Pledging through a pandemic at CMU

By Brent Rutkowski, Central Michigan Life; photo via @cmugreeks Instagram

Central Michigan University’s Greek Life officially welcomed hundreds of students as new members to its fraternities and sororities. 

Molly Schuneman, assistant director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, said rush week typically embodies everything that Greek Life offers – professionalism, networking and camaraderie.   However, due to rigid protocols brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the recruitment events have been tailored to fit a virtual setting. 

Despite these limitations, Greek Life leadership is confident that students will get the patented fraternity and sorority experience they were advertised. 

“I believe that Fraternity and Sorority life is one of the premier experiences on a college campus,” Schuneman. “Everything looks different, but what I can promise potential members is that they’re still going to find true brotherhood and true sisterhood, people that will always have your back no matter what.” 

CMU has about 1,200 students in Greek Life among its 30 chapters, averaging to approximately 40 students per chapter. Although the largest organization has 100 members and the smallest has three.

Before any student is granted membership to a particular chapter, they meet with members to discuss the chapter’s goals and expectations. These conversations, however, have become harder to have with social distancing regulations. To communicate effectively, members have become more direct when talking to hopeful bids. 

“We’ve trained our team to ask more intentional questions of potential members in order to vet them better,” Schuneman said. “Instead of bro-ing out at an event, you ask what are your future career goals? You figure out if someone is just joining for the parties or if they are joining to better themselves.” 

Another communication strategy used by Greek Life is virtual marketing. These marketing efforts have become resources that incoming members can reference to better understand a particular fraternity or sorority. 

“The biggest challenge we’ve had is finding a way to tell potential members how we stay engaged during these difficult times,” said senior Cal Rhodes, president of Interfraternity Council. “We’ve recently released a virtual look book of four fraternities, which basically covers each chapter’s general information and all the contact information for recruitment chairs.” 

But this year, recruitment was not the sole focus of Greek Life’s rush week. Instead, the organization stressed the importance of adhering to COVID-19 protocol in order to keep students at CMU healthy and safe. This required sacrificing popular events like socials and replacing the traditional events with themed, web-based meetings where members go to mingle and interact with one another. 

“I know some chapters have done trivia nights, some have done a Guitar Hero or Mario Kart nights,” Rhodes said. “In person we’re only allowed to have no more than 10 people at a time, so we’re really trying to stay true to these COVID protocols and rules.”