The Editorial Board — along with most of the student body — is tired. We are tired of the lack of accountability certain students and groups are facing for continually disregarding COVID-19 policies. We are tired of the University constantly attempting to evade any responsibility in their actions. We are tired of University administration’s refusal to listen to its students’ fears and concerns and condemn the chapters of the Inter-Fraternity Council and Inter-Sorority Council that have put lives at risk with their privilege and ignorance of the dangers of the virus. We are, quite simply, tired of waiting for the University to care about us.
Earlier this week, University administration announced major temporary operational changes in response to the large spike in COVID-19 cases on Grounds. This past Tuesday, 229 students tested positive — by far a new daily record. Even scarier, this number represented over 10 percent of the new positive cases in the Commonwealth. As we attempt to understand how things have gotten so out of control so quickly, we are reminded of the University’s failure to prevent the fault that fraternities and sororities have in this after in-person events of these groups over the past two weeks.
The Cavalier Daily investigated the claims against some IFC and ISC chapters. An anonymous source affiliated with an IFC chapter “can say with a good degree of confidence that most fraternities broke the six-person rule once or twice, at least.” Combined with numerous reports of large gatherings from Greek life chapters and photo and video evidence of disregard for rules, this paints a picture of what many students already knew — many fraternities and sororities believe they are held to a different standard. The University messed up, and they refuse to acknowledge this.
Students took to social media this past week to express their anger with those continuing to gather in large crowds and with the University’s disregard of these students. Certain chapters of the IFC and ISC, in particular, hosted in-person bid day events this past Sunday, while many fraternities also even held in-person rush events. Despite a six-person gathering limit, many fraternities were encouraged by ambiguous rules from the University — which allowed for in-person rush events that followed COVID-19 guidelines, despite the guidelines prohibiting gatherings to six inhabitants — to bring groups of rushing students into their houses of over six inhabitants. Many are even calling on the University to suspend non-compliant chapters until the end of the semester.
As this surge in cases continues — and as we wait for the incubation period to finish to get a better insight of the effects of in-person bid day and rush events — the fact remains that there were fraternities that blatantly ignored the rules. Remember that the University was complicit in the behavior of Greek-life organizations this past week, and that this complicity directly endangered the lives and well-being of thousands of students and even more members of the Charlottesville community.
The University has since pushed a narrative of general student body noncompliance. At a recent Town Hall, University administration continued to highlight that while fraternities likely did cause some of the increases, the uptick in cases was widespread both on- and off-Grounds. They showed a map of where cases have been traced in an attempt to place the blame on the general student body — yet, many of these cases appear to be in off-Grounds locations near the presence of Greek life. In addition, regardless of any widespread cases, this shift of responsibility ignores a key aspect of the spread — fraternities willingly acted in a manner that has been known to increase the spread. These were not innocent or small mistakes — they were large gatherings of individuals who do not care about the dangers in their actions. Administrators’ attempts to ignore that certain students — driven by their privilege and historic lack of accountability — willfully inflicted exponential amounts of harm onto others in the community.
At this same Town Hall, Ryan noted that in hindsight, administration should have known that fraternity rush would have caused at least some uptick in cases. However, hindsight is not good enough in the midst of a global pandemic. People are dying — there is no room for error, and the administration knows this.
The IFC has since released a statement via their Instagram account regarding the recent accusations against their chapters. However, this statement means absolutely nothing without real and honest accountability for those chapters that broke the rules time and time again. Further, the statement reads, “Some reports were preemptive and allowed the Governing Board to shut down events that would have broken policy before they happened.” This is a situation where stopping “some reports” is simply not good enough — the pandemic, despite what some students may wish to believe, is currently causing massive issues within local communities. Further, in a widely-circulated internal message, the IFC president asks members to cease in-person activity, as “the consequences are potentially disastrous for the IFC.” The question therefore remains — do these organizations care at all that their actions could have incredibly “disastrous” consequences on the local community?
Maybe the University could not, as it says, stop the decision of a student-run organization to have off-Grounds gatherings that were supposed to follow guidelines. However, it believed a governing body of 13 fraternity men could hold over 1,700 members across 32 chapters accountable and did not adequately step in to enforce its own policy over these students’ behavior. Yet, the University stance suggests that they will continue to avoid holding Greek life responsible.
At the end of the day, students have been bringing these concerns to the University’s administration for weeks now. Students knew from the moment in-person bid day plans were announced that the consequences could be dire. The data is not going to definitively show what caused this rise in numbers — that’s simply not possible. But two weeks of wide scale in-person recruitment went essentially unchecked. Fraternities and sororities, of course, deserve to be called out — and reported — when they break the rules. But it is frustrating that the University’s administration continues to ignore their responsibility.
Use this widespread criticism of the Greek community and the spike in cases to remind yourself to remain diligent. While the actions of many IFC and ISC chapters were reckless, selfish and showed a complete disregard for those around them, noncompliance with COVID policies does not start and end with Greek life. We ask our readers — especially those who still do not grasp the severity of our actions on the local community — to look at the numbers. You will find an alarming number of hospitalizations within the University’s hospital over the past weeks. To some of these students who spent their weekends disregarding COVID guidelines, the pandemic is a joke — to the 40 patients currently in-house at U.Va. Hospital, this is a matter of life or death.
The Cavalier Daily Editorial Board is composed of the Executive Editor, the Editor-in-Chief, the two Opinion Editors, their Senior Associate and an Opinion Columnist. The board can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.