Health guidelines issued by the university and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life’s #MaskUpFSL campaign did not stop fraternity members from hosting several in-person bid day events without following mask and social distancing guidelines.
In photos obtained by The Daily Mississippian — some of which were publicly posted — members of Sigma Chi, Sigma Pi, Delta Psi and Phi Kappa Psi gathered in large groups with no masks in front of their respective houses. The university’s Interfraternity Council (IFC) released a statement in August outlining virtual recruitment, which said that there is “zero tolerance for any social gatherings violating university and Oxford policies.”
In one of the photos, there are close to 50 members packed in front of the Sigma Pi house, but only around 10 are seen wearing masks. Many others have one gripped in hand or have no mask at all.
This comes weeks after the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life promoted its #MaskUPFSL campaign to encourage Greek and non-Greek students alike to follow UM’s health guidelines.
These guidelines include hosting no gatherings, allowing no photos in front of Greek houses, wearing masks and abiding by all Oxford-issued rulings on social distancing rules.
Though bid day is normally when thousands of students and their families visit campus, this year was the first in which the entire recruitment process was officially moved online. Many sororities celebrated virtually with Zoom parties, and new members even received virtual bid cards via email.
In June, in-person fraternity recruitment parties were connected with clusters in Lafayette County. At the time, Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said that these types of gatherings violated mandates.
“We do think they’re at the front end or a mid sort of section of a significant outbreak,” Dobbs said at a press conference in June. “What we’ve identified so far is that it seems to be related to community transmission and social gatherings.”
Since then, at least four Greek houses, including Delta Delta Delta, Alpha Phi, Kappa Kappa Gamma and Alpha Tau Omega have had to issue two-week, house-wide quarantines, some of which have now ended.
Currently, there are 309 confirmed active cases and 26 active campus outbreaks.
“I would like to know the rationale behind why boys are allowed to have bid day gatherings at their houses and post pictures with new members while not wearing masks,” Associated Student Body vice president Abby Johnston said on Twitter. “Meanwhile, no sorority woman is allowed to have such a thing for fear of having her chapter’s charter revoked.”
It remains unconfirmed whether any UM sorority chapters broke the issued rules.
Charlotte Pegues, interim vice chancellor for student affairs, said in a statement that a staff member in the Office of Student Affairs allowed the fraternity groups to coordinate group photos, where masks were removed momentarily.
“Members of our Student Affairs staff will review approval processes so that this type of guidance is not provided again,” she said.
Arthur Doctor, the director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, did not respond to a request for comment, but he did release a statement on Twitter thanking members of the FSL community for a successful recruitment week.
This story was updated on Sept. 9, 2020.