Blaming Greek Life — the entitled party animals — was an easy avenue at the start of the pandemic. In “Greek life being Greek life,” relentless socializing spurred the foreseeable lockdown of 22 sorority and fraternity houses at the start of the 2020-2021 academic year. Presently, however, Greek life is not at fault — the blatant disregard for in-chapter sorority members is.
As an active member living in my sorority house, I was bewildered upon learning in-house members who test positive for COVID-19 will be forced to vacate their chapter house. Yes, ill and vulnerable members must fend for themselves, finding their own food and housing for a ten-day period.
Interviewing chapter and executive members from University of Wisconsin-Madison Panhellenic sorority houses confirmed the majority of registered chapter houses adopted this restrictive policy. The nine houses of Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Epsilon Phi, Chi Omega, Delta Delta Delta, Delta Gamma, Gamma Phi Beta, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Kappa Gamma and Phi Beta Phi will require members positive for COVID to vacate their living space.
Kappa Alpha Theta will allow members to isolate in-house. Sigma Delta Tau will likewise allow in-house isolation, yet their house is uniquely associated with the Waterfront apartments. Alpha Phi and Alpha Xi Delta did not respond to requests for comment.
Of the Fraternities surveyed, Acacia, Delta Tau Delta, Pi Kappa Alpha, Theta Delta Chi and Zeta Beta Tau are allowing members who test positive to isolate themselves within their chapter house. These Fraternities plan to close units as needed to provide flexible in-house isolation space. Some Fraternities may still require members to leave their houses, but most appear to be more accommodating.
In the 2020-21 academic year, the university gave Greek life the Zoe Bayliss Co-op building to isolate COVID-19 positive members, as noted by the Head of the UW-Madison Office of Sorority and Fraternity life, Maggie Hayes.
“There was a cost to cover the use of the building and cleaning. The costs were assessed to the house corporation and they determined if they covered the full or partial cost or if the student that used the space was charged,” said Hayes.
Last year, Greek life had isolation spaces and house corporations worked with their members. This year, Greek life has nothing.
Ultimately, this begs the question — where are those living in these sorority houses to go if they contract COVID-19?
To those that live locally, the answer may be to return home. For my sorority, where every single member is from out-of-state, this plan is not feasible without exposing handfuls of people within the commute. A separate choice may be to isolate with a family friend or relative who lives locally. Again, for myself and those similar who were born and raised across the country, I do not have such relationships.
Even to those sorority members who live or know those who live locally, isolating in another person’s home while positive with a fatal virus is a big and unreasonable ask.
It appears then that the only plausible solution is to purchase a hotel and order food for a ten-day period. This expense can easily total around $2000, amounting to over a third of the cost to live in my sorority house and others similar per semester. These are exorbitant costs paid out of pocket merely because an in-chapter sorority member acquired an easily contractible, highly contagious disease.
That is disgusting.
In speaking on behalf of in-chapter residents like myself — I am scared. It makes me anxious that I have no set place to go. It guilts me that if I contract COVID-19 my family bears the excessive cost. It frustrates me that those like myself will be sprung into disarray when there are numerous empty rooms within my chapter house to safely isolate.
How can we not expect the Greek life community in this position to resist getting tested altogether? I for one am hesitant to get tested when a mere false positive could send me out the door. I do not get a re-test. I, and those similar, do not have any fallback.
All the while, in-person recruitment has forced sorority members living in their chapter house to have thousands of girls rummage around their living space — thousands of random people who may or may not be vaccinated wandering within their bedrooms. Unable to escape the exposure, girls living in their sorority houses have the greatest risk and the least security.
We get it — we want things to go back to normal. Nevertheless, just because the majority of the student and campus faculty are vaccinated does not mean we can resume the ways of years prior. Vaccines are not perfect. This pandemic is far from over. Reports of breakthrough cases among the fully vaccinated are on the rise, with those infected capable of further spreading the virus.
After thousands of dollars in tuition and thousands more on chapter dues, one would think in-house members would at the very least have a place to sleep at night. The university and Panhellenic community need to provide a real solution for in-house members. I for one implore them to think deeply about this policy and accept the fact that we are still living through a pandemic.
Em-J Krigsman is an opinion editor for the daily cardinal. She is a sophomore studying political science and journalism. Do you agree that the university and Panhellenic community should do more to assist in-house chapter members? Send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Em-J is an Opinion Editor for The Daily Cardinal, and is also a member of the Editorial Board.