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Credit: Julio Sosa

While many Penn students may be enjoying the last few moments of winter break, hundreds of freshman and sophomore women have been back on campus for several days to prepare for Panhellenic sorority recruitment. However, for a few eager hopefuls, the recent spate of extreme weather may prevent them from even starting the process. 

The “bomb cyclone snowstorm” that hit the Northeast last week has caused various travel delays for students, preventing them from coming back to campus in time for rush. The extreme weather conditions and the recent flooding at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York led more than 500 flights to be canceled, and nearly 1,400 to be delayed by over a day. 

College freshman Angela Yang said she changed her flight ticket to make it back in time for rush. She moved her original ticket back to campus to after spring break, and purchased another ticket to arrive in time for the first formal event of recruitment. 

Sewon Park, an Engineering freshman from Seoul, South Korea, said her flight to JFK on the night of Jan. 7 was among several flights to New York that were canceled. She added that it was “impossible” to get a flight the next day, which meant that she could only arrive after the first day of recruitment. 

“I basically missed the whole … the most important day where you visit all the houses so they told me ‘you can still rush but you’re less likely to get invites back from the sororities,’ and at that point I don’t think it’s worth rushing because I actually want to see all the sororities out there rather than just going with whatever I have left,” Park said.

This year, the weeklong Panhellenic rush process started formally on Jan. 9, one day before the start of classes. After Convocation, potential new members, or PNMs, visit a list of houses each day, which will be narrowed down throughout the week as both the PNMs and the sororities submit their preferred choices. 

“Most of my friends are rushing,” Park explained. “If they get a bid and join a sorority I feel like I’ll be missing out … it’s kind of like the experience I’ll never have just because my flight got like canceled.” 

In an attempt to accommodate travel delays, the Panhellenic Council moved an opening event from Monday night to Tuesday morning after the University sent an alert suspending all Penn operations

When a conflict arises, students looking to rush are advised to submit a Google Form to inform the Panhellenic Council. With this information, Vice President of Recruitment and College senior Andrea Klein said the council works to rearrange the PNM’s schedule.

However, this does not always mean that rush will happen as per normal for those delayed by extraneous circumstances. 

Credit: Sam Holland

In an email to Park, Klein wrote that although she could remain in the rush process, it was ultimately up to the discretion of each sorority whether or not she could get an invite back. 

Klein reaffirmed this message in an interview. 

“It’s up to the chapters whether or not they want to keep the girls on their list — we don’t tell them you have to include them I guess if you didn't meet them during Open House,” she said. “They are free to do what they want because it’s their sorority; we try to let them have as much ownership of the process as we can.” 

This isn't the first time that students looking to rush have been waylaid by scheduling issues.

Last year, Panhellenic recruitment was condensed and held several days before school re-opened for the first time. This new schedule prompted some degree of confusion among sorority hopefuls and similarly prevented some students traveling from abroad from arriving back on campus in time.  

However, while some students have been discouraged from recruitment because of their travel delays, others believe that maintaining the early start date is valuable. 

College freshman Gabrielle Hemlick said she appreciated that rush happened before the first week of school. 

“My sister was part of Kappa Delta at Cornell [University] and rush was the week before classes started and it was really nice because you could just focus on visiting the house and really thinking about where you would fit in best,” Hemlick said. “It’s a lifelong decision.” 

Wharton freshman Collette Gordon said rush interferes less with academic work if it starts before classes. 

“It’s only a day and a half so in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t make a huge difference to me,” Gordon said.