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The hidden costs of ISC recruitment

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After nine months as the Inter-Sorority Council (ISC) President and almost two years of being in a sorority, I have decided to deactivate next quarter. I want to take this moment to shed light on what I believe to be the most urgent problems in the mainstream Greek community and to offer practical solutions that I was unable to implement in my term as the ISC President. In this piece, I will address one of the largest impediments to socioeconomic inclusion: recruitment.

In my time as president, I have fielded a lot of questions about whether the ISC has a scholarship fund. The answer is no, at least not yet.  One big reason is that the ISC’s budget has little wiggle room.

Most of ISC’s budget, comprised of ISC member dues, goes towards the costs of running spring recruitment. Recruitment registration fees for prospective new members (PNMs) also fund this four-day process. One solution to create a scholarship fund is to raise the annual ISC membership fee, but that option is, in my experience, politically infeasible. Given the ISC’s Voluntary Student Organization status, the ISC executive board (ISC exec) could ask ASSU Senate for funding, but that relies too heavily on the assumption that future senates will be pro-Greek Life. Another option is to seek out donations from ISC alumni, but that would require much more time than ISC members, FSL (Fraternity & Sorority Life) administration and ISC alumni have. The most promising and sustainable solution is to minimize recruitment costs.

Costs of running recruitment include reservations for large rooms (e.g. Tressider Oak Room, EPC, Paul Brest), for seven different chapters, for at least four hours, for four nights at weekend and nighttime rates. Costs also include at least $5,000 worth of ISC shirts, fees for Intercollegiate Services who oversee recruitment registration and matching algorithms, upwards of $1,000 for recruitment food and snacks (e.g. Fraiche, Starbucks, Chipotle, Sprout, CoHo, Trader Joes), and miscellaneous costs (e.g. screen, projector and chair rentals).

As I see it now, there are various solutions for substantially cutting down on recruitment costs: changing recruitment venues, hiring Stanford student analysts, sacrificing the unifying force of ISC recruitment shirts and opting for cheaper food options during recruitment (e.g. Subway, Treehouse, Safeway, etc.). I will elaborate upon the first two solutions, as the other two are self-explanatory.

Firstly, recruitment is not held within sorority houses, unlike Inter-Fraternity Council recruitment, because the ISC doesn’t want to create a power imbalance between housed sororities and unhoused sororities. Luckily, they don’t have to. Recruitment can be held outside, under the warm California sun and/or in dorm lounges. Resident Fellows and dorm residents might need to be persuaded, however it’s not too much to ask that RFs and Stanford students get behind socioeconomic inclusivity (and perhaps the taste of Happy Donuts, in exchange).

Secondly, we have the world’s best computer science and mathematics computational science students. This is why it doesn’t make sense to me that we contract with an outside data company. One CS student and one MCS student could come up with just as good of a registration website and matching algorithm as Intercollegiate Services, if not a better one, for much cheaper than what the ISC pays now.

Until the costs of recruitment are minimized, a sustainable scholarship fund is out of the question and recruitment will continue to be expensive for low- to middle-income PNMs. I remember being unsettled by the $35 recruitment fee when I was a PNM. $35 was no pocket change back then; it was equivalent to a week’s worth of groceries for my mom. Fortunately, the ISC has tried to mitigate this problem in recent years.

Efforts began in 2013 after the ISC executive board received a heated email in winter concerning the recruitment fee. The ISC increased the recruitment fee for each of the two-to-three hundred PNMs by $5. According to FSL, this increase was not merely to cover the costs of six fee waivers (a $210 value), as the article implies, but mainly to meet the rising costs of recruitment (room reservations, logistics, clean-up, snacks for PNMs, etc.).

Last year, the ISC kept the recruitment fee at $35 and offered double the number of fee waivers. I have been informed by FSL that this year’s recruitment fee is $40 and there will be five to ten fee waivers up for grabs, “based on what [the ISC] can afford.” This is not enough.

Currently, 16% of Stanford undergrads are low-income. If 38% of freshman girls take part in recruitment as they did last year, (and given that there are 821 freshman girls) that’s 312 freshman PNMs this year. If we assume that 8% of these freshman PNMs are low-income (because many low-income girls will not participate), that’s 25 girls who need waivers (a value of $1,000). The demand can be met by passing on the costs to the 287 other PNMs and/or to the 650 active ISC members or by minimizing recruitment costs as I explained above.

Whichever way the demand is met, it also needs to be met in a non-stigmatizing fashion. Usually low-income PNMs have to write a 500-word essay explaining their desire to be in a sorority. I understand that the essay component helps find the “genuine” PNMs who “actually really want the waiver,” but it is unintentionally stigmatizing. I think a 100-word essay is more reasonable for scouting “genuine” PNMs, and a checkbox for federal pell grant funding – the best available low-income gauge – could help identify the truly low-income PNMs. PNMs could also submit their most recent financial aid award letter, which is available on Axess.

If Fraternity and Sorority Life and the Inter-Sorority Council are committed to making the ISC sororities more socioeconomically inclusive in general, minimizing recruitment costs is the best solution. I can tell you from experience that it will take more than one person to accomplish this, and will definitely require compassionate and unyielding allyship. I have no doubt that inclusion is in the hearts of many ISC members, but I hope to see more of such allyship among ISC leaders and FSL administration than what I saw as an ISC member and as the ISC President.

Jackie Fielder ’16

Opinions are my own and do not reflect those of any other organization.

Contact Jackie Fielder at [email protected]

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