University Panhellenic sorority recruitment to take place virtually due to COVID-19 concerns

Lauren Goodman

The University Panhellenic Council fall 2020 sorority recruitment will take place virtually for the first time due to COVID-19 safety concerns.

Recruitment will take place from Aug. 17-24 as originally planned with a new virtual format for the entire process, according to the University Panhellenic Council website. Bid Day will be a hybrid event with small in-person meetups, which are subject to change in compliance with city COVID-19 restrictions, according to the website.

“The biggest benefit is knowing that people can engage in this process and be safe while doing so,” said Catherine Holley, vice president of internal recruitment. 

 On July 13, the University Panhellenic Council posted a 30 minute webinar from Holley, a Plan II and health and society senior, and Carlyn Crow, vice president of external recruitment. Since this format is virtual, attendance in Austin is not required. Other changes include an introductory video that potential new members will upload for the first round of recruitment and a more casual dress code.

According to the Protect Texas Together website, the University cannot enforce social distancing measures for off-campus events, and on-campus events generally will not be permitted this fall. 

“Part of what we’re doing is trying to instill in our students a sense of doing the right thing, even when they’re not in the classroom or in our dorms or residence halls,” Interim UT President Jay Hartzell said at a press conference late last month.

Crow, a Plan II, business honors and marketing senior, said a large factor in deciding to move recruitment to a virtual format was giving incoming freshmen a way to meet new people despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

“High school graduates have had a rough run,” Crow said. “They've been stripped of things that they were so excited about. We want to make sure that recruitment isn't one of those things they have to miss out on. We weren't only keeping in mind the safety of the panhellenic community, we’re also thinking about the greater UT community and the greater Travis County community.”

Typically, 1,110 potential new members go through recruitment each year. Holley said over 900 potential new members have registered so far before the August deadline.

Although sororities and potential new members have to deal with the new challenges of going virtual, Crow said that this year’s “no-frills recruitment” is the best version.

“We love the idea of virtual being completely nothing but conversations,” Crow said. “It's going to be the best way for people to make accurate decisions that aren’t influenced by reputation, houses, clothes you're wearing — all of those superficial aspects.” 

Crow and Holley are posting weekly Instagram Live videos to give potential new members advice. One key benefit to virtual recruitment is more time for to self-reflect what members want out of a sorority, Holley said.

“Don't think about all that is lost with not having recruitment in person,” Holley said. “Focus on the things that are there, finding an organization that best fits your values.”