The loud chants and cheers from the students in fraternities and sororities can be heard the moment you step onto upper campus during Week of Welcome in the afternoon.
Large cut outs of Greek letters such as alpha and zeta line the pathways while students huddle around their tents and beckon you to come over and join their chapter.
Interested or not, the excitement in the air mimics a scene out of a college movie. The only problem is that this semester, all of Fraternity and Sorority Life will be virtual.
In the spring, Long Beach State fraternities and sororities dealt with the difficulties caused by being off-campus.
One issue was student engagement, according to Mike Do, a fourth-year finance major and president of the Interfraternity Council, an association of men’s fraternities.
“It was kind of tough because individuals started relaxing because there was no class,” Do said. “It was kind of hard bringing people together and keeping people on track during that transition.”
When CSULB first announced the transition to virtual learning on March 11, classes were canceled for the following six days so that faculty could prepare for it.
For many students, this meant heading home, catching up on sleep and enjoying unexpected time off from school.
Third-year finance major Kendel Karal, vice president of finance in Delta Gamma, saw members undergo a similar experience.
“We didn’t process the weight of this pandemic,” Karal said.
As the weeks ticked by, it became evident that virtual learning was going to be permanent, and fraternities and sororities would have to adjust.
But first, members had to reconcile with the loss of highly anticipated events.
For Karal, that meant the loss of visiting the Blind Children’s Center in Los Angeles, a biannual volunteer event where Delta Gamma members spend time with the children.
“We really pride ourselves on getting to do those hands-on opportunities,” Karal said.
The connection between members within chapters struggled as well.
Mikey Garcia, fifth-year kinesiology major and president of the Panhellenic Council, an association of all women’s sororities, knew that her first priority was to reach out to members.
“I like to touch base with them, check up on them mentally, physically and emotionally, however they’re doing first because I feel like that’s most important,” Garcia said.
Zoom became their common area, where virtual chapter events replaced in-person hang outs and meetings. The following months proved to be a test to members’ commitment, as well as a chance at personal growth.
“I’ve really learned how to be a team player,” Karal said. “My interpersonal skills have flourished in this time. You don’t know what 100 other girls are going through in this chapter. This pandemic has shown me to the fullest extent.”
Now, Fraternity and Sorority Life will continue to operate completely virtual, according to coordinator Monica Schnapp. Zoom events, such as Netflix watch parties and game nights will continue to strengthen member bonds. Chapters can continue to raise money for charities they work with, and volunteer work can take place in socially distanced settings, Garcia said.
Their biggest challenge will be recruitment.
Interfraternity chapters will hold recruitment from Sept. 7 to 11, while Panhellenic chapters will go from Sept. 12 to 15.
Approximately 600 students begin the recruitment process each semester, according to Schnapp. While those numbers are expected to vary this year, chapters within Fraternity and Sorority Life have each made the decision on whether to recruit members this fall.
“It’s very hard to meet someone not in person,” Do said. “Translating that to virtual recruitment for FSL orgs, that’s just a psychological thing seeing a person on a screen rather than in-person.”
But there is a benefit to virtual recruitment.
“Sometimes, in actual in-person recruitment, it might be a little more scary,” Garcia said. “I feel [that with] virtual [recruitment], more potential new members will be comfortable because they are in the comfort of their own home and in the environment that they are familiar with they might be more comfortable.”
Only time will tell as to whether the cost of joining an all-virtual chapter is worth the cost of new member dues, which can reach up to $1,000. Karal recognized that and understands that it is difficult to ask students who are in various financial situations to pay for one more fee.
It is why making the most of the fall semester is so important to her.
“I’m really glad that the whole community banded together and tried to figure it out,” Karal said. “We want to give [new members] that opportunity. It’s only fair to put our 110% virtually.”
This article previously contained an incorrect photo for one of the captions. A correction was made on September 8 at 3:38 p.m.