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Letter to the Editor: FSL prioritizes fraternities, enables COVID-19 violations

On the morning of Feb. 14, twenty to thirty collegiate men ran down Holt Ave, all wearing matching beige shirts. It was men’s bid day. At first, I smiled, happy to see lively faces (a sight severely lacking in the world today). However, as I watched them go by, I thought back to my own recruitment experience this past intersession (which was held via Webex) and recalled it was nothing like the joyous burst of fun that these men seemed to be having. 

At first, I felt silly for questioning their joy and judging their gleeful faces. However, as a member of the Rollins community, my concerns about violations of the COVID-19 policy were justified. Nearly all of their masks were pulled down and bunched up under their chins. Second, while the men were able to gather in-person for recruitment and bid-day, their female counterparts of the Panhellenic community were required to conduct recruitment via Webex and prohibited from having bid day events. Sororities sacrificed many precious experiences during recruitment this year for the health and well-being of the Rollins community; the fraternities did not. 

When I raised my concern to Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) over email, Bronwyn Holder, director of Student Life and FSL, replied, “Sorority recruitment was hosted virtually for two reasons. First, it was required by the National Panhellenic Conference (the national governing body of the Rollins College Panhellenic Council) that all formal recruitment events be held virtually in order to best mitigate COVID-19…Second, the College required all non-essential events to be hosted virtually through Jan. 24, and this was later extended to Feb. 1.” 

Holder also said that chapter leaders were asked to consider moving recruitment past Feb. 1 for an “in-person bid day experience.” This would not have removed the National Panhellenic Conference’s restriction on in-person recruitment, so the community voted to keep recruitment at its usual time during intersession week.

Fraternities, on the other hand, did not have the same restriction placed on them by their governing bodies, and so they opted to postpone their recruitment past Feb. 1 to be able to conduct their entire recruitment experience in person. Potential new members (PMNs) were given the option of attending virtually or in-person.

All of this may seem logical, with the initial assumptions of unequal treatment as a result of differing national policies. However, it doesn’t matter where the regulations come from. What matters is that unequal treatment between sororities and fraternities, regardless of its origin, creates a dichotomy on campus in which men are held to one standard and women are held to another. This results in women feeling restricted to always comply with rules and to take on an unequal share of the burden of community well-being, whereas the men are emboldened to act below this standard.

“All fraternity recruitment events were required to comply with current COVID-19 policies…staff members were present to ensure compliance with policies. Mask wearing was enforced, and we did our best to enforce physical distancing while still allowing for conversations between participants,” Holder said. 

Despite the assurance, the behavior of some fraternities resulted in gross abuses of the COVID-19 safety requirements.

A group of people on campus, emboldened to act below the standard set for the wellbeing of the community, endangers the wellbeing of the community. 

The actions of the fraternities coincided with an alarming spike of COVID-19 cases on campus. In an email to the student body, Dean Hayner reported, “On Monday morning, Feb. 15, a total of 16 students, both on and off campus, were either isolated or quarantined. At the end of the day on Friday, Feb. 19, that number had risen to 108, and our campus-wide positivity rate reached five point three percent.” 

This is not a mere coincidence, but a direct result of the unchecked behavior of the fraternities. The ramifications of their actions have been felt campus wide and threaten the small amount of normalcy that faculty and staff have been working so hard to maintain. 

“We believe it is up to all members of the Rollins community to create and maintain an atmosphere and experience of equality for all students. From an FSL perspective, we hold all organizations and members to the same standards,” Holder said.

I agree that it should be up to the community as a whole to create and maintain an atmosphere and experience of equality. But do the supposed “same standards” actually help to create this atmosphere? 

This is all not to say that the sororities should have been able to hold their recruitment in-person, for I believe that was a necessary sacrifice to ensure the health and well-being of the Rollins community. What I am saying is that men should be held to the same standard that we hold women to; they should not be allowed to act against the wellbeing of the community.

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