Monday, October 19, 2020

MSU fraternities and sororities adjust to COVID-19 as recruitment begins

September 9, 2020
<p>A screenshot of the virtual site used for events like Sparticipation and Greek Fall Welcome. </p>

A screenshot of the virtual site used for events like Sparticipation and Greek Fall Welcome.

The pandemic has led fraternities and sororities to make substantial changes in their everyday life including keeping some houses closed and changing their recruitment platform.

As college classes are ramping up, so are COVID-19 cases on college campuses. Some of that can be attributed to greek life organizations like at Indiana University, where 30 of the 40 fraternities and sororities are currently under quarantine. The University of North Carolina, who is the subject of much scrutiny in the past few weeks for their mishandling of the pandemic on their campus, had three “clusters” of COVID-19 cases just from their fraternities and sororities.

Michigan State’s greek life organizations are looking to flip the script as their recruitment process began on Thursday with their 2020 Virtual Greek Fall Welcome.

Greek organizations used the same program used by the 2020 virtual Sparticipation to hold the event. However, after some mixed reviews for Sparticipation, many of the fraternities and sororities have resorted to posting Zoom links in the chat to make real face to face connections with participants. Despite the virtual setting, Joe Foster, a member of Theta Chi, felt that this experience was better than expected.

“It's actually gotten better than I thought it would,” Foster said. “It seems like people are finding us pretty easily. Obviously you'd rather be in person, but due to COVID, we definitely cannot do that, so we're just trying to get to know these people. I guess it is a little bit hard doing it not in person, a lot of the cases are people aren't even living in East Lansing.”

One of the major talking points of Sparticpation this year was the low turnout, but members of the fraternity Psi Upsilon are pleased with the turnout and the experience.

“I think it's went well, I've done this event in-person and there's obviously been less people joining, but I was surprised by the amount, I thought it'd be less,” Matthew Hankey said. “I’d say around 30 kids, and it’s went well so far.”

However, not all organizations had the same luck. Sorority Alpha Phi Gamma of the course of the four-hour event only spoke with up to three people. Bethany Nardo, a member of the Alpha Phi Gamma sorority felt that the event was not publicized enough.

“I feel like a lot of freshmen maybe just don't know about (Greek Fall Welcome) or don't know about all the organizations that are there and it's kind of confusing to navigate at first,” Nardo said. “Other than that, I think the event was okay considering the fact that they could have had no events at all.”

Alpha Phi Gamma is not recruiting any new members for the fall due to COVID-19, so this event was a way for them to gauge interest for the upcoming semester in the hopes that the spring is more suitable for that to happen.

“We tell them straight up that we're not allowed to take new members this semester,” Bardo said. “We do tell them we will keep in touch with them and we hold different events kind of throughout the semester that we plan to do virtually that they can always attend to like they're free to come. These events are pretty much just for us to kind of get a feeling of who's interested and for us to just continue keeping those connections throughout the semester for next semester.”

Both Theta Chi and Psi Upsilon will be accepting new members for the fall semester, but they will not be holding any in-person rush activities because of the pandemic. Theta Chi says that they will hold Zoom meetings where participants who rush will be put into breakout rooms to speak with other brothers in the fraternity. Psi Upsilon is mainly trying to reach out to mutual connections they have to try and bring in new members for the upcoming year rather than the traditional open process.

Foster of Theta Chi says during the admission process, they will try to sell potential new members on the same thing they have in the past — brotherhood.

"I mean for the most part, a lot of like the kids come in here didn't know anyone,” Foster said. “Then they come to a big university like Michigan State with a ton of kids, we’re making that a lot smaller and a lot less scary for people, especially if you're from out of state and you don't know anyone here. For those people, we kind of shrink the campus down and you build long-lasting connections with just your brothers.”

Even when you shut out any new members, the COVID-19 virus is still a major concern. Theta Chi is taking precautions this year by requiring members who live outside of the house fill out a health screening form upon entry, as well as a temperature check, which Psi Upsilon is also doing before each meal. Psi Upsilon also says that they are requiring masks while eating meals when inside the house at this time.

Alpha Phi Gamma’s main concern is to keep everyone healthy at this time.

“We all decided that when we go out we're always reminding each other to wear a mask, always having hand sanitizer like by the door when we come home,” Bardo said. “Just like those things we're doing every day to try and keep everybody healthy.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues on, fraternities and sororities will continue to be a major tipping point in how college campuses make changes to the learning experience.

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