Record-high recruitment levels have raised old questions about space and resources for the three sororities on campus, as well as the prospect of introducing a fourth sorority to accommodate the sudden jump in student interest.
An all-time high of 126 women turned out for sorority “rush weekend” last month—a 21 percent increase from last year. Furthermore, nearly 60 percent of the women who received bids from a sorority were first-year students, bucking past trends of low first-year recruitment.
“Sororities are looking forward to making the sorority life on campus a larger community, and thus are interested in the expansion process. [A higher number of sisters] will definitely create changes,” said Markie Westwood, president of the University of Chicago Panhellenic Council. “Yes, it will be a long process, but it’s something that we think the campus could really benefit from.”
There is a formal appeals process for National Panhellenic Council (NPC) chapters, like U of C’s, that want to add sororities on campus, Westwood said. The national organization would decide whether to bring a fourth sorority here. “We won’t know which sorority it is for at least a few more months [after applying],” she said.
The consideration of a fourth sorority on campus is rooted in the Greek system’s unique relationship with the University. Sororities are not officially recognized by the U of C as campus student organizations, However, sororities have access to some University resources, including an ORCSA advisor and funds from the Student Government Finance Committee (SGFC).
In particular, the increased turnout for sororities raises past concerns of housing. Space is still a contentious issue for the NPC, even though Alpha Omicron Pi was granted housing in International House last year, according to Delta Gamma President Glynis Fagan. Already sororities are speculating whether more student involvement could change the way the University allocates its resources.
“Perhaps the University will be forced to consider allocating more resources to us,” Fagan said. “Space is a huge issue for us on campus: My chapter is 93 women, and there’s pretty much nowhere we can be all together.”
A high-energy publicity effort during the first few weeks of the quarter contributed to the surge of interest in Greek Life.
“Our outreach was much stronger this year. It was the first year the Panhellenic Council partook in the RSO Open House,” Assistant Director for Student Activities and Greek Life Kirsten Siron said.
First-years said that their class was particularly adamant in pursuing sisterhood, explaining the phenomenal turn out.
“I definitely think our class is unique from some of the other classes that I’ve met, and I’ve actually heard this from upperclassman and some people in the admissions office too. Our class is really social, and I think that has something to do with the amount of girls who decided to rush this year,” first-year Kappa Alpha Theta sister Lexi McCammond said.
McCammond also noted that the sororities serve to create communities for those who do not feel accommodated by the housing system.
“I live in Blackstone, so the community isn’t very tight—it’s hard to meet people there. All the girls I met who were in sororities would talk about how much they loved it,” McCammond said. “It was just something I really wanted to be a part of.”