The start of September is usually a vibrant time of year at GVSU: the campus is buzzing for the first football game, freshmen are settled into their dorms and returning students are excited to reunite with old friends from fraternities, sororities and other student organizations.
But this school year won’t be like any other for Greek Life and student organizations. Freshmen can’t attend Campus Life Night in-person to join these groups while returning students can’t recruit in person and hold physical events.
According to Eric Stevens, Assistant Director of Student Organizations at GVSU’s Office of Student Life, all student organizations have to abide by a uniform set of rules located on the Office of Student Life’s main page.
“The expectations are the same for all organizations,” Stevens said. “They must follow all university COVID policies, State mandates and regulations, and CDC recommendations. This may affect an organization differently based on what their purpose is or how they typically operate. Student groups like esports or an honors group can continue to meet virtually or even in-person in small groups to accomplish their goals. However, more physically active groups like dance teams or musical organizations will have to be more creative in how they operate as dancing or exercising presents a higher risk of spread to the participants.”
While student organizations meeting in person is permitted, it is not recommended by the Office of Student Life. Any group that wants to meet in person must follow the standard procedure as if they were in class: face coverings are required at all times and the space needs to be big enough to allow for social distancing.
Student organizations are allowed to make reservations on campus, however new room capacity reductions will severely restrict the number of members who can be in a space for face-to-face meetings. Student organization leaders are required to reserve these spaces at the Check-In and Event section of the Student Organization Support page.
Among all student organizations, fraternities and sororities will be among those that look the most different.
Ever since being hired in late July, Associate Director of Fraternity & Sorority Life Chris McQueen has been hard at work, constantly communicating with house managers, advisors, national offices and presidents preparing for the return of students into Greek housing.
“We haven’t discouraged traditional living due to many of the chapter members having (already) signed leases a year in advance, prior to COVID-19,” McQueen said. “Each house has reduced the number of members who do live in the house, allowing chapters to have designated quarantine or isolation rooms.”
Throughout the month of July, that same group of leaders in Greek Life has attended several webinars on how to follow CDC guidelines within fraternities and sororities. These webinars were facilitated by Lori Hart with Holmes Murphy Insurance and the North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), which each chapter had access to.
In the event that a positive case is within Greek Life, students are advised to notify the university through the daily self-assessment so that McQueen and the Virus Action Team can take swift in notifying fellow fraternity members and begin contact tracing.
Should a fraternity or sorority decide to forgo these precautions and host a party or large-scale in-person social event, McQueen and Greek Life will make sure to hold them accountable.
“The Interfraternity Council Executive Officers, chapter presidents and President released a statement on the suspension of all social activities, and strongly encourage limited group gathering,” McQueen said regarding parties. ” As of now, all large-scaled programs have been redesigned for a virtual experience. Chapters are encouraged to table and brand themselves accordingly.”
Many of GVSU’s Black Greek Council and Multicultural Greek Council Organizations plan on having hybrid events throughout the semester.
When it comes to making sure that student organizations stay safe, Stevens agrees with McQueen in trusting the student leaders who want what’s best for all members of the group.
“I believe our student leaders want the same thing we all do: an open and safe campus,” Stevens said. ” Students choose to step up as leaders because they are passionate about their groups, they are passionate about building community with our students, and they are passionate about growing their organizations. Not following (COVID-19) guidelines could potentially ruin the entire organization’s experience, and no one in leadership would want that.”