Greek life at USF has new meaning: Fraternities and sororities have new houses on campus.
By DONG-PHUONG NGUYEN
Published August 20, 2003
[Times photo: Ken Helle]
Group leaders Lindsey Goldthwaite, 21, front, and Julia Buskirk, 22, back, make a "Spirit Run" past the young women in the "Bucs Babes 11" group as they waited to enter the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority house on the USF campus Tuesday. This is sorority rush week -- now known as recruitment week.
TAMPA - The houseguests mingled for about 30 minutes, sipping water and Cokes and talking about sisterhood. Then they moved to another house, looking for the place they felt best.
With the recent completion of a cluster of fraternity and sorority houses at the University of South Florida, checking out the Greeks during rush week has taken on a whole new meaning.
Potential new members - better known as PNMs - used to meander from room to room at a building on campus to get better acquainted with the school's seven sororities.
This week, for the first time in the school's history, PNMs get to go from house to house, linked by sidewalks on the northeastern edge of the campus.
Sorority members are working hard to impress potential recruits.
"There's a lot of pride this year," said Michael Farley, USF's Greek Life coordinator. "They're wrapped up in being good hostesses."
But don't call them houses, just yet. They're chapters because the house for one sorority isn't complete.
Oh, and don't call it rush, because it's been changed to recruitment.
Whatever it's called, this is a big week for USF's Greek community, which includes about 5 percent of the student body. The process finally culminates on Bid Day, when new members are matched up with chapters.
Then the new sisters get to live out the sorority soliloquy, which ends: I'm so thankful I belong.
In past rushes, each chapter was given a room to decorate, which they filled with streamers, balloons and colorful display boards.
PNMs were asked to find the chapter where they felt most at home - except there was no actual home.
The process was a bit like courting, except the dates took place in meeting rooms and ballrooms.
"They did the best they could," Farley said. "They didn't know any other way, unless they had friends at (other schools)."
At USF, each day of rush has a theme. Tuesday was Spirit Day, when PNMs got to meet with sisters in their homes and talk to them about their college and sorority experiences.
Today is Philanthropy Day, when PNMs will help members make items to donate to the University Area Community Center.
Thursday is Sisterhood Day. PNMs will visit up to four sororities and see videos portraying what it means to be a sister in that particular chapter.
Friday is Preferentials, when PNMs will be bused to locations throughout Tampa. At the end of Friday, they must make a final decision about membership.
That leads to Saturday, or Bid Day, when PNMs will learn who their new sisters are.
To ensure a level playing field, strict rules surround rush.
During August, PNMs are not allowed to attend any organized sorority function where sorority members are present; they can't have any social contact with current sorority members unless speaking about Greek life and/or panhellenic recruitment in general; and they may not ride in the same car with current sorority members during recruitment week unless they are blood relatives.
And new this year: PNMs are instructed to keep a "moderate distance from sorority housing."
"While some of these may sound funny on the surface, recruitment policies exist to make sure that PNMs are never made to feel uncomfortable and to limit their contact with chapters outside of Formal Recruitment activities," the executive vice president of USF's Panhellenic Council wrote in a letter to PNMs.
The fear of breaking rules is so great that most sorority members refused this week to speak to a reporter.
One Delta Delta Delta member wanted to share her excitement, but gave only her middle name, until she could clear it with the Greek leaders.
Was what she said in the spirit of Greek unity? Was it in the Greek spirit?
Can you change her quote, Greek leaders asked, to reflect all chapters?
How about using her name, but not her Greek affiliation?
After some more debate, they agreed that her comments weren't in violation of Greek rules.
So here goes:
"It's like a real college campus," said Trisha Torok of Tri-Delt. "It brought the sorority closer together."