An invitation to sisterhood

The numbers game pays off for most sorority hopefuls.

Freshman Megan Howe opens her bid envelope Tuesday afternoon at the TCF Bank Stadium. The envelope contained an invitation to join one of the sororities on campus.

Image by Erin Westover

Freshman Megan Howe opens her bid envelope Tuesday afternoon at the TCF Bank Stadium. The envelope contained an invitation to join one of the sororities on campus.

by Kaitlin Walker

A nervous hum filled the TCF Bank Stadium on Tuesday as sorority women celebrated the end of recruitment at bid day. More than 280 women held their breath waiting to receive an invitation to join one of the 10 sororities on campus.

These women were all that remained of the 400 original candidates after a rigorous recruitment process that includes a computerized matching system.

âÄúItâÄôs very heavily mathematically oriented,âÄù said Marissa Zakheim, vice president of public relations for the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Panhellenic Council.

Sophomore Samantha Tuttle waited all day to find out if she got into the sorority of her choice.

âÄúIâÄôm not so much excited as I am anxious,âÄù she said.

At exactly 6:40 p.m., Kirsten Sherwood, PHC recruitment vice president, announced that the women could open their envelopes.

Excited screams echoed across the stadium as women hugged each other and rushed to join their chapters, waiting at the top of the stairs.


A Long and Mathematical Process

Unlike the informal fraternity method, sorority recruitment is designed by the National Panhellenic Conference to be a standardized process.

âÄúEvery sorority participating has the same amount of contact with a potential new member as the next one,âÄù Zakheim said.

The idea is to keep the number of members even across every sorority on campus. Every sorority is also guaranteed a quota âÄî this year every sorority was guaranteed at least 30 women. However, sororities are limited in how many women they can invite back to their chapters.

âÄúItâÄôs a big numbers game,âÄù Zakheim said.

After the recruitment kicked off Sept. 5, the candidates were divided into 13 groups led by 52 Rho Alphas âÄî sorority members taking a temporary leave from their chapters to lead the women through the long process.

First, the women toured all of the chapter houses on campus.

âÄúItâÄôs draining,âÄù said sophomore Elizabeth Bianchi-Knod. âÄúAt every house you talk to three or four people. You have to remember everyoneâÄôs name and you have to come up with topics to talk about with every person.âÄù

After the visits, the chapters invited back the women they liked best.

âÄúItâÄôs a mutual selection process,âÄù Zakheim said. âÄúThey will tour up to seven houses. That doesnâÄôt necessarily mean they will be asked back to seven houses.âÄù

After two more visits âÄî each time to fewer and fewer houses âÄî the candidates got a final intimate look at the things the sororities consider âÄúsacred,âÄù like rituals.

âÄúIt was pretty moving,âÄù Bianchi-Knod said. âÄúItâÄôs really different. YouâÄôre getting a look at something youâÄôre not allowed to talk about. ItâÄôs not like anything IâÄôve been a part of.âÄù

Throughout the week, some candidates dropped out, something that happens every year, Sherwood said.

âÄúSome people decide it isnâÄôt for them,âÄù she said. âÄúPeople will go through [the process] and realize they donâÄôt have the financial means for it, or the time for it.âÄù

After preference night âÄî the final night of the process âÄî roughly 285 women ranked their top choices in a computerized spreadsheet. Meanwhile, the sororities entered lists of the women they felt would best fit in their chapter.

The program then sorted the women into their new chapters. Women are not guaranteed to get into their top choice, and they sign a waiver stating that they will accept the bid they receive.

However, every woman who completes recruitment is guaranteed a bid.

âÄúItâÄôs not just a social experiment of who gets in and who doesnâÄôt get in,âÄù Zakheim said. âÄúThereâÄôs a lot more to it than that.âÄù

On bid day, held this year at the stadium, the women finally got to join their new chapters.

âÄúItâÄôs the day when all their hard work finally pays off,âÄù said PHC President Meg McMurray.