Every year, hundreds of new and returning Southern Miss students attend fraternity and sorority Recruitment Week. Greek life is a huge part of USM, with over 20 fraternities and sororities active on the Hattiesburg campus. Due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19, however, both Recruitment Week and its culmination, Bid Day, have gone fully online for the first time.
On August 8, the Director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL), Dr. Maleta Wilson, released a letter officially announcing an entirely virtual Recruitment process for the 2020-21 school year. The decision came after five months of planning from both FSL and student chapter leaders, following similar precautions taking place across the country at other schools.
“Although this semester may not look like what we would have imagined, what is most important is that we are all here, and we will work together to make this recruitment season successful despite the circumstances,” Wilson said.
All Recruitment Week events, including panels and interviews for specific fraternities and sororities, were accessed via Zoom from August 10 to August 14. Bid Day itself will also be held on Zoom this upcoming Saturday, August 15. With limited space available in fraternity and sorority houses per state mandate, many Greek organizations will probably also hold weekly chapter meetings virtually during the school year, utilizing applications like Microsoft Teams and Skype.
“Whether you are at home or on the campus, as long as you have access to the internet, a computer and have paid the registration fee[…], you are allowed to participate in this year’s recruitment season,” Wilson said.
COVID-19’s unique impacts on college life perhaps especially affect fraternities and sororities. Considered by many to be a fundamental part of the college experience, many Greek life social gatherings and parties have been cancelled or outright prohibited because of the pandemic, leaving many feeling sad or frustrated.
This is only further complicated by the sheer number of fraternity and sorority members in the United States. Greek organizations are one of the most popular forms of extracurricular activity at many universities, as it allows members to make lifelong friendships and future business connections through unique social gatherings and internship opportunities. Considering a decent chunk of fraternity and sorority houses are also either privately owned or reside off-campus, it can be tricky for universities to monitor what every member of every fraternity or sorority is doing at any given time. Despite banning in-person recruitment, over 160 students have tested positive for COVID-19 at the University of Mississippi, traced back to illegally hosted Greek “rush parties”.
Regardless, many look forward to virtually connecting with other fraternity and sorority members during this upcoming school year. Phi Kappa Tau’s Vice President, Austin Boudreaux, said as much during a Virtual Interest Session posted to PKT’s Instagram on August 6.
“I’ve been in this chapter for a while and one of the best experiences I’ve had since being here is getting to watch leaders like Jonathan [Dixon, Recruitment Chair for Phi Kappa Tau] grow and kind of just seeing how the chapter’s grown over time,” Boudreaux said. “That’s something I’m looking forward to this fall, even though we might be under some special circumstances here. I think we have a great opportunity to bring in a class of guys and help continue our mission and our chapter on campus.”
If you’re interested in Greek life and want to learn more about it for next year, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life has multiple student panels publically available to watch on their website, www.usm.edu/fraternity-sorority-life.