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Fraternities and Sororities Face Penalties for Breaching COVID-19 Protocols

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Fraternities and sororities across the country have been cited for COVID-19 rule violations, such as exceeding maximum limits for social gatherings and failing to comply with social distancing and face-covering protocols.

Cease and Desist in Kentucky

The University of Kentucky (UK) chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) has been slapped with a “cease and desist” order by the fraternity’s national organization to “provide time to review alleged university policy violations” university student newspaper Kentucky Kernel reported

University spokesperson Jay Blanton said that UK has initiated a “student conduct process” on SAE members with respect to student code violations concerning COVID-19. Blanton also said that sanctions have been administered by the university aside from the national fraternity’s measure.

SAE director of communications, Johnny Sao, reiterated the fraternity’s commitment to promoting health and safety throughout its respective campus memberships and local communities. The national body also took down the link to the UK chapter of SAE from its website.

Indiana University Fraternity Violations

Earlier in November, a fraternity at Indiana University went on voluntary lockdown due to COVID-19 protocol violations. Members of the Delta Upsilon fraternity were confirmed to have committed violations of public health guidelines by the Monroe County Health Department (MHCD).

According to the MHCD, Delta Epsilon hosted a “significantly bigger” gathering than allowed by local regulation during the early hours of November 1. There were no physical distancing nor face-covering requirements imposed. The MHCD is now verifying the extent of contact between the people involved and if it has resulted in COVID-19 cases. 

Uncooperative Members

Local authorities have also complained that Delta Upsilon members were initially “less than cooperative,” hindering the investigation. The MCHD had to get legal counsel involved, who made clear to the fraternity that “public health concerns demand swift action.”

This legal pressure prompted leaders of Delta Upsilon to be more cooperative. Fraternity leaders shut the house down for the rest of the 2020-21 academic year and the summer of 2021, preempting the need for MCHD to impose formal sanctions.

The MCHD also closed Alpha Epsilon Pi, another Indiana University fraternity, last September.

Parties vs. Public Health

In more cases around the country, social events at fraternities and sororities have brought trouble for local communities near the school. A University of California, Davis fraternity member tested positive after a house party, requiring extensive contact tracing in the local community.

In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, there was controversy over a planned Thanksgiving party for 600 people. The University of Alabama officials and the Tuscaloosa City Council had given the organizer of the event, the Kappa Delta sorority, approval for the event.

However, when international media outlets picked up the approval, it caused public backlash. The sorority eventually succumbed to the outcry, calling off the party.

Schools Clamping Down

Some universities have taken action on their own to prevent the virus from spreading. Duquesne University in Pittsburgh wrote to all its fraternities and sororities announcing that the suspension of Greek organization activity “indefinitely” after “repeated and egregious” violations of coronavirus restrictions.

The violations included social gatherings above the 25-person indoor limit and throwing parties that did not have “more typical conduct standards.” The letter also stated that members of fraternities and sororities were “deliberately misleading” attempts at contact tracing.

Penalties Pile Up

The University of Georgia has issued fines to enforce coronavirus prevention measures. Fines totalling $28,000 have been issued to 14 Interfraternity Council (IFC) organizations for violations of IFC social distancing policies.

The fine system was introduced in early June, penalizing fraternities and sororities $5,000 for violating social distancing guidelines, increasing to $7,500 then to $10,000 for subsequent violations. The proceeds will go to the IFC Scholarship Fund, a need-based scholarship of the UGA Foundation.

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