The University of Southern Mississippi’s Greek life held their recruitment week from Aug. 10 to Aug. 15, with Bid Day being held on Aug. 15. The laxness among some members of sororities regarding COVID-19 has caused concern among other members.
Shayla Fisher* is a member of a smaller CPC chapter on the Hattiesburg campus. Fisher said a lot of members of her chapter did not want to do Bid Day. However, despite these concerns, the general consensus across the row was to have Bid Day during this semester. Fisher realized pretty quickly that some sororities haven’t been following guidelines as strictly as they have.
“I know for us, we had a sheet where we wrote down temperatures of everyone who came inside the house before they were even let in,” Fisher said. “We were following the state mandates, but we have seen laxness with other chapters and even with certain members across the board.”
Fisher said some sorority members have been going to off-campus parties, which has been worrying to her.
Rhiannon Lynch* is also a member of the same CPC chapter. Lynch explained advisors for Greek life dictate what members do and, though members can give their opinions, it is ultimately up to the advisor. She said she feels like this is a side of Greek life that is not known about.
“We can give our opinions but if they don’t agree or want it that way, we have to do whatever they say,” Lynch said. “We came up to advisors with different ideas [during recruitment week] and they said ‘no, you have to do it this way.’”
Despite Bid Day being in-person, the philanthropy events and the chapter’s sisterhood event have been completely converted to online only. Fisher and Lynch both said they have been explicitly told there can be no in-person events and everything must be virtual.
“We were already looking at philanthropy events being entirely virtual and we are having to come up with new ideas for that,” Fisher said. “I don’t think we are even planning for anything to be even relatively in-person.”
Fisher said it is not the on-campus events that she and Lynch worry about. They believe more focus should be put on off-campus safety as well as the on-campus safety.
Not that on-campus safety should be neglected. Communication has proved an increasing concern among sorority members. Lynch said they do not know if there is a plan for what to do if someone living in the house gets sick.
“We do not know if there is a plan or not,” Lynch said. “If they have, they haven’t told us what that actual plan would be or if they even have one.”
Lynch said a common fear is a form of the “Panhellenic Plague”, where, if one house gets a sickness, every house will have it. She pointed out that COVID-19 could just as easily go across campus from one simple person, and that it’s easy spread is not talked about enough.
“At least for us, we have Germ-X stations all over and [we are] taking temperatures if [members] come to pick anything up,” Fisher said.
Lynch added that, when she helped members picking personal items up, the chapter had Clorox or bleach spray to wipe down after one or two people came in.
There is also a big push for Sorority members to not focus on the fact that there is a pandemic going on. The only time to mention the pandemic is if a member talks to another member about it. Lynch said this was done so incoming freshmen will not think about how they lost their senior year of high school. However, Lynch and Fisher believe this should not end up minimizing the importance of social distancing.
Lynch said there were many people who thought recruitment week could have been pushed back to September to see how things were going to go during the first few weeks of school, so Greek life could plan better.
“There wasn’t a lot of flexibility on the advisor’s part,” Lynch said.
Fisher agreed, adding that there was a fear about having to do a different process that is not as formal when everyone had been preparing all summer for a formal recruitment.
“There were many of us, at the beginning, who said it should all be virtual,” Fisher said. “It seemed they were holding on to keeping at least one day in person, but I was hoping they would have done it in the spring.”
Fees have been a major concern amongst new and old recruits alike. Fisher said her chapter was told not to deposit anything unless it could be refunded, as it was unknown what would occur during the fall semester. She said she thinks it should have been considered doing continuous open bidding, or “COR”. COR is when Panhellenic Council sororities take in new members outside of the formal recruitment process.
“At least in the past, COR has always been on the backend,” Fisher said. “CPC only just started being more vocal about it, but I think there is a push for formal recruitment every single year.”
Fisher said COR could be handled better in a pandemic. Formal recruitment could have up to 400 people involved, but COR would have around ten people at most. Fisher said COR seems like a better idea in the fall, as there is also nothing being held during the semester.
“I think waiting until spring when everyone had a better plan would have been better,” Fisher said.
Despite the worries about how certain sororities have been handling COVID-19, Fisher wanted the Southern Miss community to know that not every Greek life member is a part of the laxness.
“A lot of us are taking this very seriously, even in the house,” Fisher said.
When asked for a response, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life did not give any comment.
*Names have been changed using a random name generator.