The pandemic has forced Greek life at the University of Wisconsin-Madson to shift heavily over the past two years, and while some fraternities and sororities have been able to maintain engagement and popularity, others have struggled to grow and gain new members.
The pandemic placed pressure on many smaller chapters by making it more difficult for new members to join, even putting some at risk of shutting down. Senior Cal Floyd opened up about Psi Upsilon at UW-Madison, and its challenges this semester with finding incoming freshmen to rush at the beginning of the year. He also explained why the fraternity’s decision to rush online ultimately made this semester Psi Upsilon’s last.
As the Vice President of Member Education for the Interfraternity Council, or IFC, Floyd also discussed what drew him to Psi Upsilon specifically as a freshman and why watching this fraternity leave UW Madison is so difficult for him as a senior.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Why did you choose Psi Upsilon as freshman and what aspects of the fraternity make it stand out?
In my particular case, and with other smaller chapters that we deal with, the experience is much different and it's much more focused on cultivating genuine relationships with the guys in your chapter and making really good connections with the sororities that we partner with.
The way I've seen it is there's a lot of bad that's associated with the Greek community and [for] good reason. However, I’ve seen on IFC that there is no other opportunity on a college campus to sit down with 1,500 men and speak frankly about sexual violence in our community. Because it is a community, you have more agency to look introspectively at the centers of an issue in our community that we need to deal with. It's kind of hard to amass that same level of getting people together to listen and talk about something that's meaningful if you don’t have a community that’s close. So I do think that there is a lot wrong with [Greek life], but I also think [Psi Upsilon] offers some real opportunities for having conversations like that and doing good on campus.
Why is Psi U being forced to shut down?
Once COVID [came] around, we really struggled with the online recruitment and a lot of the more active members decided that because of COVID, they didn’t want to participate anymore. So after two semesters of really getting no one, we gave one last push this semester, and we just didn't get enough people for it to make sense to keep going. We're at a point where unfortunately, we have to shut down the chapter.
Why did Psi Upsilon choose to do online rushing and how did it compare to other fraternities that chose to do in-person rushing?
[We] did have some chapters who opted to stick around and have an in-person rush, but we decided as a chapter from the very beginning that we were going to listen to the university and play by the book. Unfortunately, it really hurt us, which is too bad. There's one or two [fraternities] that have been able to really integrate well into the online rush and are successful and doing great, but there's a good handful of us that really fell through the cracks.
The way [online rush] worked was you had multiple rooms on Zoom, and as a freshman, you could pick and choose which chapter you wanted to pop into the room and chat with. Last spring, for example we had one person who came into our room. Usually for in-person rush, you have 100 members, and you whittle it down to about 15.
Learning from the experience of this semester, would you rather have chosen in-person rushing rather than online looking back?
I don't think so. You can’t control what happens during a pandemic, and hindsight is 2020. There is a lot we would have done differently, but for the most part, I think we did everything that we were supposed to do.
What are the future plans for Psi Upsilon and what does it mean to you that it’s shutting down?
The emphasis now has been focusing on seeing each other and doing as much as possible, because there are still a lot of us that are key on campus. Eventually, the chapter is going to want to rejoin at Wisconsin, but for now, it’s turning over to other hands next year.
It was a long process of sort of accepting that this was the end just because I had gotten so much out of it. That was tough, but at the end of the day, I'm living with five of my best friends, and so I'm grateful that I've gotten that out of it and the connections that I made because of this. So it's really been special.
It's just hard to sort of say goodbye.