Hundreds of girls screamed with joy as they ran down Washington State University’s Greek row Sunday morning, clad in a mosaic of pastel tones as they slammed into hugs with their new sorority sisters.
The scene was one that’s likely familiar to users of TikTok, the social media platform where videos of young women making their way through recruitment have gone viral over the last month. It all started with #BamaRush, when women at the University of Alabama detailed their #OOTDs, outfits of the day, ahead of attending rush events. It was a rare and limited glimpse inside a process that, out of fairness to the Greek societies, calls for limited communication from pledges.
As the month went on, other schools began their recruitment process and the #RushTok garnered more than 127 million views.
So when last week students at Washington State University embarked on the more-than-a-week-long recruitment process, many of them may have felt they knew what to expect. From doing popular TikTok dances, to showing off their outfits, to offering a peek behind the scenes of recruiting new sorority sisters, dozens of WSU students joined the trend of posting about recruitment activities.
In recent years the WSU Panhellenic Association has worked to make recruitment less about how potential new members (PNMs) look on the outside and more about their values.
This year more than 700 women showed up more than a week before classes begin to the Washington State University campus to participate in the nine-day process.
Each day PNMs visit a number of chapters for “parties” where they talk to current members of the chapter. After each round they select the chapters they would like to return to and, if that chapter asks them back, they move on to the next round.
There are 14 sorority chapters that are members of WSU’s Panhellenic Association. The group follows the rules of the National Panhellenic Conference. Since 1989, NPC has required “values-based recruitment,” which focuses on matching potential new members to chapters that share their values.
At WSU, values-based recruitment has taken different forms over the years. Currently, PNMs are placed in groups led by a Rho Gamma, a member of a sorority chapter who hides their own sorority affiliation during recruitment to be an unbiased guide for women going through recruitment.
“At WSU it’s really important to us that we create the most equal opportunity to find the right chapter for them,” said Bailey Maykovich, vice president of public relations for the Panhellenic Council.
PNMs are given information on terminology as well as their “code of ethics” and “bill of rights,” which include things like “the right to make informed choices without undue pressure from others,” and that PNMs will keep what’s said at their parties confidential.
PNMs are asked not to speak with the media by the Panhellenic Association.
“The WSU Panhellenic community really values things like scholarship, philanthropy, lifelong friendship and career development, among other things,” Maykovich said.
Those watching #RushTok may have thought recruitment was all about the outfits, with the majority of young women going viral only discussing their ensembles. PNMs from across the country told the world where they got their skorts, sneakers and sundresses.
Part of the reason that these women focused on their outfits, not the chapters they visited all day, is that PNMs are discouraged from discussing their impressions of the houses they visit or the women they talk to, with the goal of allowing the other PNMs in their group to maintain an unbiased opinion of each chapter.
At WSU, each round of recruitment has a theme, which historically has required a different ensemble. But this year, Maykovich said, they worked to take the pressure off of PNMs from looking perfect.
“Something that we’ve really driven home to our potential new members is we want you to be you,” Maykovich said.
That means if wearing a sundress is what they feel best in to attend recruitment, or if sweat pants and a T-shirt is the PNM’s go-to outfit, that’s what they should wear, Maykovich said.
Before PNMs headed to recruitment events, they could stop by the PNM closet put together by Kim Padilla, vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the Panhellenic Council. Sorority members donated clothes they wore to past recruitment to help take the pressure off PNMs feeling like they have to stress about their outfits.
While it’s hard to tell if PNMs at WSU felt less pressure to find the perfect outfit each day because of the policy preventing them from speaking with the media, Maykovich said the Panhellenic Association hopes to expand their efforts to make recruitment more inclusive and approachable.
On Sunday, girls ran “home” to their new chapters screaming and holding hands.
“I am so glad you came home,” a member of Pi Beta Phi yelled as she hugged a new member before leading her into the large white sorority house.