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Brust: Incentives for upperclassmen can improve sorority retention

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board. 

I did the sorority thing. I loved it. Then, I quit. 

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I was a member of Gamma Phi Beta at Colorado State University for two years. As a lone freshman in a sea of students, I saw joining a sorority as a means to build community and find lasting friends. That was exactly what I found in Gamma Phi Beta.

I had a fantastic time as a young sorority woman. However, as I moved on from introductory courses and dorm life onto bigger accolades like high level classes and building a career path, the sorority experience changed. Sororities are more concerned with fostering a social culture within younger members than they are about retaining older ones.

As I started to advance in my academics and work at the Collegian, the events of a social sorority became redundant. I no longer liked socials because they were all the same. I was about to move out of the chapter house, so I no longer looked forward to living in. The things I loved and looked forward to as a freshman became the things I hated about my sorority as a departing sophomore.

I loved Gamma Phi Beta until I grew out of it. There was no positive incentive to be in my sorority anymore. But, there can, and should be. 

Sororities have an issue with retention. For the 2016-2017 academic year, Chi Omega’s enrollment decreased from 210 in the fall to 179 in the spring, meaning a decrease of 31 members the first semester of the year—a loss of nearly 15 percent. Other sororities display significant decrease in retention over time. 

Sororities should work to retain more upperclassmen membership. I believe this goal can be accomplished by focusing on positive incentive.

Positive incentive is proven to have a larger impact on participation than punishment, according to a Princeton study on positive sanctions. For example, one staple of sorority life is being fined for not attending events in an effort to gain participation. Fines ranged from around $5 to $50. If women prioritized work, athletics or academics over a mandatory sorority event, they should not have to face a fine.

Instead of these small, but infuriating, fines, sororities should encourage women to attend mandatory events by providing incentives for going. Sororities could give extra points for attendance, use positive reinforcement of participation at mandatory events, or provide food (Who doesn’t respond well to a good pizza?).

This will allow women who are active in the community to avoid fines and increase their participation. Fear of fines, or accumulating an excessive amount of fines, is not a positive reason to maintain membership across all age groups. The fines are small and a simply means of unnecessary punishment. 

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Another problem with incentive lies in nature of events. I stopped enjoying date dashes and socials after about two years. Date dashes and socials in sorority life refer to events within the Greek community with other sororities and fraternities. The nature and redundancy of these events is what ultimately drives older members away from attendance and toward resignation. 

Date dashes and socials are geared towards building community, which is great for the younger members. I enjoyed date dashes and socials as a freshman and sophomore because they were an excellent setting to meet new people and get to know my sisters. The problem is not in socials and date dashes themselves, rather, that they are merely redundant. There should be other events offered for older members.

Creating events for members who are 21+ would be a perfect positive incentive for all members: It gives women something to look forward to when they turn 21. The same kinds of date dashes and socials can get old after a while, even though they were fun at first. Having a few older ladies together for a yearly 21+ tour at New Belgium, for example, could be a great tradition. Or, perhaps older woman could be offered privileges, like the ability to hold certain positions at a philanthropy event. 

I had a very positive experience in sorority life until I had to choose to put work and school over Gamma Phi Beta. Many of my closest friends are members of Fraternity and Sorority life at CSU, and I would like it to stay that way.

Positive incentives and less of a demand for upperclassmen attendance is crucial to retaining membership. Women need to gain support and positivity from their chapter, not have it be a mandatory nuisance that cuts into academic and career success. Sororities should be a positive influence on older members lives. This can be done through less intrusion and more positive incentives.

Women join sororities for sisterhood, and a positive, safe, encouraging community to last a lifetime. So, lets give the people what they want: a reason to stay.  

Opinion editor Allec Brust can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online @allecbrust. 

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