By the numbers
Sorority selection program explained
Published: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Updated: Thursday, April 25, 2013 20:04
It’s a numbers game.
The arcane Release Figure Method (RFM), the system used to sort prospective sorority members, was explained by developer Laura Malley-Schmitt last Friday evening.
Adopted by the National Panhellenic Conference in 2003, it is used on nearly 450 college campuses.
“It’s been a large reason why sorority life has grown by leaps and bounds in North America,” Malley-Schmitt said of RFM.
Instead of the law of averages, RFM claims to use algorithms to maximize options for sorority members and organizations. “Flex lists,” or base lists of prospective new members, are used to sort women into their preferred organizations. There’s a “plus list,” in case a sorority does not perform as well as expected in recruiting new members. For example, if sorority “Alpha” wanted to extend a bid to a woman who will also receive a bid from sorority “Beta,” her first choice, sorority Alpha would be able to offer a bid to someone else instead.
Director of Lafayette Fraternity and Sorority Life Stuart Umberger compared flex lists to fantasy football drafts and games of solitaire. “If it doesn’t match, I can put it back in the deck,” Umberger said.
If a woman and a sorority do not match up – due to GPA discrepancies or that the two parties do not prefer one another – both have secondary options.
Plus lists allow sororities to delve into a “free agent pool” should women whom they wanted end up preferring other sororities.
“This was an attempt for sororities to work collaboratively with each other,” Malley-Schmitt said of the system. The NPC mandates that organizations on a certain college campus must have roughly equal members. RFM, Malley-Schmitt says, provides parity.
For fall 2012 sorority recruitment, 88 percent of Lafayette women got into their first choice sorority while 5 percent got into their second choice.
“This is life, mutual selection is a two-way process,” Umberger said.