200823_TMG_BidDay_044.jpg

Women take photos outside of the Alpha Omicron Phi house in Athens, Georiga on Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020. The main bid day event was held online this year due to COVID-19. (Photo/Taylor Gerlach; @taylormckenzie_photo)

University of Georgia Greek life councils and chapters are attempting to strengthen their COVID-19 guidelines after weeks of scrutiny for their response to the coronavirus. 

UGA’s COVID-19 numbers have been on the rise since early August, and the virus hasn’t spared Greek life organizations. UGA reported 1,417 cases for the week of Aug. 31-Sept. 4.

Anonymous tips and claims about which Greek houses have COVID-19 have circulated online. Arianna Mbunwe, a junior political science major, uses her Twitter account to share information about the spread of the coronavirus at UGA— information that may otherwise be private. After the first five direct messages she received, Mbunwe said she started encouraging people to share their experiences with her.

While the organizations are enforcing guidelines among their own chapter members, they’re also calling out other chapters for violating guidelines. Alpha Omicron Pi gained online attention for a bid day celebration in which one of Mbunwe’s tweets showed sorority members gathered on a crowded balcony. The photo, captioned “not a mask in sight just vibes,” gained over 1,000 likes and was retweeted 150 times.

Ava Parisi, vice president of Standards to the Panhellenic Council, confirmed Standards received several referrals of Alpha Omicron Pi from other sororities that they are in the process of reviewing. Parisi said Standards doesn’t comment on individual cases in their judicial process.

 Mbunwe has shared anonymous messages and screenshots on Twitter regarding COVID-19 cases in Kappa Delta, Delta Zeta and other “Greek life affiliated” students.

In an effort to combat the virus’s spread, some organizations have been tightening COVID-19 guidelines. The Interfraternity Council has passed council-wide bills throughout the pandemic. One of the most recent bills prohibits houses to have guests between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Panhellenic Council President Jennings Brooks said in an email to The Red & Black that Panhellenic has been working with the National Panhellenic Conference, UGA administration and the 19 Panhellenic chapters to develop “universal policies on Social Event Responsibility.”

Brooks also said Panhellenic is setting expectations with chapters for off-campus gatherings. 

“One event or day of celebration should never outweigh the overall health of our Athens community and the opportunity of in-person instruction, and we continue to implore our chapter leaders and members to make the best decisions for their health and the health of the University community,” Brooks said in a statement. 

Most Multicultural Greek Council chapters begin recruitment events after the semester starts, several weeks after IFC and Panhellenic Council begin rush. Some MGC chapters, like Alpha Sigma Rho, have decided to forgo rush altogether. MGC president Anusha Khan and National Pan-Hellenic Council President Justin Nixon did not respond to a request for comment regarding COVID-19 guidelines as of press time.

Individual chapters have taken additional steps to curb the spread of COVID-19. Sorority Delta Gamma stated in their mid-week announcements that any members seen downtown would be written up, according to a tip received by The Red & Black.

Joseph Wargo, president of Delta Tau Delta, said the chapter is having their house cleaned with “COVID-19 specific cleaning materials” every two weeks. The Delta Tau Delta house was under quarantine after a member tested positive, and the house quarantine ended Sept. 9, Wargo said.

Despite the efforts some Greek organizations have made to reduce the spread of COVID-19, some are still being criticized for their responses to the pandemic. Sorority Alpha Phi faced scrutiny online when members posted photos from a date night event on Sept. 3.

A picture of Phi Mu members posing with a banner that said “COVID positive, but at least we don’t go to Auburn,” also received negative attention online. 

A video satirizing the recent actions of UGA sororities, which directly referenced the banner, gained over 16,000 likes on Twitter. Heidi Ferreira, who lives in Athens, replied to the post saying “I’ve never regretted living near a college town until this year.” Ferreira described her feelings towards the situation as “a quandary.”

“I do own a home here. I have fully invested here — and I’m over the ignorance. It’s disgusting and disturbing. I also believe in this community. Once again - a quandary,” Ferreira said in a direct message to The Red & Black on Twitter. 

Mbunwe said she originally gave Greek life organizations the benefit of the doubt when it came to planning for the semester. She said the continued occurrences of parties and gatherings happening off-campus defeat the purpose of students trying to be safe, which she said is frustrating.

“The university has to step in and force [Greek life’s] hand, or we go completely online or kicked off on campus again,” Mbunwe said. “Yeah, that's the only way I see it getting better.”