Ari Scott held a white envelope with her name on it in her shaking hands. Inside was an invitation to either the Epsilon Phi chapter of Alpha Sigma Alpha or the Beta Delta chapter of Alpha Gamma Delta.
Starting over winter break, Scott had been moving around IU as a part of Panhellenic Association recruitment, trying to find a sorority that would give her the sense of sisterhood she was looking for.
Scott considered dropping after the first day of recruitment. The freezing cold weather had forced her to wear five pairs of socks and two pairs of pants just to keep warm, and the schedule was grueling. Tuesday night, her decision to keep going despite the long and cold days was validated.
Tuesday night, the IU Panhellenic Association held Bid Night at the IU Tennis Center. On Bid Night, potential new members receive an invitation to one of their top two preferred sorority chapters.
At 7:15 p.m., outside the tennis center, around 50 potential new members shivered in the cold, waiting for 7:30 p.m. to arrive. Some huddled, others jumped in place to stay warm.
“My toes are going to fall off,” one woman yelled at the closed doors of the tennis center. “I’m going to send them my toe when it falls off.”
When the doors finally opened, a mass of women cheered and bustled into the building. Upbeat pop music played loudly while a few women danced.
“Smells like sorority,” one woman said as she walked in the door.
Groups of women were scattered across the tennis courts.
Near the back of the courts, Scott stood with the four other members of her Rho Gamma group. All potential new members are assigned a Rho Gamma who helps potential new members through the recruitment process.
A Rho Gamma is a member of a sorority who temporarily disaffiliates from their chapter to help during recruitment. Disaffiliating helps to discourage bias while helping the potential new members find a chapter that is a good fit.
One chapter at a time, each Rho Gamma received the bids for the potential new members they were in charge of and revealed their chapter from the second-floor balcony where organizers spoke.
Scott wore white converse sneakers, faded skinny jeans and a dull green Columbia jacket. A maroon scarf hung around her neck and a canvas bag was slung around her shoulders. A multicolored beanie slouched on her head.
Scrunched up around her ankles were black socks with red double-decker London buses.
In high school, Scott was the captain of her dance team. She bought the socks when she performed in London during the 2016 New Year’s Day Parade.
Scott said she wanted to join a sorority to make the campus smaller.
“I missed that close-knit group of girls,” Scott said.
Scott said a sorority is like a team. She said members spend a lot of time together and work on philanthropy events.
“You feel more like a family than just a friend group,” Scott said.
Scott’s top pick was Alpha Sigma Alpha, an unhoused sorority at IU.
Alpha Sigma Alpha became Scott’s first choice sorority after preference day, where potential new members can visit two of their chapters from the previous round.
It was the conversation that night that hooked her. Scott talked with a member of the sorority about everything from their majors to why she decided to rush .
“It felt like a real conversation with a friend,” Scott said.
The sisterhood felt real to Scott at Alpha Sigma Alpha.
Scott said she would be happy with either her first or second choice, but she was still nervous.
“Not knowing which one is nerve-wracking, but it’s exciting too,” Scott said.
Excitement continued to build as the time for potential new members to receive their bids drew nearer. Soon enough, all the Rho Gammas had received the bids for their potential new members and began going around to pass them out.
In a tight semi-circle, all five women in her group looked at one another, hands on their envelopes, ready to tear them open. At the command of their Rho Gamma, the women opened their letters as fast as they could.
At the top of Scott’s letter was the golden palm tree fronds and phoenix emblazoned on Alpha Sigma Alpha’s insignia.
Scott immediately lit up, jumping up and down while the women around her screamed. Soon, the entire tennis center erupted in pandemonium. Women ran across the courts, screaming with joy and jumping into one another’s arms. The noise was deafening.
“I was just blown away that it was actually real and I’m actually at the point where I have a chapter,” Scott said.
Once she received her bid, Scott texted her mother, father and boyfriend the good news. She said they were all excited to hear that she got the house she wanted.
As the new members began to settle down, they began to group near their sororities' banners, which were hung around the walls of the tennis center. White and manila envelopes littered the tennis court where they were left in all the excitement.
Alpha Sigma Alpha’s banner had a large crescent moon on it with the words “It’s written in the stars,” under it, surrounded by stars on a black backdrop.
Scott said she didn’t personally know anyone in her new sorority but she was excited to get to know them. Leaders from their new chapter began to teach them their sorority chant and started learning their names right away.
“It’s hard to think that this is really something that I’m a part of now,” Scott said. “It’s going to be a big part of my life.”
Scott said she wanted to be heavily involved with philanthropy in the sorority and might even join their Little 500 team. As she goes through college, Scott said she hopes to be able to take a leadership role in the sorority as well.
From there, each sorority chapter was bused to meet the rest of their chapter one by one. Because Alpha Sigma Alpha is an unhoused sorority, Scott wasn’t certain where they were going. She also wasn’t certain what they would be doing there that night.
Scott didn’t mind that Alpha Sigma Alpha was an unhoused chapter. She said she wanted to live in an apartment next year and said she didn't think being unhoused would make her experience worse.
Alpha Sigma Alpha was the second to last chapter to leave. When it was their turn to board the bus, the new members ran outside excitedly, some yelling as they went.
"We just welcomed over 1,000 new members into our community,” Naomi Kellogg, operations director for the IU Panhellenic Association said. “It's really important because for a lot of women this is a brand-new chapter in their lives and now the hard part starts for the rest of the chapter women to make sure they help welcome everybody and mold them into women that align with our community values."
Alpha Sigma Alpha leaders said they were not allowed to comment.