In separate statements issued Friday, both the Inter-Sorority Council and Inter-Fraternity Council suspended all in-person gatherings, effective immediately. The ISC ban will be in place until at least March 12 while the IFC said it plans to reevaluate its suspension at the end of March.
In an email to the ISC community, Clare Scully, ISC President and fourth-year Commerce student, said the large number of cases within the ISC community led the organization to suspend in-person activities.
“Parts of our community failed to comply with the previous guidelines,” Scully said. “Due to the health and safety needs of ISC members, our size as an organization, [and our] interconnectedness and significant impact on the Charlottesville and U.Va. communities, it is necessary to briefly reinstate the suspension on all organized in person chapter activities.”
Greek housing and meal plans are the only current exceptions to the ISC policy, though other “rare” exceptions may be granted on a case-by-case basis.
The IFC’s statement said that since the ISC and IFC’s decision to reverse its previous ban on in-person gatherings in January after seeing widespread compliance with restrictions in the fall, the IFC has seen “multiple incidents of blatant noncompliance and disrespect for the less restrictive rules.”
“Such behavior is irresponsible, and puts the health of the University community and many Charlottesville residents in unnecessary danger,” the IFC statement said.
According to the IFC statement, all in-person gatherings are banned, including social, brotherhood and new member activities. Housing and meal plans will be the only exceptions to the IFC policy.
The IFC statement also noted that the IFC Governing Board will be working on ways to “hold chapters accountable for their actions.” The Board is made up of thirteen fraternity brothers who oversee the IFC’s day-to-day operations and are led by Andrew Huffman, IFC president and third-year College student.
Before recruitment, the IFC organized a task force of over 150 fraternity brothers who were responsible for monitoring compliance with COVID-19 restrictions and reporting any “egregious” violations to the IFC Governing Board.
Both statements were released the same day the University lifted its ban on in-person gatherings and returned to its previous six-person gathering limit after a decline in COVID-19 cases occurred this week.
The University’s tightened restrictions were first instituted in response to rising COVID-19 cases last week, when nearly 650 new cases were reported. Single-day case records were set on Feb. 16 and Feb. 17, which saw 121 and 229 new cases, respectively, and quarantine occupancy reached an all-time high of 50 percent over the weekend. According to the University’s COVID-19 tracker, cases have begun to dip — just 26 new cases were reported Wednesday.
The statements come after speculation on social media that IFC and ISC’s decision to permit chapters to hold in-person events during recruitment was the primary reason for the increase and subsequent restrictions. Recruitment for both organizations began the weekend of Feb. 5 and continued through bid day, Feb. 14.
While the IFC permitted chapters to hold in-person events throughout recruitment, the ISC only allowed chapters to host in-person bid day events. Any in-person event planned by a sorority or fraternity had to be approved by the respective council. Throughout the 1.5-week period, members of both organizations were subject to University, state and local public health guidelines, which included strict social distancing and masking requirements, a six-person gathering limit and a midnight to 5 a.m. curfew, among other measures.
At a town hall Feb. 19, the University said that in-person Greek recruitment was not the primary reason for the spike, but was instead a part of a widespread increase in COVID-19 violations throughout the University community. According to Department of Medicine Chair Mitch Rosner, the spike resulted from public health violations within many small gatherings on and off Grounds, not one “superspreader event.”
At the same town hall, Dean of Students Allen Groves confirmed that five fraternities are under investigation for COVID-19 violations, though he did not specify when these violations were reported. Photo evidence obtained by The Cavalier Daily shows clear violations of University masking policies, social distancing guidelines and gathering limits during the recruitment period by two Greek organizations.
The ISC and IFC oversee 30 fraternities and 15 sororities, respectively. These organizations are not associated with the eight historically Black organizations of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, the seven Multicultural Greek Council chapters or the Order of Omega on Grounds.
Student Council passed legislation Tuesday denouncing COVID-19 violations throughout ISC and IFC recruitment and calling on the University to issue an apology addressing its “failure to enforce [its] own COVID-19 restrictions.”
Groves clarified during the town hall that when reports are filed through the University’s community concerns portal, the Office of the Dean of Students then files those reports with the University Judiciary Committee. Though ODOS maintains the ability to issue interim suspensions for egregious violations, the power to host a hearing and sanction students and organizations lies with UJC.
In light of the increase in COVID-19 cases, UJC issued a statement Wednesday detailing its processes for dealing with cases of noncompliance. Typically UJC hears cases that are reported by University administrators, students and community members — at this time, however, the University administration “is not reporting cases at the rate [UJC] would expect,” the statement said.
“While the UJC supports students’ freedom, we do not support University students putting each other, and the Charlottesville community, at risk,” the statement said. “Freedom is not an excuse to violate University policy nor a justification for putting any person in harm’s way.”
Students can file reports of noncompliance with public health guidelines on the University’s COVID-19 compliance reporting portal, meaning that the case will be reviewed by University officials, or on UJC’s website, meaning that the case will be reviewed by students on UJC. According to the statement, students do not need to have photographic or video evidence to file a report with the UJC.
Individuals who report through the University must be able to provide details such as a location, date, time and either names or descriptions of the individuals involved. Members of the larger Charlottesville community may also report noncompliance through the University’s community concerns portal.
UJC also acknowledged the existence of a narrative that “encourages students to police on another” and clarified that as an organization, the UJC does not seek to require students to self-police.
”The UJC is not a group that encourages self-policing nor supports any authorization of increased police presence on Grounds,” the statement said. “Rather, we adjudicate alleged violations that come before us, and we can only adjudicate such cases if they are reported or referred directly to UJC.”