Greeks fought it for years. Now administrators are moving forward with delayed rush. Will it help or hurt?

New sorority members await their bids during sorority bid day in Lexington, Ky. on Friday, August 21, 2015. Photo by Adam Pennavaria | Staff File Photo

Rick Childress

UK will be relying on sororities, whether they like it or not, to help boost retention rates.

UK announced in October that next year’s Fall Sorority recruitment will begin during K-Week instead of a week before classes start.

Fall sorority recruitment, which used to begin a week before classes started, will now start during the first two weekends of the semester, Sarah Geegan, the Executive Communications member of University Relations said.

Potential new sorority members will not move in a week early, but will move in at the same time as other students. Nick Kehrwald, the Dean of Students said that band and “a few special interest groups, like international students” should still be able to move-in early.

The Panhellenic council and other members of UK’s Greek community expressed concerns over the new changes, in a statement signed by the current and future Panhellenic presidents and Vice Presidents of recruitment.

“This change has brought on a variety of different emotions – anger, frustration, and confusion for some and excitement for others,” wrote Mary Ann Miller, the author of the statement and the Panhellenic Vice President of Recruitment. “These are all feelings that we have felt too.”

The statement said that delayed recruitment has been discussed for over a year, and the National Panhellenic Conference weighed in.

The conference, which according to their website seeks to help sororities cooperate with their respective colleges and universities, recommends that recruitment begin before classes start.

Panhellenic’s statement said that active and potential new members may have less academic success and may be less involved in other campus activities.

Because the process will begin during the school year, new and active members will have to balance recruitment duties with academic duties. The statement said that upperclassmen actives may have an especially hard time, since they have heavier or more difficult course loads.

Members may be less likely to attend other campus K-Week events such as “SAB or CSF events, student organization meetings and opportunities, as well as athletic events.”

“Due to the schedule changes,” the statement said. “(W)omen will inevitably miss the first football game of the season, and the ability to leave campus to travel to away games.”

Some sorority members, like Lizzie Shepard a member of Alpha Omicron Pi sorority, said many are nervous, but optimistic for the changes.

“Right now, I think everyone is a little nervous about the change,” Shepard said. “Mostly because change is scary. But I know the women in charge of planning recruitment are doing an amazing job making sure the transition and recruitment will go smoothly.”

As part of soon-to-be-leaving, Provost Tim Tracy’s five-year strategic plan which began in 2015, UK hopes to raise first-year retention from 83 to 90 percent by 2020. Changing sorority recruitment dates could potentially boost those rates.

“83 percent is pretty good but 90 is really good,” said Greg Heileman, the Associate Provost for Student and Academic Life. “We have a lot of student success here, but it’s now really about cranking it up and making it to an elite level.”

The change hopes to heighten the new student’s “sense of belonging,” and revamping the first week of the first year of a college career will potentially “build that sense of belonging.”

“When I joined,” Shepard said. “It was really nice to have girls on campus to say, ‘Hi,’ and ask you how you were doing.”

She hopes that that kind of experience will be extended to more women, because under the new changes potential new members will talk with members of more sororities.

Some students may not have been getting that experience. Heileman said that there was a large number of students who were not invited to, or were unable to join a sorority.

For this fall semester, move-in for sorority and band started a full week before classes, Heileman said. About 1,500 students move in early, and about 250 of those students don’t get invited into a sorority.

“Before classes start you got 250 students at a minimum who are starting with disappointment,” he said. By integrating those recruitment activities with K-Week those students could potentially have “other opportunities to get engaged with the campus if [sorority recruitment] doesn’t work out.”

Heileman also cited a survey conducted at UK this year which found that of 591 female respondents, 48 or 8.1 percent “said they did not participate in recruitment but wished they had.”

“If we just move this to the point in time when everyone’s on campus,” Heileman said. “It seems like it would address almost all of the concerns that people have right now.”

Panhellenic will have a Potential New Member Orientation during K-Week and chapters will be able to showcase themselves during K-Week events.

“This will allow for more women to learn about who we are as a sisterhood,” the Panhellenic statement said. “Rather than the expectations or stereotypes they may previously hold.”

The changes will also allow actives to have an extra two weeks of summer, Miller wrote in the statement. Actives will be more easily able to participate in internships, study abroad programs or volunteer opportunities.

Shepard said that pushing recruitment back will give more individuals a chance to sign up.

“Women who are on the fence can get more information and decide to sign up after they get to campus,” she said.

Despite the changes, Miller said that the Greek community will still thrive.

“Our success is not defined by the dates of our recruitment, but because of the things we do every other day throughout the year,” Miller said. “These values and successes of our community define who we are and those are the things that will not change.”