Frats, Sororities in St. Louis Metro Hoping to Avoid COVID-19 Outbreaks


St. Louis University frats are switching up recruitment with COVID-19 still a danger. - STEVEN DUONG
  • St. Louis University frats are switching up recruitment with COVID-19 still a danger.

Paulina Fuhrmann has to adapt the college experience for her sorority sisters this semester. Virtual Zoom hangouts will have to dominate the party scene for the five Greek chapters she oversees at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Colleges around the country have been a hotspot for coronavirus outbreaks in 2020, at least nineteen linked to sorority and fraternity parties. Fuhrmann she hopes to start — and end — with a different story.

“If you can’t see the seriousness of the pandemic, then why are you even in college?” she says.

Fuhrmann, president of the Panhellenic Council of sororities and senior political science major at SIUE, emphasized her stance of taking COVID-19 as seriously as possible. Her council, among others, put a pause on social events involving alcohol and informal dances.

SIUE’s Greek life is not alone in its preventive measures against the coronavirus. Saint Louis University’s Sigma Chi fraternity will try to convince freshmen to join its brotherhood through a computer screen this month.

SLU’s Sigma Chi recruitment chair Michael Nickerson acknowledged the impact of the day-to-day actions of him and his fraternity brothers. Greek life across thirteen U.S. states, Missouri included, has been the center of coronavirus outbreaks at college campuses thus far.

The University of Missouri’s school newspaper reported multiple COVID-19 cases in at least two fraternities on August 18. Mizzou reported 415 active cases among all students as of last Monday.

Fraternity and sorority outbreaks spread from California to North Carolina. Four states have more than one school with outbreaks in the Greek life community.

Nickerson says he and his fraternity are willing to follow the protocols if it means they can continue to be on campus for in-person classes.

“Having to wear masks and all that stuff just so we can stay on campus and have as close to a regular college experience as we can,” Nickerson says. “We’re more than happy to make those sacrifices.”

Nickerson’s chapter plans to gather in-person this semester. He said SLU gave Sigma Chi approval to have an invite-only event with more than ten people as long as COVID-19 guidelines are followed such as wearing a mask and social distancing. Nickerson said the event will be held to less than 50 percent capacity of the venue. He added that it all comes down to responsibility when hosting in-person events for college students.

SIUE freshman Hope Chulka lives on campus and says her school has handled COVID-19 protocol well at the beginning of the semester. She says she felt it was reasonable to expect college students to not party, although they are still happening.

Matthew Crawford, also an SIUE freshman, says he has not heard of any student gathering that exceeds the school’s COVID-19 policy. The policy allows gatherings of up to 50 people. The limit went up from ten to 50 on August 8.

Washington University in St. Louis, unlike SLU and SIUE, on-campus houses that are occupied by fraternities. Executive Director of Campus Life Leslie Heusted said the university reduced occupancy in its fraternity houses.

Heusted did not say how many students are residing in the fraternity houses for the fall semester.

Washington University has not yet posted positive case counts for students, faculty and staff. SLU recorded 25 positive cases since August 21 and SIUE recorded seven.

Clarification: The original story was updated to reflect the stipulations of an event to be held by Nickerson's SLU fraternity chapter.

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