UI Fraternity and Sorority Life primary recruitment declines during pandemic, FIJI lawsuit

The University of Iowa’s Panhellenic Council is providing incentives for new members as the school year starts with reported low recruitment numbers.


Gabby Drees

The University of Iowa chapter of Delta Gamma is seen in Iowa City on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022.

Emily Nyberg, Reporter

University of Iowa’s Fraternity and Sorority Life reported low student recruitment numbers in the first weeks of the fall semester, regardless of the larger expected enrollment of the class of 2026.

The UI Panhellenic Council cited 260 new members signed up for sorority recruitment, compared to 380 student’s last year, in an email sent by Angela Nyunt, Panhellenic vice president of public relations and marketing, to campus sororities on Aug. 2.

After multiple attempts, UI fraternities did not respond to The Daily Iowan about its current recruitment numbers, while sororities reported a decline in the number of people signed up for the first stage of the recruiting process.

Over the past two years, the declining interest was assumed by the council as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ally Ecker, senior director of public relations for the UI’s chapter of Delta Gamma, said COVID-19 changed students’ priorities when it came to participating in sororities and fraternities.

“Recruitment and being a part of a sorority during that time of Covid was not the priority for a lot of students, and so, I think it was kind of put on the back burner,” Ecker said. “They were expecting numbers to be one thousand about now.”

The reluctance from UI students to join Greek Life has led the Panhellenic Council to offer rewards to members who get students to sign up for primary sorority recruitment, Ecker said.

“For girls in sororities that are recruiting people, we are able to get put into a raffle, and we get Panhellenic merch,” Ecker said.

While COVID-19 was a significant cause of low engagement in the past two years, the lack of students signing up may not be an issue in students being uninterested but rather feeling unsafe.

RELATED: UI announces changes to Fraternity and Sorority Life, support of FIJI chapter during performance review

This year’s continuation of the trend may be caused by recent events in the university’s Greek Life community in recent years.

The UI chapter of Phi Gamma Delta, also known as FIJI, faced accusations of sexual assault and hazing in 2020, resulting in a lawsuit, protests, and a petition for the chapter’s removal in 2021.

Other Greek Life members at other Big Ten universities in Phi Gamma Delta, including the University of Missouri, are facing severe charges of hazing.

In the aftermath of the incident, Ecker said the council is trying to wash away the negative connotation of Greek Life.

Emma Phomvisay, a UI first year student, said the FIJI accusations, and others like it, still lingers in the back of people’s minds.

“There are a lot of issues of women feeling unsafe in general on college campuses, especially here at Iowa, and I feel like that is heightened when you are in a sorority,” Phomvisay said.

Ruthanne Haug, a UI first year student, said she also heard about last year’s protests and events. Haug said she does not plan to participate in Greek Life.

“I feel like the culture of sororities and fraternities often leads to a lot of dangerous situations,” Haug said.

The decreasing sign-up numbers are by no means the end of Greek Life at the UI.

UI first-year student Sydney Rosel-Ryberg said she is looking forward to rushing in September.

“I thought it would be a really good way to meet people,” Rosel-Ryberg said. “There is also something intriguing about being in a larger community.”

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