ETSU working to prevent COVID-19 cases and clusters in Greek life as UT has issues with fraternities

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- As the University of Tennessee works to identify organizations that have not been following safety guidelines, East Tennessee State University is working to prevent similar issues and outbreaks on its campus.

“We typically did recruitment out of classrooms and our classroom occupancy was down to one quarter,” said ETSU’s Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, Maggie Darden. “We just really didn’t have the space on campus in order to logistically make that work.”

Recruitment for sororities recently wrapped up and it is just starting for fraternities all virtually.

“By the time we really got rolling, national organizations really came through on supporting universities,” Darden said. “We have our own guidelines and the national organizations say, ‘If you violate these, you’re in violation with our policy. Sometimes having their support actually holds a little bit more weight than just the university doing it.”

ETSU allows sororities to live in Buccaneer Ridge Apartments where members live in two or four-bedroom options. Sigma Chi is the only fraternity that offers housing to members.

“They have taken ETSU’s guidelines, they have taken their national organization’s guidelines and they have followed them to the letter,” said Darden.

Other fraternities have university owned meeting spaces that haven’t been reopened just yet.

Right now, ETSU is in “Modified Stage 2” of its reopening plan which allows for group gatherings of up to 15 people with certain guidelines.

The situation at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville is vastly different.

Wednesday, university officials made it clear that two hotels likely won’t be enough to house all the students that will need to be isolated. Students in Massey Hall were notified they’ll have to move out next week to create more space for self-isolation students.

“We have disturbing information stemming frankly from the fraternities in particular,” said UT Chancellor Donde Plowman in her COVID-19 update to the university Tuesday. “Fraternity leaders communicating to houses how to have parties and avoid being caught…avoid the police. Stories of a fraternity renting space off-campus to have their party crammed with lots of people in close quarters…telling fraternity members not to get tested or how to get tested so the results are not shared with the university.”

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