Stanford’s Inter-Sorority Council (ISC) has offered recruitment participation fee waivers to prospective members this year, as part of an effort to open a discussion of financial aid among sorority members.
The ISC offered waivers for the $35 fee to six prospective new members (PNMs) this year, in an effort to financially accommodate students of lower socio-economic backgrounds. According to Molly Hayes ’14 and Amanda McFarlane ’14, ISC’s vice presidents for recruitment, the decision was prompted by an e-mail last quarter from an upperclassman who said that a freshman he knew had expressed concerns about being unable to participate in recruitment due to the $35 fee.
Though Hayes and McFarlane described the e-mail’s content and tone as “inappropriate,” both acknowledged the e-mail was the primary impetus for offering the waivers this year. McFarlane expressed hope that offering waivers might encourage a more candid discussion of financial concerns in the future among sorority members as a whole.
“People know that sororities are expensive, but no one likes to talk about it, and that’s something we’re trying to face this year with giving out these waivers.” Hayes said. “We’re here to help. Even if money is an uncomfortable issue to talk about, that’s our job.”
“A lot of girls are shy to talk to us about these issues,” McFarlane added. “Even though it’s confidential…they still don’t want to. It was a way for us to target the community that does need financial assistance.”
PNMs seeking the waiver were asked to write a 500 word-essay explaining their financial situation, indicating whether they receive financial aid and describing any jobs currently held. Hayes and McFarlane declined to say how many applicants sought the waiver, which was disseminated to every freshman dorm.
“Because this is the first year, a lot of it is us feeling it out,” Hayes said. “I think we’re looking for genuineness. We didn’t want people who didn’t actually really want the waiver to apply, so that’s why we had this entire essay process.”
McFarlane stated that a significant portion of the recruitment fee stems from renting out university space for the PNMs and the seven sorority chapters overseen by the ISC.
“Big costs [include] room reservations, because it’s on the weekends, because it’s after hours…it’s for seven different chapters for hours every night,” McFarlane said. “Similarly, there’s equipment costs. A lot of the time we have to rent projectors [and] chairs.”
In order to set aside money for the six waivers, the ISC increased the recruitment fee by $5 from last year and asked the chapters to cover some of their own expenses.
“We’ve been cutting it really close,” McFarlane said. “The increase was necessary. It worked out this year we could give out six waivers. I think next year…we might have fewer events, if we need to do that to offer this opportunity to more girls.”
Unlike the ISC, the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) does not charge for fraternity recruitment. According to Matt Bettonville ’14, IFC president, the IFC’s primary responsibility is to coordinate, monitor and establish rules for recruitment.
“For us, it’s really important that we’re really accessible during recruitment,” Bettonville said. “We would never consider charging for recruitment.”
Bettonville described ISC recruitment as more structured and formal in comparison to IFC recruitment, with the expectation that fraternities host their own events and cover all ensuing costs removing the need for recruitment fees.
Pending financial resources, Hayes said that the ISC will give out more waivers next year. Financial aid for chapter fees remains at the discretion of individual sororities.