Wednesday, October 28, 2020

MSU fraternity president 'blindsided' by mandatory quarantine; MSU officials were aware of stricter mandate

September 18, 2020
Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, located on M.A.C Avenue, has been placed under immediate quarantine as of September 17. Quarantine period will last until October 1. Shot on September 17, 2020.
Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, located on M.A.C Avenue, has been placed under immediate quarantine as of September 17. Quarantine period will last until October 1. Shot on September 17, 2020. —
Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

Following a mandatory quarantine of 39 off-campus properties, one fraternity president said he and other members of MSU Greek Life were “blindsided” by the order.  

Ingham County Health Department announced Monday for 30 East Lansing off-campus properties to undergo a mandatory quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure. Property residents were instructed to immediately quarantine for the following two weeks. Eleven more large properties were added to the list Thursday evening while two sorority houses (Alpha Chi Omega and Chi Omega) have been since removed.

Among the 39 large houses, 25 included fraternity and sorority houses, along with eleven large rentals. Of the 25 MSU Greek Life houses, 11 are sororities and 14 are fraternities.

President of the MSU Beta Zeta Chapter of Theta Chi Ryan Welch said he and other fraternity presidents were “blindsided” by the health department’s order to quarantine. Welch said the fraternities were notified by an email from Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail.

“Linda Vail from Ingham County emailed us at 2:45 p.m. on Monday and this was the first time any president or IFC (Interfraternity Council) board member heard of it,” Welch said. “It was just like, chaos because no one had a heads up or knew this was coming.”

Ingham County Health Communications Specialist Amanda Darche confirmed emails were sent out Monday afternoon, along with a copy of the executive order and a press release.

"For all of the properties we also had staff go to each house and personally deliver the executive order along with a sign for them to display on the entrance," Darche said.

Welch said the mandatory quarantine targets fraternities

“It’s just kind of a blatant targeting move, if they were looking to subside the outbreak they would’ve applied this to all of East Lansing. There are kids in apartment buildings getting away with the same stuff, there are clubs, there’s Ski Club,” Welch said.

Welch said fraternities aren’t the only ones to blame for the outbreak of COVID-19 cases in the area, but still are a part of it.

“We obviously have a responsibility and have played a fault in this,” he said. “So there should be accountability for that, but at the same time you have to recognize the full situation.”

In August, 11 fraternities voted against a temporary prohibition, or moratorium, against certain social events. However, the moratorium needed a two-thirds majority and failed to pass. 

The lack of fraternity support resulted in criticism from East Lansing Mayor Aaron Stephens, who took to Facebook to post his concerns.

By voting against the moratorium, Stephens said the fraternities did not vote in favor of valuing safety over their parties.

Stephens has updated his original post, which listed the fraternities who did not vote in favor, to include fraternities who followed up with him. 

The following fraternities reached out to the mayor, according to Stephens:

  • Beta Theta Pi
  • Delta Kappa Epsilon
  • Alpha Gamma Rho

Each fraternity told Stephens they would not be hosting gatherings with outside community members, according to Stephens' post. 

In terms of quarantined fraternities, eight voted against the moratorium and six voted in support.

A majority of MSU Greek Life houses are under quarantine

Of the properties indicated in the quarantine mandate, 25 were MSU Greek Life house locations. In total, MSU has 62 fraternities and sorority chapters at MSU. However, 27 have official chapter houses, MSU Spokesperson Emily Guerrant said in an email. 

Michigan State will hold on and off-campus students accountable for complying with all local health orders highlighted in the MSU Community Compact, according to Guerrant. 

Indoor gatherings may not exceed 10 persons and outdoor gatherings cannot exceed 25 persons, per East Lansing’s current health order. 

Sixteen local gatherings have violated the order as of Wednesday, according to ELPD Interim Chief Steve Gonzalez. ELPD responded to four addresses included in the mandatory quarantine for gathering limit violations. 

“These violations occurred prior to quarantine order,” Gonzalez said in an email statement.

Additionally, Gonzalez said ELPD has issued three cease and desist letters throughout the community as of Wednesday. These letters are issued on behalf of Vail to inform the residence they are in violation of the health order and are instructed to cease their behavior. 

The university was aware the health department was considering a stricter mandate than the initially recommended quarantine, Guerrant said. 

Guerrant explained the property-specific mandatory quarantine is another helpful tool in mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

“We know that most students in our Fraternity and Sorority Life community are doing the right thing already – taking this virus spread very seriously,” Guerrant said in an email. “We have also been in contact with the national organizations for these chapters and the owners of the properties that are associated with the health order.”

Daniel Wolfe, President of the 2020 Interfraternity Council Executive Board, did not respond for comment at the time of publication

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