by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Megan Zogby writes for the Martin Center about the impact for fraternities and sororities of pandemic-inspired campus housing restrictions.
In tracing COVID-19 outbreaks at colleges, the blame has been placed on Greek life, the fraternities and sororities that drive social life on many campuses.
While university leaders have criticized secret fraternity parties—and about 400,000 cases have broken out among students nationwide—the blame for campus outbreaks cannot simply be placed on Greek life students.
Some less-than-responsible students in fraternities and sororities have caused outbreaks, but so have non-Greek students throwing and attending parties. University officials, sometimes reluctant to enforce COVID-19 guidelines, haven’t lived up to their responsibility of enforcing rules to keep students and staff safe. Administrators can’t point fingers at students without acknowledging their own failures to limit outbreaks.
One rule on housing density at North Carolina State University, for example, makes an exception for Greek housing on campus property. That exception also happens to financially benefit the college.
Before the school year began, heads of the department of fraternity and sorority life at many schools allowed Greek housing to maintain full occupancy on or near campus.
Sometimes, administrators don’t have the power to act. East Carolina University, for example, cannot set capacity restrictions for fraternity and sorority houses. All ECU Greek life houses are privately owned and off-campus, so administrators have no jurisdiction. Greek life houses at ECU are much smaller than at other colleges; they usually house 15-20 women, whereas fraternity housing at other colleges can often house up to 45 men.
Other schools, like NC State, have Greek life housing on campus grounds. Most Greek life houses are in an area called Greek Village. Being on campus, NC State has some jurisdiction on their activities, but not all Greek houses are there; some still remain off-campus and are privately owned.