Editor’s note: Language within the article has been changed to better reflect the nature of the secondary quota and the impact it will have on Panhellenic recruitment. A previous version of this piece said the secondary quota applied to sophomore women. The quota includes sophomore and junior women.
In a close 5-4 chapter vote on Nov. 30, Lehigh’s Panhellenic Council passed a secondary quota for upperclassmen during formal recruitment.
The secondary quota encourages each chapter to invite back a certain number of upperclassmen participating in recruitment per round.
In years past, few sophomores were offered an invitation, otherwise known as a bid, to join a sorority. In 2017, 65 percent of sophomores who rushed were not placed in a chapter, compared to 19 percent of first-year students.
Panhel’s vice president of external recruitment, Sabrina Schulman, ’18, said one of the reasons the initiative to adopt the secondary quota began was after a sophomore who did not receive a bid emailed the Panhellenic Council adviser. The student complained about the bias against sophomores within Lehigh’s Panhellenic community. As a result, the Panhel recruitment team conducted research asking sorority members about their protocols during recruitment and found that the bias did exist and the numbers supported it.
Madison Hirsh, Panhel’s vice president of internal recruitment, spearheaded the change in quotas. She said after looking at the drastic numbers, she recognized there was something wrong with the Panhellenic community and wanted to initiate change.
Hirsh started to search for solutions by having conversations with each chapter’s recruitment chair about the cause of the problem and potential secondary quota numbers.
“It’s not that the chapters thought the sophomores were bad or that they didn’t have the qualities sororities look for in potential new members,” Hirsh said. “But the sororities were rationalizing the issue for a weird mix of reasons.”
Once the statistics had been presented to the sororities, it was clear something needed to change.
To ensure more upperclassmen have a better opportunity to receive a bid, the secondary quota will encourage chapters to invite back a specific amount of first-years and a specific amount of upperclassmen to each recruitment round. As recruitment progresses and the process becomes more selective, the number of first-years and upperclassmen invited back to each chapter will decrease.
“This is the same as how it traditionally is, but now with a separate pool of upperclassmen,” Schulman said.
She said the secondary quota will make it easier for chapters, since they won’t have to choose between inviting back a first-year or an upperclassman since they will not be in the same category.
Hirsh said she believes the chapters will no longer have to rationalize why they should take a first-year over an upperclassman with the same exact credentials, which has ultimately given upperclassmen a disadvantage.
Schulman said for a lot of chapters, deciding between a first-year and a sophomore was a matter of financial interest. If there is a disproportionate amount of members graduating in a year, then the chapter will lose money from not collecting dues. The secondary quota will alleviate that pressure for chapters to decide.
Hirsh said some chapters of Panhel may have hesitated to vote in support of the secondary quota because it is a new concept. She said chapters have been concerned about not fulfilling the secondary quota, but Hirsh said it will work about the same as it has in the past.
If a chapter does not meet the quota, the sorority will need to participate in continuous open bidding following recruitment to meet the primary or secondary quota. Continuous open bidding is an informal way for sororities to recruit a few women to join chapters after or before recruitment if the chapter is under quota.
“I don’t think it’ll be that much of a change,” Hirsh said, “(each chapter) will submit two lists instead of one.”
Schulman said the sophomores and juniors will be engaging in the same mutual selection process as first-years. Every rule and procedure that applies to first-years also applies to upperclassmen.
“We are just distinguishing them to give everyone an equal playing field,” she said.
Sarah Moran, ’18, participated in formal recruitment as a sophomore. She remembers hearing by word of mouth that chapters were going to cut a lot of sophomores because they wanted more first-years in their houses.
“Rushing as a sophomore is definitely a different experience, because there is such a small number of others doing it too,” Moran said.
She said it was harder to rush as a sophomore than as a freshman because of the stigma against offering sophomores bids.
Moran believes the quota was a smart decision by Panhel to give everyone a fair chance.
Rebecca Kearns, ’19, the recruitment chair for Alpha Chi Omega sorority, said she hadn’t previously noticed how few sophomores and juniors were placed in houses. After seeing the numbers of upperclassmen placed and hearing the secondary quota proposal, she was on board with the change.
“I think the quota is going to make a big difference this year and relieve some of the stress from both the chapters and potential new members,” Kearns said.