University of Richmond’s Panhellenic Council, the governing body for sororities, changed sorority big-little traditions this year by implementing new rules preventing sophomores from entering first-year residence halls.
In the past, gifts such as t-shirts, letters and canvases were left outside new sorority members’ dorm rooms to welcome them into the sorority. Other gifts such as male students serenading new members in dorm rooms and pizza deliveries were also traditions of big-little week.
This year, the council's changes to these traditions include the requirement that gifts be dropped off at the cottages, no serenades nor deliveries be made by partially clothed or intoxicated males in the dorms and no glitter.
There are also new rules regarding which decorations bigs can use and which part of the room they can decorate. Bigs also must be supervised by a member of the respective sorority’s executive team when they are decorating the rooms.
“The changes that have been made were in direct response to certain traditions associated with big-little week that were either in direct violation of Residence Life policies or creating unnecessary disruptions in the residence halls,” Panhellenic President Britney Schuldt said. "Issues range from the messes left behind when delivering the gifts that put an unnecessary burden on the housekeeping staff to blocking or inhibiting exits in case of an emergency and even disrupting quiet hours with deliveries and performances.”
Schuldt said changes had also been made out of respect for other residents and to create parity across the community.
But some students outside of Greek life have had no problem with traditions of the past and even shared in the excitement of gifts and serenades in residence halls.
“During my freshman and sophomore years, I lived in Loro and Robins, respectively, and I really enjoyed watching my friends in Greek life receive their gifts and surprises from their bigs,” junior Julia Cataliotti said. “It was a great bonding experience, even for those not in Greek life.”
Kirsten Avila, another junior not in Greek life, enjoyed the process of her friends receiving gifts at their doors.
“I chose not to rush, but I loved when my roommate and friends got their gifts. I thought it was fun and was never bothered by it,” Avila said.
Panhel’s main motivation behind these changes was to alleviate the messes made in residence halls.
“Certain behaviors and traditions associated with big-little weeks for Panhellenic chapters did impact residence life," said Martha Whamond, former residence assistant in Lora Robins Court. "For example, big sisters leaving messy decorations like glitter and confetti [made it] very difficult to clean up from carpeting both in rooms and in the hallways. This created extra work for the facilities staff and the type of difficult-to-clean mess is not a respectful way to treat residence halls or any campus facilities.”
While Cataliotti said she thought the new big-little rules were a little excessive, she did say that she absolutely agreed with the no-glitter rule.
“Our maintenance staff at Richmond is so great and I don’t think they need the extra burden of constantly having to clean up glitter,” Cataliotti said.
Even though these changes will be altering traditions, the Greek community has been very accepting.
“I think the changes are great and have been a fantastic addition to the new-member period of Greek Life,” Delta Delta Delta president Catharine Sciolla said.
Sydney Reed, Pi Beta Phi’s president, said she also believed the changes have improved the new-member period.
“Now the new members get to come to the cottage a few times per week to collect their gifts, and during that time get to know each other better,” Reed said. “Also, the older members of the chapter have the opportunity to be in the cottage during the time as well to greet the new members.”
Sophomore Holly McNaughton, who is currently going through the big-little process as a member in Kappa Alpha Theta, agrees.
“The changes definitely came as a surprise and took some getting used to, but I think everyone can see the reasoning behind the change," McNaughton said. "As a chapter I think we’ve embraced the new change and the new members seem to be having a great time.”
Contact contributor Devon Flinn at firstname.lastname@example.org