Part 2 

Greek 101

"Greek life isn't for everyone," Bartel says, and she should know. When she was a student at East Carolina University in the 1980s she was not involved in Greek life. But since she has worked with the Greek system at the University of Richmond, she encourages students to keep an open mind, to go through recruitment to find out what it is all about. "It is an option and a choice that they should at least explore to find out if it is for them," she says. "I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't believe in it."

Tiffanie Chan, a sophomore from Richmond, is one of those students for whom the Greek system holds no allure. "The friends I met this year and last year, we don't need a sorority to keep us together," she says, while eating dinner at The Pier, UR's fast-food cafe. The Pier is unusually quiet tonight because so many University of Richmond students are involved in recruitment.

Chan, a petite Asian girl wearing a hooded gray sweatshirt and overalls, is involved in the Baptist Student Union and choir. She says she doesn't have time for a sorority. "Plus, there's studying," she points out.

Chan has nothing against the Greek system, per se, but she thinks the University of Richmond would be a different, more open place, without it. "I know it plays a lot into people's social lives," she says, "but if you're not in a sorority, there are people you don't end up talking to and things you don't know."

But more than half of the University of Richmond's female students do find something positive in the Greek system. This year, 270 freshmen and 48 sophomore women are participating in recruitment. Only 207 of them will be invited to fill the empty slots in each sorority.

Some will withdraw from the process before the first party even begins. Some will be forced to drop out because of their grades — you must have at least a 2.0 grade-point average to even participate in recruitment. Others will withdraw as they learn more about each sorority and realize that it isn't for them. Some will not be able to afford the approximately $400 per semester sorority dues. And some will not be invited back.

Getting cut from the system is what each potential new member worries about most.

"One of the things that happens in this process that is very difficult to watch is that the women who are more introverted are probably the people who have the highest likelihood of getting lost," Bartel says. "The process lends itself to those women who are more extroverted, who can enjoy that high energy kind of atmosphere. That doesn't reflect that they aren't women who are of value to the organization, but who are more comfortable in a different kind of process."[image-1]Photo by Chad HuntOn bid day, potential new members are instructed to stay in their rooms in case their recruitment counselor needs to call them to break the news that they did not receive an invitation to join a sorority. Here, Recruitment Counselor Shauna Anderson makes one of the dreaded calls.

While each potential new member must attend all six sorority events on the first night of recruitment, after that, they can go back only when invited. And if they are invited back to all six parties after the first night, they must release one because they can only attend five parties during the second night of recruitment. As the week goes on, the stakes get higher — with fewer parties to attend each night and fewer invitations distributed.

Each sorority member selects its members differently, and the potential new members do not know how it is done, though they do have suspicions.

"I felt like at some places they were scoring me," Neville says. "I've heard that some people have voting right after, and that some score you on a five-point system. I don't know who does what, but it's nerve-racking. When you leave a place, you think, 'How did I do? You almost score yourself — I giggled too much, I fidgeted, I looked at my watch. ... You just don't want to get dropped, because that hurts. You want to drop them."

After the first night of parties, Neville and Manzolli both get invited back to five sororities for "philanthropy night," where they will learn about each sorority's service projects and get a chance to work on a craft project for the organization.

After philanthropy night, Neville starts to change her attitude about sororities. "I found out there really was a point to every sorority," she says, "that they actually did things."

At this point, she is more nervous about recruitment. "I am a different kind of nervous now," she says. "Now I'm liking it and thinking, 'What if they don't like me?'"

Manzolli has even had a dream that she didn't get into a sorority. "I'm enjoying it a lot more ... but that could be a bad thing," she says, during dinner at E. Bruce Heilman dining hall. "Because what if I don't get a bid?"

Wallace, the Rho Chi, is listening in on the conversation and offers her advice: "You just can't take it personally if you are cut," she says. Manzolli nods her head slowly in agreement and says, "It's so hard, though."

"Yeah," Wallace says. "It's impossible."

By the third night of parties, emotions are turned up to 11. The sorority women are tired from the clapping and singing and socializing and from staying up late — sometimes until 4 and 5 a.m. — to decide on their invitation lists.

"Emotionally you're exhausted," Neville says. "You know this is a decision that's going to affect your life for four years. It's very emotional and everyone around you is trying to make the same decision." There are 241 potential new members left in the rotation.

Friday night is sisterhood night, the night when sorority members talk about the personal relationships and bonds they have formed with their sorority sisters. It is the night to wear waterproof mascara.

Before the potential new members enter Delta Delta Delta's sisterhood event, Tri Delt President Meggan Frayer rallies her troops. "Please remember the conversation is more serious tonight," she pleads. "Please talk about your sisterhood experiences. You're going to want them to meet more than one girl."[image-2]Photo by Chad HuntColleen Neville receives a joyful hug from Kappa Alpha Theta member Liz DiPaola welcoming her to the sorority.

Tonight, room 301 of Tyler Haynes Commons is strung with strings of white lights, and gold and silver stars are taped to the walls. Even the sisters of Tri Delta are dressed up in black slacks and skirts and pastel sweaters adorned with the stars and crescent sisterhood pin.

Instead of a slide show or a craft project, the highlight of this evening are the speeches given by two Tri Delta alumni. Samantha talks about how she met her best friend through Tri Delta and how she reconnected with a woman she first met at camp at age 8.

The potential new members are silent as they sit on the floor, the Tri Delta sisters gathered around them in a semicircle, arms linked. The mood becomes almost somber as if this were a memorial service to sisterhood. "In college you can become the person you envision yourself as and there's no better way to do that than to surround yourself with people who care about you," Samantha says. The semicircle of sisters turns into a circle as they break into a soft, sweet song:

Now and Forever
Remember the promises still unbroken
We are the lucky ones

For a moment, the sisters of Tri Delta seem to forget the potential new members as they are caught up in their own emotions and memories. They will have to do this two more times tonight. And this is nothing when compared to tomorrow's preference parties.

"Pref," as it is called, is when sororities pull out all the stops to make the hard sell to the women they want to be a part of their group. The parties are ritual-based and they give the potential new members a look at a different, more serious side to the sorority.

A lot of sororities dress in all white for pref; some wear all black. There are candles and ballads and intense, whispered, one-on-one conversations.

"The decision making becomes more difficult," Bartel says. " ... You're getting down to making the decision of those that you want as your own sisters."

Each potential new member is allowed to go to only two pref parties. Afterward, she must rank them in order of her first and second choice.

Neville attends pref parties at Delta Delta Delta and Kappa Alpha Theta and spends about 40 minutes deciding which to put first. She makes pro and con lists for each, and consults a book provided by Rho Chi Duggin that asks questions such as "Where have you felt comfortable since day one?"

"It was one of the toughest decisions I have ever made," Neville says. "And intertwined in it for me was, 'Am I going to even stay here?' ... It was not as hard as deciding where to go to college, but it was up there."

Although she is still having second thoughts about the money — she remembers what someone at Kappa Alpha Theta said to her as she was leaving pref night. "She said, 'Go with your heart Colleen, we'll still love you,'" Neville says. "That meant a lot to me."

She puts Kappa Alpha Theta first, Tri Delta second.

Then she returns to her room for almost 24 hours before finding out which it will be.

Potential new members are instructed to stay in their rooms on bid day between 1 and 3 p.m. because if they don't get an invitation to join a sorority, their Rho Chi will call then to break the news.."[image-3]Photo by Chad HuntGina Manzolli and Colleen Neville share their first moment of sisterhood during Kappa Alpha Theta's bid-day celebration.

Only three women do not receive invitations to join a sorority. One of these women is in Duggin's Rho Chi group and she has to make the dreaded call. "I didn't handle it well," Duggin says after breaking the bad news to the woman. "I started crying when I found out that she didn't get a bid. I knew she wanted it so badly, it really upset me to have to tell her. ... I think I will go over at 6 today after everyone goes to their bid parties and things get really quiet to see how she is doing."

Wallace makes a call to a woman who dropped out of recruitment earlier in the week, but who still receives a "snap bid" from Alpha Chi Omega. This can happen when a sorority doesn't reach its quota for new members.

She is nervous about picking up the phone, as if she were calling someone for a date. "Alpha Chi wants to extend you a bid," she says cheerfully. "I think this is a good opportunity for you." After explaining what a snap bid is all about, Wallace encourages the woman to at least go to tonight's bid day celebration, to try it out. When the woman agrees to do it, Wallace smiles. "Good. I'm glad. I honestly think you will like it."

After the calls are made, Wallace and Duggin head over to distribute the invitations in the third floor "ice cream parlor" of North Court residence hall. At precisely 4 p.m., their first potential new member pokes her head in the door.

"[This] is the most fun part," Duggin says. "All the bad stuff is over."

Wallace and Duggin invite the woman into the room. They look at each other in anticipation before she opens her invitation. Good news. There are smiles and hugs all around.

Some women try to play it cool, but their shaking hands instantly give them away. Others simply smile. Some shed tears of relief and jump up and down with joy. And some shed a different kind of tear. One woman starts crying when she receives an invitation to join her second-choice sorority. "I think it is definitely worth trying," Duggin helpfully suggests as she pats her on the knee.

One woman is crying when she enters the room. "I have a major dilemma," she says. "I don't know if I want to do it. Can you tell me how they pick people? I have friends who did not get bids."

Duggin tries to calm her by sharing that when she went through recruitment, one of her best friends was released from rush, on her birthday. She went through recruitment again the next year, got a bid, and is one of the happiest people she knows.

"It's just the whole thought that you get picked," the woman replies. "My friend who didn't get picked deserves it more than I do." She starts sobbing.

"I give you a lot of credit that you're not like, 'too bad for them, good for me,'" Duggin says. "I think that's really admirable." The woman sits and thinks for while before deciding to leave. She never opens her invitation.

When Neville enters the room, she is scared of what she will find inside her envelope. "The money thing was such a big issue," she later recalls. "I almost didn't want to get a bid so that I wouldn't have to make a decision."

So she sits quietly for a moment and considers the cream-colored envelope clutched in her hand. "Open it! Open it!" Duggin and Wallace urge.

Neville pulls back the envelope flap, and even before she fully removes the invitation, her face breaks into a radiant smile. Neville has been invited to join Kappa Alpha Theta, her first-choice sorority. All of her financial concerns melt away. "It seems like girls are really happy there," she says. "It seems like a good investment."

And when she finds out her friend Manzolli will also be a Theta, it seems even more right.

"The school seems so much better now," she says after two weeks as an affiliated member of Kappa Alpha Theta. "I'm a Theta. I have a place."

Jessica Ronky Haddad was a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority at the University of Richmond from 1991-93.

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