Greek life under COVID faces challenges, but staves off isolation for CHC members

Allie Garamdi talks to Sam Farris about Greek life during COVID
What's Greek life like for CHC students under COVID? Sam Fariss talks to Ally Grimadli and other Greek life members to find out. 

Story by Samantha Fariss, CHC Communications
Video by Eden McCall, CHC Communications 

Every day, all day, Clark Honors College senior Ally Grimaldi wears a mask. In the living room of her house, in the kitchen. In the hallway. The mask stays on everywhere she goes in her house, unless it is her bedroom, where she eats breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are strict rules about who she can and can’t see. It’s how she participates as a member of sorority Gamma Phi Beta, as she currently lives in the University of Oregon’s chapter’s house.

Because of the restrictions and rules that she and her sorority sisters have been following, Grimaldi says she safe, comfortable, and truly trusts her sisters that live-in, too. 

“If I wasn't in a Greek chapter during all of this, I think that I would feel really lonely,” Grimaldi shared. “I think that the pandemic has obviously made connections really challenging but having those smaller bubbles makes it less socially isolating.” 

Many of the Fraternity and Sorority Life organizations have created a home away from home for their members who returned to campus and have helped to enforce social distancing guidelines during this time. 

However, according to the Lane County Health Department, Greek life chapters at the University of Oregon are responsible for more than 35 percent of COVID-19 cases in Lane County. They have been subjected to an onslaught of judgement and criticism as the usual partying and socializing continues, seemingly unaffected by the pandemic. 

There are currently 22 fraternities and 15 sororities affiliated with the university and with some housing facilities closed down while others remained at full capacity, there has been a wide range of responses from the chapters. Many members currently feel as though the public has the wrong perception about Greek life as a whole. 

Many of them, like Grimaldi, feel that fraternity and sorority life organizations have created a home away from home for their members who returned to campus and have helped to enforce social distancing guidelines during this time. 

Chapter housing facilities are more than just where members gather to eat meals or have meetings; these chapters serve as many members’ homes, and follow the same rules that Grimaldi does in order to keep herself and her other chapter members safe.

Kappa Delta, a sorority at UO, closed its housing facility prior to the beginning of the academic year and is still enforcing statewide mandates as well as guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control through their Vice President Standards – the elected member in charge of risk management and monitoring member behavior. 

Haley Cook, the current VPS at Kappa Delta, shared what her current role in the chapter is and what it means to her to do her job effectively. 

“As VPS, it is extremely important to me that our chapter is doing its part to ensure the health and safety of our community,” Cook said, “My job entails making sure our members know and understand current COVID guidelines and are following those guidelines, along with all of the standards Kappa Delta sets for its members to.” 

As is universally felt, sorority and fraternity members have recognized that the pandemic all over the world is larger than themselves. As a result, many chapters have used their outreach to promote health initiatives and urge the following of social distancing policies through their social media, such as Kappa Delta sharing information from Lane County, Governor Brown, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This has become increasingly more difficult as case numbers rise, and people grow tired of sitting at home.  

Natasha Weiser, a sophomore member of Delta Delta Delta sorority, commonly referred to as Tri Delt, spoke about how every day starts to feel mundane and repetitive. 

“It’s the same cycle, the same day, the same thing, getting up and doing the same routine so I have gotten kind of sick of it,” Weiser said. “Everyone’s doing stuff that they aren’t supposed to, but I feel like it is getting worse over time because everybody is getting more angsty.” 

During this time, college students have had to adjust both socially but also academically and this has had adjustments for those who are used to the smaller-sized, discussion-based courses that CHC is so well known for, according to Weiser. 

“I have really enjoyed the overlap of the honors college and panhellenic because there are so many incredible, badass women in the CHC and Greek life,” Grimaldi said, “In terms of academics Greek life definitely pushes you to excel and the honors college obviously does too.” 

Weiser has been a part of Tri Delt and a student at UO for just over a year but has seen drastic and obvious differences between the last academic year and the few months that passed in this academic year already. It has taken a toll on her social interactions, academics, and emotions that social distancing and isolation creates, she said. 

“The social aspect has been impacted. I personally have not been doing too well, it’s definitely hard to wake up and do the same thing again,” she shared. 

The pandemic has weighed heavily on both the academic and the social realms of college life and no student has been immune to feeling its effects. Greek life chapters have had to dramatically change their norms alongside their members having to juggle figuring out an entirely new way of going to class. While errors have occurred and coronavirus cases have increased, students are learning to do what is best for their educations as well as the well-being of the community around them. For example, Kappa Delta has begun to include enforcing statewide mandates and social distancing policies from UO within their rulebook.

 Weiser says that her classes do not feel real or meaningful anymore. Like many students, it has been difficult for her to adjust to the lack of interaction with fellow students, both in and out of the classroom. 

“I go on Zoom and it’s expected to turn on your camera because it’s a discussion, but as soon as the professor says you can turn off your camera, everybody does and nobody talks,” she said. 

The women can recognize that their professors are doing more than expected to make Oregon students’ lives easier during the transition to a virtual education. However, Weiser, and many other CHC students, miss Chapman Hall, the home of the honors college on campus, and cannot wait to get back to being in an actual classroom together.