Try Greek for a week

What comes to your mind when you hear the term “sorority”? Excessive partying and binge drinking? Blonde, ditzy airheads? That law that defines any house in Pennsylvania inhabited by eight or more females, such as a sorority house, as a brothel?

The Rho Sigmas, or recruitment sisters, of Carnegie Mellon’s Greek community are working hard to dispel these myths and misconceptions during this year’s Formal Membership Recruitment, or FMR. The Rho Sigs, as they are affectionately called, are sisters who are temporarily disaffiliated from their houses in order to act as impartial counselors who guide potential new members through the sorority recruitment process. Each house must submit 10 percent of its members to be potential Rho Sigs, and the Panhellenic Council then chooses 24 to be Rho Sigs.

The campus has been plastered with posters urging women to “get [their] Greek on” and participate in FMR, Carnegie Mellon’s version of sorority rush. This year’s ad campaign features various sorority women and lists the diverse activities in which they participate outside of their sororities. Despite their outside commitments to residential life, dance troupes, and clubs, their desire to “be a part of something big” has inspired them to get involved in Greek life.

FMR differs from sorority rush at other colleges due to its no-frills approach to recruitment. The process consists of “parties,” during which participants visit the houses of each of the five sororities and meet the sisters of each house. This gives them a chance to determine which sororities are a good fit for them and also gives the sororities a chance to meet potential members and decide on which ones to invite back. The no-frills aspect comes from the Greek community’s effort to make the process more about the girls and less of a popularity contest between sororities.

This year’s FMR will last from Wednesday night to Sunday. At the end of this period, the women undergoing FMR will receive bids, hopefully for houses they want to join. Alpha Chi Omega, a newcomer to the Carnegie Mellon Greek community, will not be participating for the full duration of FMR. As they are new on campus, they will take part for the first two days but will hold a separate recruitment drive in early October. AJ Dinsmore, a sophomore computer science major and AXΩ member, said, “AXΩ nationals have tried this method during the early years of other chapters and it has worked in the past.” AXΩ will fully participate in FMR next fall.

Concerns voiced by potential new members (PNMs) include both the high price of sorority dues and the massive time commitment that Greek life has been rumored to demand. While the price tag that comes with sorority life is, in fact, rather steep, the PNMs (yes, another Carnegie Mellon initialism) are assured that there are many ways to make these payments as well as obtain scholarships. As for the time commitment, FMR co-chair Kristen Livesey, a senior science and humanities scholar and a vice-president of recruitment for the Panhellenic Council, said, “However much time you put into it, you get out of it.” That said, the minimum time commitment is an hour per week for chapter meetings. Events such as Almost Midnight Breakfasts, Greek Sing, and most importantly Booth, although all are technically optional, can be massive time sinks.

Working to further dispel common misconceptions of sorority rush, FMR info sessions emphasized that hazing is not tolerated in any way. The PNMs were assured that they wouldn’t be asked to do anything that members of the sororities aren’t asked to do.

In the past two years, approximately 180 women have registered each year for FMR. However, last year only 83 of them actually joined sororities. While everyone who undergoes FMR is usually placed with a sorority, many women either don’t meet certain standards — such as the GPA requirement (2.25 is the minimum, but some sororities have higher requirements up to 2.75) — or simply choose to do FMR to meet people without any intention of joining a sorority.

Only 90 women have registered for FMR so far this year, though FMR doesn’t officially begin until Wednesday night. However, Marci De Grace, a senior science and humanities scholar and fellow vice-president of recruitment for the Panhellenic Council, is not worried. “Usually,” she said, “most girls don’t sign up until the recruitment information sessions that occur during the week before FMR.” If the retention rate remains the same as in past years, about 45 percent, Carnegie Mellon’s sororities will experience their first negative growth rates in a while.

The majority of students who participate in sorority recruitment are sophomores. De Grace attributes this to the fact that FMR occurs quite early in the school year, before most first-years have a chance to find their bearings. However, half of the women who have registered this year are first-years.

The primary aims of Carnegie Mellon’s sororities are to promote leadership, scholarship, and service. Given this year’s registration numbers, it’s possible that pre-conceived notions of Greek life have already impacted the willingness of Carnegie Mellon women to undergo sorority recruitment.