Last week, the University of Georgia chapter of Chi Omega’s executive board told its members they would have to move out of the sorority house due to the university’s pivot to online classes for the remainder of the semester.
“It sucked,” Chi Omega member Emma Hoffman said. “Like, super bad. It would be nice to go back to a sense of normalcy, but we can’t go back [to Athens] because we don’t have houses.”
On trend with the rest of the UGA community, fraternity and sorority members won’t return to a sense of normalcy this spring. Normally, this semester brings excitement for Greek life with philanthropy events, formals and spring parties. All Greek life-related events, however, are canceled or postponed following decisions made after UGA’s suspension of in-person instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council, two separate, student-led representative bodies of some of the recognized fraternities and sororities at UGA, have canceled or postponed all events for the remainder of the semester. The Multicultural Greek Council, which represents 12 multicultural Greek organizations on campus, canceled its MGC showcase and postponed all other MGC events for the rest of the semester, according to a March 19 Instagram post.
IFC canceled all fraternity chapter meetings, social events and recruitment for the remainder of the semester, according to a letter from IFC President Brennan Cox.
The Panhellenic Council also canceled or postponed all events for the remainder of the semester, Panhellenic Council president Jennings Brooks said in a statement. Rescheduling of any event is at the discretion of the sorority.
An early move-out
Some fraternity and sorority houses are closing their doors and asking members to move out, and whether or not a house closes is up to the discretion of each chapter.
“Most of the sorority houses closed during the initial two-week suspension of in-person classes and now are working through plans to close for the remainder of the semester,” Brooks said in a statement.
Delta Delta Delta sorority designated March 21 and March 22 for move-outs from its house, Connie French, vice president of public relations for UGA’s Tri Delta chapter, said. French said the Tri Delta national office gives instruction to each SEC Tri Delta chapter, such as how to handle and implement new COVID-19-related policies.
French said Tri Delta members moved out with one member in a hall during a two-hour time slot, and each member could have no more than two people help her in the process. Move-out policies had to be made quickly, as Tri Delta didn’t have pandemic-specific policies before now.
“This is unprecedented,” French said. “We don’t have policies for this. It seems silly to have all of them, but it’s better to have it in writing than, you know, chaos.”
French is from Washington, D.C., and she said the move-out could have been her last trip back to Athens for a while. She said the news of remote classes for the remainder of the spring semester shocked her and most members.
“It kind of settled in that being away from school really stinks,” French said. “That was my reaction, and that was the reaction of a lot of our members.”
Seniors will miss out on normal commemorative ceremonies — such as a senior night and a senior send-off gift — so Tri Delta’s membership development coordinator is putting together montages and videos to commemorate seniors remotely.
“It’s not a substitute for doing it in person, but we’re trying our best to make them feel special and try to keep [the effects] as minimal as possible in this weird time,” French said.
Tri Delta members are waiting to hear if they will be reimbursed for the rest of the semester’s rent. The Tri Delta Housing Corporation, which is a governing body made up of alumni from the Athens and Atlanta area as well as representatives from the national office, will decide about reimbursing members’ rent, French said.
While Chi Omega member Emma Hoffman lamented that the rest of the semester is canceled, she praised Chi Omega’s executive board for updating all members as soon as they know information.
Hoffman said the UGA chapter of Chi Omega told its members about move-out on March 19 and sent out an online form to determine a good time for members to move their belongings and check out of the house.
Chi Omega is also waiting to hear about potential reimbursement for rent or sorority dues.
Some fraternity houses are still open, IFC President Brennan Cox said. Like the sororities, each fraternity can decide to keep its house open itself.
Chi Psi is closing its doors to all but one student due to extenuating circumstances, Chi Psi adviser Doug Patterson said. Chi Psi will reimburse the remainder of rent for the semester to members who are forced to move out.
Meanwhile, Alpha Tau Omega is keeping its doors open to members who need a place to stay. President Davis Hunt said in an email that members are not required to move out of the house “because we have to continue our rent payments.” As of press time, members will not be reimbursed for rent if they choose to move out.
In accordance with the IFC bill, all fraternity spring parties are canceled — including Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s annual Shower Cap. There will be no rescheduling of the event, SAE president Rolf Reynolds said in an email. All fraternity and sorority philanthropy events and formals are canceled as well.
Both IFC and Panhellenic are using this semester to discuss fall recruitment in the hope that COVID-19 does not affect the usual fall semester.
Joshua Welch, the new Greek life director, said in a statement that Greek Life Office staff members and advisers are available through email and phone voicemails to support students. Welch said he’s proud of the way Greek life organizations have responded to the shift from normalcy.
“I am inspired by how Greek life as a whole is handling the response to COVID-19,” Welch said in a statement. “Our Greek life staff will continue to work alongside students to continue the missions of their Councils and organizations while they re-envision their operations for the future.”