It is hard to forget the first time you walk into a fraternity house basement. It might be your first week of college; you’re excited to meet new people, get absolutely hammered and dance to Two Friends’ Big Booty Mix for three hours straight. Walking into almost any fraternity party on The Hill at the University of Colorado Boulder, whether it’s inside or outside, usually requires giving up some of your personal space for a while. With what seems like hundreds of students at these parties at a time, it’s hard to imagine that this would continue in the middle of a global pandemic. Except, it is.
Sigma Alpha Epsilon was among the first of five Boulder fraternities to receive a fine for hosting over 120 students at their house on The Hill. There were no masks worn nor any social distancing. Following suit, other fraternities throwing parties on the weekend of August 29 included Phi Kappa Psi, Tau Kappa Epsilon, Theta Xi and Phi Kappa Tau, all of which accumulated fines of over $10,000. Sigma Nu member and IFC on The Hill President Adam Wenzlaff condemned these fraternities for hosting large parties and stated that the fines will be donated to the local healthcare organization, Clinica.
The science behind the spread of COVID-19 tells us that as of right now, nobody is immune to the virus, and yet these students seem to act like they are. It may be surprising, but Greek letters do not give you an excuse to violate state health protocols.
Concern about the increase in cases of COVID-19 due to the activities of fraternities is nothing new. If anything, these organizations at CU Boulder should know better. Starting in June, the University of Mississippi in Oxford traced more than 160 positive cases to fraternity rush parties. Again, in mid-July, the University of California at Berkeley reported that cases doubled within a week and were traced to several fraternity and sorority gatherings, causing the university’s campus to shut down. More recently, the University of Washington in Seattle released a statement Aug. 5 that 144 fraternity house residents tested positive for COVID-19, adding to what they call the “Greek Row outbreak.”
To date, there is a record of 2,361 positive cases for COVID-19 in Boulder County. If the fraternities off campus continue to participate and host large parties or gatherings, that number is surely going to increase. And if these cases do go up, especially for those living on campus, who is to blame for another semester sent home? Or for somebody’s grandparent dying? It might be easy to point the finger at the university for opening up in the first place, but it is important to remember that these fraternities are non-affiliated with CU. This means that their presence and occupation in these large houses would exist regardless of whether or not the campus remained closed.
Throwing parties and slamming a beer across your head is not an entitlement or an excuse to ignore a severely infectious disease. These fraternities are supposed to uphold a responsibility as “good and contributing citizens.” That does not mean contributing to the rise in COVID-19 cases. The IFC website also states that because there will be no formal in-person recruitment this fall, each chapter is to utilize their own methods in compliance with the city of Boulder’s emergency health and safety ordinances. Clearly, these guidelines are not enforced onto those who still believe their reputation as a fraternity is more important than the health of the community. The example set forth by these students is both disappointing and embarrassing for the rest of us who pride ourselves on the decision to come back to campus because CU vowed to help protect us.
Young adults may not have an increased risk when it comes to contracting COVID-19, but there are other people in this community who do. This might mean that for these fraternities life during a pandemic means no jumping on tables, shotgunning Keystone beers and allowing half of the school to cram in a 100-square-foot backyard. Sure, it’s a harsh reality for these organizations, but it’s a necessary one.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Savannah Mather at firstname.lastname@example.org.