a pledge class when we weren’t fully ready to give that to the new sisters,” Suevo said. “Next semester, we’re definitely going to take a pledge class.”
In the future, KGC also plans on doing a mask drive for Rosie’s Place, a woman’s shelter in Boston.
One chapter that took a recruitment class this semester is Alpha Epsilon Phi, a national sorority. Junior Claire Kong spoke about how AEPhi has navigated the fall term. Kong said they are doing a combination of both in-person and online Zoom events.
Recognizing the difficulties from the lack of an in-person student organization fair, Kong said that even though there weren’t as many people as there typically is during a recruitment season, AEPhi still had a decent amount of potential new members attend. In addition, AEPhi also has a pledge class this semester.
Some events AEPhi hosted included both an in-person and Zoom open house, a philanthropy night, and sister speed dating.
“All of our in-person events were outdoors in the Common,” Kong said. “We required masks to be worn at all times and we were all social distancing to the best of our abilities. We felt really comfortable going forward with outdoor in-person events.”
In order to attend any in-person events, Kong said current sisters had to present their most recent COVID-19 test results.
“To us, it was really important to still be there when people are looking for community at Emerson, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kong said. “We’re sad that we couldn’t do the full experience, but we’re still extremely grateful that we could do recruitment still and find these wonderful new ladies.”