Joining Furman this fall as the Assistant Director of Student Involvement for Sorority and Fraternity Life, Caro Douglas observed that Furman’s Greek organizations have strayed from the protocol of a truly deferred recruitment process.
At Furman, deferred recruitment means that first-year students are only eligible to participate in Greek-life recruitment starting in the Spring of their freshman year. According to Furman’s website, deferred recruitment is in place so that students “have a chance to find (their) academic and social niche before deciding whether or not (they) want to join a (Greek life organization).”
In an interview with The Paladin, Douglas said that Greek organizations have been engaging in rushing tactics prior to formal recruitment in the spring. Since assuming her role, Douglas has sought to prevent fraternities and sororities from informally recruiting in the fall.
Douglas stated that because of COVID, which caused the majority of recruitment to be performed online, current students may not understand deferred recruitment.
“In Greek life, you have to think four years. It’s a constantly rotating cycle. And so, when you think about the juniors and seniors who lived through COVID, they weren’t doing recruitment,” she said. “So there was a lack of knowledge and loss of knowledge from COVID that very much bled into…well now we have juniors and seniors who didn’t really see what a correct deferred recruitment was.”
Douglas added that creating policies that ensure deferred recruitment is in the best interest of Potential New Members (PNMs).
“Basically aligning with deferred recruitment provides a better experience for the PNM, because what was kind of occurring…was that there wasn’t an even playing field. Certain chapters who would recruit in different ways were already setting the tone of what the chapter should be and not allowing the recruitment process to actually work.”
For years, Furman has maintained a deferred recruitment process – one that is outlined in the Student Handbook. The handbook’s policy on deferred recruitment is as follows:
“Greek-letter organizations, with the exception of honor societies, may only recruit and extend new (non-transfer), first-year students invitations to join the organization in the spring semester. Academic credits earned while in high school or the summer prior to enrollment at the University for the fall semester do not exempt students from this policy.”
However, in the past, the student-led Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council were largely responsible for enforcing fair recruitment. As a result, sororities and fraternities had greater flexibility in determining how they should engage with Potential New Members (PNMs) in the fall.
Women in Greek life and first-year students express a variety of opinions on how strictness over informal recruitment will affect the Panhellenic Recruitment process.
Victoria Keefer ‘27 said, “I don’t find it difficult to meet upperclassmen because of my connections coming into Furman. However, it would be nice going into recruitment actually knowing more women in the context of their sororities so that I can get a feel for their community.”
For some first-year students, having an outlet to meet Panhellenic women in a non-formal context would allow for a less stress-inducing Formal Recruitment process in the Spring.
However, active sorority members, who are tasked with recruiting first-years, say the change is welcome.
Alex Bussom ‘24, Recruitment Chair for Tri Delta, said, “I wouldn’t say I was necessarily surprised by the changes to the informal recruitment especially because every chapter has a different way they do things to meet with PNMs. It is nice to have a standardized process.”
Bussom enjoys the standardization of the deferred recruitment policy but also recognizes that chapters have different recruitment precedents in place, and adjusting to a standardized policy may be harder for some than others.
Blair Smith ‘25, Director of Primary Recruitment for Alpha Delta Pi, offered a more nuanced take. She stated that Douglas’s changes have alleviated pressure to constantly recruit but have contributed to PNMs’ hesitancy to attend sanctioned fall recruitment events because of their lack of familiarity with Furman’s sororities.
“I think that it is nice that there is less pressure on women in sororities to reach out to potential new members in artificial ways, but recruitment has been a bit harder because Panhellenic sponsored events in the Fall have had lower turn-out than previous years.”
Current sorority members reflected on the importance of informal recruitment in the Fall on their decision to join Greek life.
Neha Bhatnagar ‘26, a member of Chi Omega, said, “If I had not had a close relationship with women already in sororities, I am not sure if I necessarily would have wanted to put myself through the rush process. It’s intimidating going from room to room with unfamiliar faces, nervous if you fit in or if you will find your people. However, I love my sorority and I don’t know if I would have rushed if it weren’t for those people encouraging me to at least try it.”
McAlister Smith ‘25, a member of Alpha Delta Pi, said that she wanted to go through recruitment at Furman because of the mentorship and friendship she found from informally meeting Panhellenic women.
“If it were not for the seniors I had gotten to know before Formal Recruitment, I would have transferred,” Smith said. “The seniors I knew literally adopted me when I was hurting most which is honestly why I’m still at Furman today.”
Alex Bussom believes that despite stricter enforcement of deferred recruitment, the Greek community will readapt.
“I think that people won’t be familiar with as many people. Chapters have less information on a PNM and the PNMs could know less members. Which really embodies what delayed recruitment is and why that is a draw to go Greek at Furman. It will be an adjustment for sure this year but we will adapt and go from there.”
Fraternities have exhibited a greater degree of pushback to the realignment policies of the Office of Student Involvement.
With many fraternities relying on the ability to spend time with rushees in the fall in order to get to know them, they have seen a shift in how they go about meeting potential new members prior to the January rush rounds.
Kart Sima ‘27 offered his experience as a prospective rushee. He said that he has felt hesitancy to form relationships with active Fraternity members, given that it could be confused as a form of rushing.
“In some instances it has a negative effect because they call this period rush and all that, but if I happen to hang out with people in the fraternities, I could be rushing but I could not be. I’m just happening to be hanging out with my friends,” he said.
Active Fraternity members shared in Sima’s confusion about the difference between rushing and befriending a PNM.
William Wallace ‘25, a member of Sigma Chi and Furman’s Student Life committee, said that a vague policy of what constitutes “rushing” has left fraternity members frustrated.
“I don’t care if the rules are restrictive, I just want rules, so that way fraternities are not punished for breaking rules that have a gray area,” he said.
In her interview, Douglas stated that she is actively working with IFC to develop a more specific protocol, and that there is uncertainty around how her parameters will impact the number of members each fraternity receives in January.