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Greek life involvement sees decrease at OU during 2021 fall recruitment

Sororities and fraternities at Ohio University have experienced decreases in recruitment numbers over the past decade and continue to suffer from declining participation.

Jeremy Paul, assistant director of Sorority and Fraternity Life at OU, said there were 234 bids distributed by fraternities in 2021, with 201 of those being accepted.

Although that is an increase from fall 2020 during COVID-19 — when only 137 new members were added — 2019 yielded 252 accepted bids to fraternities at OU, Paul said. In 2021, Phi Kappa Psi came out on top after rush week with 36 new members while the average number of bids given out for all chapters combined was 23.

Ariel Tarosky, director of Sorority and Fraternity Life, said there were 369 women registered for the sorority primary recruitment process, and 216 of them accepted bids at the conclusion of the process. She said those numbers are lower than past years, including 2020, when the recruitment processes for sororities and fraternities were affected by the pandemic.

Tarosky said the Panhellenic community added a total of 239 new members, which is more than 250 members below the average for the past five years. There are still some chapters that are below the maximum allowed number of members, which is set at 102 for OU. Due to that, the sororities that didn’t meet the total will continue to recruit throughout the semester.

Tarosky said a new member quota is determined for sororities to meet each year based on the number of potential new members. The quota, which was set at 21 this semester, is meant to create equality among the different chapters on campus. However, depending on how many new members accept their bids and how many members are picked up after the formal recruitment process, that number may vary slightly per chapter, she added.

Over the past decade, OU has seen a decrease in Greek life involvement, Tarosky said. She attributed that trend to increased costs for sorority dues, COVID-19 and declining enrollment and said the recruitment numbers across the country have been declining in the past five years as well. 

Paul echoed Tarosky’s idea that involvement in Greek life on campus has been on the decline since the early 2010s, primarily due to a decrease in enrollment. According to a previous Post report, from 2016-17 to 2021-22, OU enrollment shrunk by 2,613 students. However, the 2021-22 freshman class saw a 17.2% increase from the previous year’s freshman class.

“If enrollment declines, naturally, the number of people who are participating in a recruitment process is going to decline with that,” Paul said.

Marisa Ann Short, a junior studying health and physical education, is a member of Delta Zeta and the vice president of the sorority’s new member education. 

While Delta Zeta hit its quota, Short believes a reason for the decreasing recruitment numbers is that many new students are dealing with heavy workloads as they make their transition into a new environment at OU.

“We’re coming out of COVID, getting back to normal classes, and that process overall is probably just a little overwhelming,” Short said. “I think that’s a good reason as to why a lot of women didn’t sign up for recruitment this year.”

Paul said the decrease in new members could also be due to a decline in the number of fraternity chapters on campus. In the past three years, six chapters have shut down: Sigma Phi Epsilon, Lambda Chi Alpha, Pi Kappa Phi and Delta Epsilon were shut down due to a decision made by the chapter, and Sigma Chi and Delta Tau Delta were suspended in July due to numerous Student Code of Conduct violations, including hazing.

Because of the decrease in Greek life involvement, Paul said he believes sororities and fraternities need to shift their recruitment strategies to appeal to the new generations of students.

“What students in 2011 were looking for out of a fraternity or sorority experience versus what students are looking for in 2021 — those are two vastly different things,” Paul said. “This community has vastly changed over the course of that time.”


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