OPINION | Greek Life scapegoating overlooks the bigger picture

Anna Dixon, Contributing Writer

Gabe Darley | Senior Staff Artist

This semester, Tulane University’s administration attempted to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the first weeks of classes by testing undergraduates three times a week. However, with over 300 active cases three weeks into classes, increased testing has proven to be insufficient in preventing the rapid spread. As the administration frantically searches for a reason, the blame has fallen on Panhellenic Greek life. Six chapters are currently on suspension for violating COVID-19 guidelines and certain organizations are being tested daily due to increased cases within the chapter. Katie Spring, a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, received an email informing her that she must be tested daily for a period of time due to her membership in the chapter.

Misconceptions about Greek life among non-participators makes it an easy target for blame. It is widely viewed as a superficial activity, focused solely on partying. Chapters are commonly viewed as oversized cliques — propagating the idea that members of a chapter only associate with other members.

There is no denying that certain chapters are acting irresponsibly in the face of the global pandemic and must receive repercussions. However, painting the entire Panhellenic community, whose members make up a majority of women on campus and a large percentage of men, with the same brush is a gross generalization. Making every member of a sorority get tested more frequently because of the actions of a select few is not going to prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially considering these organizations are not even meeting en masse. Furthermore, the intent of a gathering is important in determining whether it is a Greek event or just a friend group who has members in the same chapter. One should not confuse an officially endorsed and planned event with a small gathering of people unbeknownst to the larger organization. 

The main issue is that when a member of Greek life contracts COVID-19, it is assumed that they got it at a Greek-related gathering. However, when a person not affiliated with Greek life tests positive, they are just as likely to have contracted it at a bar or party as someone in Greek life, but this is not assumed of them.

The problem with blaming Greek life as a whole for the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases amongst undergraduates is that it removes the responsibility from other individuals that are acting outside of Tulane’s guidelines. The truth is that one would be hard pressed to find any student, Greek or not, who is following all of the rules the university has established. The party culture that Tulane is known for has remained active as students flock to bars, The Fly, and gather at off-campus houses. The reality is that the Greek community is not responsible for all of these gatherings, and the ones hosted by Greek organizations are not attended exclusively by members. However, the focus remains on Greek organizations. By doing this, the individuals that are violating the rules are left anonymous. 

Many of those non-Greek violators are then going unpunished, simply due to the fact that it is easier to hide. Though the school has threatened suspension and expulsion, only a handful of students have actually faced disciplinary action. Even in the Tulane administration’s handling of Greek organizations that are violating the rules, they target the chapters as a whole, instead of identifying the members responsible. Tulane chose to target groups of hundreds of students, not based solely on empirical fact or truth, but simply because it is easy. 

In many cases, there is no way of identifying how someone contracted COVID-19. This invisibility creates a sense of fear but pinpointing Greek gatherings as the source of the spread dilutes this fear. It creates a sense of invincibility for those not in Greek life, as they do not consider themselves to be the problem even if they are not following the COVID-19 guidelines. Simultaneously, the members of the Greek community that are acting responsibly are ostracized. 

The unfortunate fact is that Tulane students, regardless of their affiliations, are acting irresponsibly due to a combination of quarantine fatigue and general ignorance. Instead of combatting this on the individual level or assessing their own role in the number of cases, the administration has chosen the easier route of blaming Greek life. Let us hope that this choice does not empower the wrong group of rulebreakers and actively harm the community the administration claims to protect.

Leave a Comment