Fraternally fed up

Listed above are the names of each of the 103 individuals who signed the petition created by Meghan Beckmann in agreement with the issues and questions raised regarding decisions made about recruitment. Graphic by Caitlin Segraves.

KATIE FREEMAN | CO-OPINION EDITOR | kmfreema@butler.edu
CAITLIN SEGRAVES | CO-OPINION EDITOR | csegrave@butler.edu 

Disappointed, but not surprised. 

That was our reaction to the announcement that once again, sorority recruitment was to be conducted online while gaggles of aspiring bros held the privilege of tromping down Hampton Drive and into one of the seven fraternity houses on campus.

The announcement left sorority members within Butler’s Greek community spinning and scrambling to figure out how to transition the recruitment process online with just over a day to spare before formal recruitment was scheduled to begin. Meanwhile, fraternities mourned the loss of their catered Panda Express dinners, given that they were still permitted to conduct recruitment in-person with the stipulation that food could not be served. 

Nationally, sororities and fraternities are held to different standards which reflects the sexism that exists within the structures of our society. But that doesn’t mean our university has to replicate these same patriarchal standards. There is nothing stopping the university from holding Interfraternity Council chapters to the same COVID-19 restrictions as Panhellenic Association chapters — they are actively perpetuating the systemic sexism they claim to be so vehemently against. 

As a whole, sororities are held to a higher standard than fraternities both at Butler and nationwide and are restricted from partaking in so many stereotypical and widely-conducted frat-tivities.

To be frank, it’s misogynistic, rude, ignorant and himpathetic behavior.

As seniors, we had been looking forward to rounding out our college experiences with some semblance of normalcy, but we could take a modicum of solace in the fact that we had been able to participate in in-person recruitment for our respective sororities even once. Current juniors and sophomores have still yet to experience it, and next year, they will be left without any active members to guide them through the process. 

We were far from the only people left fuming over this sudden change of events. 

Meghan Beckmann, a junior psychology and criminology major, created a COVID-19 concern document detailing grievances from herself and others regarding the university’s decision to alter recruitment formats and inconsistencies within an email sent by Frank Ross to members of the Greek community on Jan. 4. She also created a petition that urged individuals to sign their names if they agreed with the points made within the COVID-19 concern document. Currently, the petition has 103 signatures. 

“When we found out that we were going to be moved online for the first few days, something just didn’t shock me about it,” Beckmann said. “A lot of the girls in my sorority were just kind of fed up. Mostly me — I was the one that wanted to do something about it.”

Beckmann said she sent both the petition and COVID-19 concern document to a variety of Butler University staff members within the department of student affairs, including Frank Ross, Sarah Cohen and Martha Dziwlik on Jan. 13. The email was then forwarded to President James Danko on Jan. 16 by Beckmann after she had received no response. 

On Tuesday, Jan. 18, Beckmann received a response from Mark Apple, director of strategic communication, who thanked her for her email about “perceived inconsistencies” within the university’s COVID-19 protocol. Additionally, Apple attached and cited Ross’ original email to address her concerns. In her reply to his message, Beckmann expressed her disappointment with the university and asked to be provided with answers to her original questions about Ross’ email, only to be met with yet another excerpt from Ross’ original email. 

So, how did sororities wind up trapped conducting recruitment via the world’s most complicated Zoom calls for the second year in a row? For those unfamiliar with how this year’s recruitment took place, here’s a recap. 

Sorority members returned to campus on Jan. 2 to begin practicing for formal recruitment, which was to be held in-person beginning on Jan. 5. This entails running mock rounds, rehearsing nitty-gritty details and practicing walking routes throughout the house. Each house practices differently, but there is one consistent factor among them all — each chapter came together for exhausting, day-long practices involving herds of women crammed into tight spaces in each house, putting each other at risk for a cause that suddenly became null in a matter of minutes.

All of this training and prepping is, of course, solely on the side of panhellenic formal recruitment. While we are sure there are necessary preparations happening on the IFC side of recruitment, it — quite honestly — is nothing compared to the amount of time, effort and tears that are put into panhellenic recruitment. The last-minute decision-making gave little regard to the seriousness of these efforts, and the lackadaisical handling left panhellenic executive and sorority chapter leaders in the lurch. 

Calvin Prenkert, a junior critical communication and media studies major, said that while he understands why the decision to hold sorority recruitment online was reached, he felt that it seemed the university dropped the ball on making those changes. 

“I think that [the decisions regarding recruitment] may have been a little inconsistent with what Butler’s doing in other areas and that’s unfortunate,” Prenkert said. “…there was clearly some lack of communication — whether intentional or not — that left sorority members frustrated, understandably, so I think I was frustrated the same for them.”

Senior English major Lauren Bear served as a recruitment counselor and was in the middle of training to prepare for the upcoming week when the announcement was released. She said having to quickly adapt and adjust to an online recruitment format was stressful.

“It was a lot of exec having to be absent from our trainings,” Bear said. “We missed being able to do an emotional intelligence training because they were having to adjust to everything. It was kind of chaotic and we had no idea what was happening.”

On the following day, Jan. 3, university staff members requested that Butler’s Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association — the two organizations on campus which govern Butler’s fraternity and sorority chapters — make modifications to their respective recruitment formats to lessen the spread of COVID-19. Three options for proceeding with recruitment were given to the leadership of IFC and Panhel by the university. 

The first option was to conduct recruitment entirely online. The second option was to conduct recruitment in-person through a significantly modified system wherein masks were worn, six-foot social distancing was maintained and conversations were held exclusively one-on-one. The third option was to hold first rounds of recruitment virtually and a final round in-person with the aforementioned expectations detailed in option two.

However, it would be much easier for fraternities to make the necessary changes in order to proceed with in-person recruitment than it would have for sororities, which conduct recruitment via a meticulous, in-depth process that would be near-impossible to revise in 24 hours.

IFC chose option two — to conduct recruitment entirely in-person — and Panhel opted to follow option three and hold the first two days of recruitment online. The next day, it was decided by Panhel that preference rounds would also be conducted online, leaving bid day as the only in-person aspect of sorority recruitment. That and IFC’s bid day, if sorority members opted to join in on their celebration.

Hey, though — what better way to celebrate preventing COVID-19 cases than by hosting a gigantic darty on Hampton Drive two days in a row?

To explain the university’s position on this year’s recruitment protocols, Frank Ross, vice president of student affairs, sent an email — the one Beckmann referenced — to members of the Greek community on Jan. 4 to explain how the three options were presented to IFC and Panhel. 

“In an effort to be equitable, the Councils were given the expectation that all sororities must follow the same format, and all fraternities must follow the same format, and it was up to the respective Councils and chapter leadership to identify the format that worked best for their organizations,” Ross said in the email. 

Keyword: equitable. 

If the university had the power to mandate that both IFC and Panhel had to follow a certain set of options, then it also had the power to mandate that both sorority and fraternity recruitment would be held online — which would be the most equitable way to go about it. 

Or, on the other hand, the university could have acknowledged the differences between both processes and provide a unique set of options for each respective governing organization.

This is just yet another instance in a long line of sexist double standards that influence the Greek life experience. The standards and limits imposed on sororities may appear as shallow or superficial at times, but it reflects inherent sexism that is consistently being upheld by the Butler’s administration.  

Why would a university claiming to be so concerned with a proper response to rising COVID-19 cases leave such a decision up to students?

Letting students decide how to navigate and conduct a process as extensive as recruitment during a raging pandemic certainly seems reckless, especially if no one from the university is present to ensure that fraternities were following the expectations outlined in option number two. 

Senior marketing major Eva Ranquist, said she found the situation absurd, as she did not believe fraternities actually made an attempt to conduct recruitment in a masked, one-on-one, socially distanced manner.

“At one point during recruitment, Sigma Chi posted a video of their recruitment where they’re in their basement smashing things, with tons of guys down in that basement standing around,” Ranquist said. “Some of them were wearing masks, but most of their masks were pulled below their mouth. So they weren’t even following the few guidelines that they were given for recruitment.”

Beckmann said she thinks that if a set of COVID-19 protocols is going to apply to sororities, then it needs to apply to fraternities as well. 

“If you’re talking about the safety of your student body and the community surrounding, it shouldn’t be a decision made by Panhel or IFC,” Beckmann said. “It should be a decision made by Butler, because ultimately, we are following the best that we know how to follow. We’re students in this situation.”

There are a slew of inconsistencies among the university’s COVID-19 protocols. For instance, the university required that in order to safely conduct recruitment, social distancing and masking was necessary due to the high volume of individuals involved, but social distancing is not enforced in any academic building on campus — all of which contain large amounts of students throughout the day. Further, neither masks nor social distancing are mandated in Hinkle Fieldhouse or the Butler Arts and Events Center, two spaces on campus which do not guarantee Butler’s esteemed 95% vaccination rate. 

In an email to The Collegian, Ross said that the inconsistencies stem from a variety of factors, including the fact that Greek houses are not special event spaces and do not have “advanced ventilation systems” like buildings such as Hinkle Fieldhouse and Clowes Hall.

Athletic competitions and arts performances are optional activities, and students who attend events in Hinkle Fieldhouse or the Butler Arts and Events Center are making the choice to do so,” Ross said. “The protocols for those venues are consistent with other arts and entertainment venues in the county and state. However, students do not have a choice regarding academic and residential facilities, and as such, we have different COVID-19 requirements in place for those buildings.”

Additionally, Ross cited higher numbers involved in sorority recruitment than fraternity recruitment as a justification for changing recruitment plans in his original Jan. 4 email.  

Nole Beran, a junior theatre arts major, questions whether citing more individuals involved in sorority recruitment as a reason for conducting the process online is a valid argument. 

“Most — 99.9% of students — can agree that that’s awful reasoning,” Beran said. “Simply because I do know that the university, we have found [to be] hypocritical with their decisions, especially with Dr. Ross and the hasty decisions that were made. Obviously, I mean, we had two basketball games throughout rush week that people were able to go to without masks … a lot of times [implementing COVID-19 precautions] does seem to be of face value, just to show that they’re trying to do something.”

Ross also said in an email to The Collegian that the university monitors protocols and policies as necessary in response to changing COVID-19 conditions. If the university was monitoring these conditions, shouldn’t they have anticipated these necessary changes to recruitment formats?

It seems the university did not adequately prepare for students to return to campus during the literal peak of COVID-19 cases. 

Every year, sorority and fraternity members return to campus earlier than the non-affiliated students. The administration knew this year would be no different and had the entirety of the winter break to monitor the spread of Omicron and prepare for students to return. Whether that be warning Panhel and IFC executive members that chapters should prepare for an online recruitment week, to secure and require COVID-19 testing to return to campus, or simply requiring the booster, preventative options were available. 

Instead of putting appropriate measures in place to prepare for the imminent return of IFC and Panhel students, as well as potential new members, the university decided to wait until a myriad of students tested positive for COVID-19 to take action. Most tests, of course, were secured by the students themselves, with little to no assistance from health services or the administration. 

In all, the university placed the weight of extremely important health-related decisions onto members of the student body.

While we are in full support of Panhel’s decision to conduct recruitment virtually — as it was the safest and most responsible option available — we are frustrated, disappointed and angry with the university’s failure to mandate equal processes among fraternities and sororities. 

Look to the young women of this campus for guidance on how to lead by example, Butler. 

Do better.

Authors

Related posts

One Comment;

  1. Isa Sanchez said:

    So incredibly well said, Katie and Caitlyn. This was an amazing article and represents Panhel in a strong light. I hope Butler takes every aspect of this article in and makes the necessary changes.

*

Top