How to Enjoy Greek Life in the Age of Coronavirus

How do you maintain and strengthen the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood when a global pandemic shuts down campus life and students scatter to continue their education from a distance?

Even after returning to campus, how are chapter meetings and charitable activities, even informal get-togethers, conducted within safety guidelines?

With creativity and technology, according to members of Bradley’s Greek system.

“It became the season of virtual programming,” said senior mathematics education major Alyssa Schmidts, who served as the 2020 president of Panhellenic Council. “Our chapters switched to a fully virtual setup for meetings. Our chapters shifted how they plan events to make sure all can access them. Everyone had to rethink how their organization was going to run with everyone stuck at home.”

When students returned to campus for the fall semester, restrictions such as physical distancing still affected recruitment.

“Our traditional membership intake activities are in person, and this year we couldn’t participate in those activities due to COVID,” said senior Charles Myers, a marketing major and president of National Pan-Hellenic Council. He previously served as polemarch of the Iota Kappa chapter of Bradley’s Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

Eric Mendoza, senior president and founder of the coed Latinx fraternity Alpha Psi Lambda National, Inc., agreed recruiting slowed, even with his group’s more informal approach.

“We don’t have a rush system. A lot of how we recruit is on the personal, one-on-one level,” the entrepreneurship-business-law-philosophy major said.

In some cases, chapters’ national organizations enforced recruiting limits.

“On a national level, we were unable to bring in any new members,” said Donnell Stone, a senior animation major and current president of Kappa Alpha Psi.

Chapters switched to virtual programs and events to maintain and build relationships. But some students pointed out the drawbacks, especially for those suffering from screen fatigue who didn’t want to add time in front of their computers.

“Greek life is built on traditions, many of which were threatened,” said junior kinesiology and health science major Brier Barbeau, a Sigma Kappa member who is this year’s Panhellenic president. “… However, we took what we could and adapted it in every way possible to give our members as close to a normal experience as we could.”

Philanthropy and service efforts had to be adjusted.

Myers said things like food or flyers couldn’t be distributed and Stone added a Valentine’s Day rose giveaway was scrapped. But groups adapted with events that could be distanced. 

“It was a thing where, if you pay $2, you get to paint us,” recalled junior nursing major Carlo Castellanos about one Alpha Psi Lambda event. “$2 for each color. We just kept splattering each other with paint.”

The quarantine environment also affected the chapter houses because they were considered family units. This meant members had to wear masks except in their individual rooms, guests were limited, communal spaces (such as dining rooms) restricted and all members forced to quarantine if anyone in the house tested positive for the virus.

“The emphasis was making sure to distance yourself from others when not in your room and not leaving the chapter houses except for essential things,” said Schmidts, adding some chapters dropped membership fees and Panhellenic Council dropped its recruitment fee to make it easier on students.

Even with the pandemic-imposed restrictions, she sees positives for herself and others.

“It has pushed our member organizations to think differently and get creative with how they get members to connect with one another. I know for me, it pushed me to reach out to some friends and connect virtually just so we could stay connected … The pandemic came with its struggles but I think good things and learning experiences have come out of it as well.”

— Bob Grimson ’81

Some media in Bradley University's current print, video and online materials was acquired before the COVID-19 pandemic. Media acquired after the pandemic began was done so in compliance with Bradley's COVID-19 safety protocols at the time. The ongoing safety of our faculty, staff and students is of the utmost concern during these unprecedented times.