The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

covid-greek-life-01
Credit: Isabel Liang

A “completely disproportionate” number of positive COVID-19 cases on campus has been linked to fraternities and sororities, a top Penn administrator announced in a meeting with Greek life members Wednesday evening.

Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs Tamara Greenfield King held three Zoom meetings for members of fraternities in the Interfraternity Council, sororities in the Panhellenic Council, and identified off-campus organizations, with over one hundred members in attendance. Greenfield King called the emergency meetings to “sound the alarm bell” and demand that all fraternities and sororities stop in-person social events, which University contact tracers found to be a substantial driver for COVID-19 spread.

The percentage of positive cases at Penn is disproportionately composed of students in the Greek community, Greenfield King said. Approximately 25% of undergraduates are involved in Greek life on campus.

Three IFC fraternity members and one Panhellenic sorority member confirmed the contents of the meetings with The Daily Pennsylvanian. Greenfield King did not respond to a request for comment.

In the call with IFC members and students in IFC fraternities, Greenfield King pointed to fraternities holding events at venues in downtown Philadelphia, hosting large indoor parties without masks, and bussing potential new members out of state for events in order to avoid punishment for Student Campus Compact violations.

Office of Fraternity/Sorority Life, Campus Health, and VPUL also sent an email to members of the Greek community on Jan. 30 detailing outbreaks of COVID-19 in three chapter homes, the identities of which they would not disclose.

OFSL Associate Director for Chapter Housing and Risk Reduction Jon Bell said at the meeting that OFSL has done everything it can to work with the University and continue to support its chapters, but it is feeling intense pressure from administration to take action against the spread of COVID-19 within Greek life.

When students test positive for COVID-19, they receive calls from contact tracers asking them to detail everything they have done and everyone they have seen to identify close contacts who may have been exposed to COVID-19. This process has allowed the University to link a large number of positive COVID-19 cases to events hosted by Greek organizations, Greenfield King said.

Greenfield King and Bell both urged the students to be honest with the contact tracers, adding that noncompliance can lead to disciplinary action.

While the University is currently operating at Alert Level 2: Heightened Awareness, indicating conditions of increased exposure or cases, Greenfield King warned that Penn may enter Alert Level 3: Safer at Home — which would require students to quarantine in their residences — if students continue to disobey the Student Campus Compact.

Students have already been sent home for violations of the Student Campus Compact, Greenfield King said at the meeting. She added that the Office of Student Conduct is also handling a “significant amount of cases” linked to students attending in-person social events held by Greek organizations. Sanctions may include PennCard deactivation or an issuing of a red PennOpen Pass, Greenfield King said.

From Jan. 24 to Jan. 30, there were 111 positive cases among undergraduate students, a 100% increase from 55 cases published the previous week.

Greenfield King said on the Zoom call that the behavior of certain Greek organizations and members is putting other members of the Penn community at risk, particularly members of the Division of Public Safety, which is tasked with responding to parties.

Greenfield King urged students to limit social interaction to members of their pods, small groups of people who agree to socialize only with each other. She also suggested that the leaders of each chapter implement consequences for Student Campus Compact violations within their organizations.

“We also remind that no persons are to mix pods with members of different households, including chapters without chapter homes,” OFSL, Campus Health, and VPUL wrote in the Jan. 30 email. “No persons are to enter any fraternity or sorority residences unless they live in the property.” 

IFC fraternity recruitment concluded on Wednesday, while Panhellenic sorority recruitment ended on Jan. 22.

All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.