Emily Rose Thorne
Two years after Mercer’s Greek-letter organizations switched to a delayed recruitment policy, nearly 140 women in Panhellenic chapters have signed a petition to reverse the decision.
Savannah Lackey is a sister of Alpha Delta Pi, a global health studies major and a sophomore senator in the Student Government Association. She created the petition prior to the 2019 recruitment period.
“Mercer started delayed recruitment two years ago in hopes that it would bring a positive change,” Lackey wrote in the petition. “As women have been through this process, it has seemed to bring more stress, social anxiety and tension to these women’s lives. We hope to move recruitment up to the beginning of the year to resolve many of the issues that Panhellenic women face at Mercer.”
With the help of her friend and sorority sister Logan Alford, Lackey said she started the petition to address a common concern among the Mercer Greek community.
“A lot of Panhellenic women have been speaking out about their opinions and issues with delayed recruitment,” Lackey told The Cluster. “Some women also enjoy and advocate for delayed recruitment, so I cannot speak for everyone.”
Charlee Coker, another sophomore sister of Alpha Delta Pi, said she prefers delayed recruitment.
Coker said the first few weeks of school give freshmen time to decide if Greek life is right for them.
“Many great girls are now in our chapter that wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for delayed recruitment,” she said. Personally, she “had no intentions” of going through recruitment when her freshman year began.
“But because I had those first few weeks to get used to Mercer, go to information meetings and talk to girls at Bear Fair, I decided I would, and my college experience wouldn’t be what it is without ADPi (Alpha Delta Pi),” she said.
Coker also said that while delayed recruitment might put more pressure on initiated members of Greek life, it’s more important to consider the benefits it offers Potential New Members (PNMs).
“I think many people want early because it would be easier for us, but recruitment isn’t about us,” she said. “It’s about all the PNMs, and I just think we’d be missing out on some great girls if we move it back.”
One of the issues that some initiated women have with delayed recruitment is the limited contact guidelines, which were designed with PNMs’ experience in mind.
“Fraternity or sorority students may not interact with first-year students under the following circumstances: off campus (The Lofts, other organization events, off campus houses, public venues and any other off-campus location not specified), in the chapter houses, at chapter events (or) in first-year residence halls and current fraternity or sorority member residence hall rooms,” according to the Delayed Recruitment Guidelines and Policies.
The policies also discourage Greek-affiliated students from working with PNMs on class projects when possible. However, the document maintains that “the point of limited PNM contact is not to discourage you from creating friendships with incoming first-year students in your classes, but to ensure each and every PNM can have a positive, fair and unbiased Panhellenic recruitment experience.”
Although the more specific policies only apply to first-years, the designation of Potential New Member applies to all Mercer students who are not affiliated with a fraternity or sorority — regardless of whether or not they intend to “go Greek.”
Per the guidelines, affiliated members must fill out a form at the start of each recruitment season indicating who their friends are outside of Greek life, or their chapter could face a fine if a member is found interacting with them.
Limited contact rules also apply to social media interactions, something Lackey said is hard to control.
“The rules cause for unnecessary fines for rules women may not even realize they may be breaking, such as following unaffiliated (women) going to Mercer, when they don’t even realize they’re following them on social media,” Lackey said.
Students, regardless of affiliation, are encouraged in the Guidelines and Policies to report any violations of limited contact rules to the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Programs. Infractions could result in sanctions or fines, and chapters found to have committed serious violations — such as any contact with a freshman that involves alcohol — could be prohibited from extending bids to new members and face charges from the Office of Judicial Education.
Lackey said the watchdog nature of delayed recruitment can contribute to “tension” between sorority chapters.
“Some women become concerned with watching each other for breaking rules,” she said, which “does not encourage ‘Pan love.”
Delayed recruitment was originally instituted to “create a safe, positive environment for incoming first-year students to acclimate to campus prior to affiliating with a Greek-letter organization,” according to the Guidelines.
However, for Lackey, it has only caused undue stress. She advocates for moving recruitment to the first week of class, or even before school starts in the fall.
She said the change wouldn’t just benefit initiated members. Receiving a bid in the first week of class could help freshmen ease into life on campus and find a sense of place on campus as soon as they start college.
“PNMs would have a familiar face in their classes,” Lackey said. “They would most likely not feel as isolated as they currently do leading up to recruitment.”
On the other hand, Coker said the time before recruitment provides opportunities for making friendships that entering Greek life earlier in the year might not leave room for.
“Something that’s special about Mercer is that we have friends that are both Greek and non-Greek,” Coker said. “I feel most of those non-Greek friendships are made in those few weeks before recruitment happens.”
While any decisions to alter the delayed recruitment policies lie with the administration, Lackey said students in favor of changing it have the power to speak up.
“I want to take initiative in this issue because (it) affects me and the people I care about, affiliated and non-affiliated,” Lackey said. “Campus Life is aware of the issues with delayed recruitment and is currently trying to work towards whatever they find best for the students. They encourage students to voice their opinions, but (we) ultimately cannot decide the final outcome of recruitment. Essentially, it is up to students to use their voices and work with the administrators to make a change.”