The beginning of the fall semester signals the return of clubs and campus organizations — one of the largest being Greek life. With hundreds of students rushing for fraternities and sororities each fall, many adjustments have been made to the routine rush process to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks within the campus community.
In accordance with UW-Madison and Dane County policies, in-person rush events are permitted for the first time in over a year and a half. Both sororities and fraternities have implemented a vaccine/testing requirement for those hoping to rush: to go through recruitment, one must submit their vaccine record in UHS or have a negative COVID-19 test three days prior to rush. Students rushing are also required to wear masks at any indoor event, uniform with the school's mask policy.
However, sororities are taking additional steps to avoid COVID-19 exposure and keep students safe.
"Although PHA is delighted to finally host primary recruitment partially in-person this year, we are definitely still taking COVID-19 into account to continue to protect students, faculty and the Madison community," UW-Madison Panhellenic Association President Chirawan Murphy said.
The Panhellenic Association opted for a virtual introduction to the rush process by having the first round of rush carried out through a video format.
"During first rounds we usually see larger potential new member party sizes, so we are instead giving women going through recruitment a chance to record a video of themselves and the Chapters will in turn submit videos showing what they are all about," said Murphy.
Recruitment chairs for each sorority chapter have also created "video teams" for those rushing to still participate and meet members via Zoom if they are concerned about going to in-person events or are actively quarantining.
Though first meeting sorority chapters virtually isn't ideal, it is a way to address the COVID-19 related concerns of prospective members, sorority members and the larger campus community.
"I think they're taking as much of a precaution as they can, considering the first round was online, as controversial and kind of weird as it was," said Kara, a freshman at UW currently going through the sorority rush process. "I think it was probably the best way to avoid exposures."
Conversely, most fraternities are hosting all in-person rush events at their chapter houses and other locations. Many fraternities are choosing to host rush events outside when possible to reduce the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks, and to allow conversations without masks.
The Interfraternity Council of UW-Madison recently shared their updated COVID-19 protocol and policies. Chapters are expected to check all potential new member's UHS accounts to ensure they have met the vaccination and/or testing requirement before recruitment. Additionally, fraternity members are to meet these same prerequisites before rush begins. These expected policies are on par with the school's mandates.
"The IFC is taking COVID as seriously as the University and Dane County," said Interfraternal Council President Liam McClean. "Additionally, the council is providing masks and hand sanitizer to support our chapters to meet these standards."
McClean notes the importance of continuing to mask up at all indoor events and taking precautions seriously, despite the fatigue many students are facing when it comes to COVID-19 prevention measures.
"The ability to gather in person is now a precious privilege and to take it for granted is to be apathetic to our Badger community," said McClean. "We have all the tools to host responsible and safe recruitment events and I believe we can fully achieve that."
Fall 2021 recruitment for the Panhellenic Association began last week while official chapter recruitment events for the IFC begin on Friday, Sept. 17. Bid Days for both organizations will occur the week of Sept. 26.