The Interfraternity Council (IFC) is allowing frats to hold in-person rush this fall and permitting face-to-face gatherings, prompting questions of what UBC fraternities will be doing to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks.
South of the border, sororities and fraternities have become sites of major outbreaks of COVID-19 at universities.
In August, 20 year olds were BC’s new leading age group of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Over the summer, increasing numbers of cases among young adults have been linked to ongoing house parties and large gatherings.
BC has discouraged large in-person gatherings as a result. But according to IFC’s fall recruitment and COVID-19 policies, fraternities will be able to hold gatherings and events this September as long as they stay under 50 attendees and adhere to provincial health guidelines.
The IFC’s guidelines
The IFC said it recognizes the importance of prioritizing the health and safety of the community over the annual fall rush parties and events that usually occur.
“[The policies] are strictly mandatory policies that all fraternity houses, members and member chapters are expected to follow,” said IFC President Tommi Redl in an emailed statement to The Ubyssey.
“Failure to adhere to the requirements section of the policy will lead to investigation and penalization at the discretion of the IFC Judicial board in an impartial manner.”
IFC Council recommended but didn’t require the use of masks based on the nature of an event and the number of attendees participating. This is in line with the university’s initial plan not to require mask usage on campus. The university has since backtracked and will now being requiring masks in indoor settings.
However, Redl stated that “the requirement for masks at gatherings has already been implemented by individual chapter houses in their individual bylaws.”
Redl also said that the IFC will ensure large events are monitored.
“As outlined in our COVID-19 Response Policy, IFC reserves the right to intercede in any event that seems to be in violation of our policy or the provincial guidelines,” said Redl.
Section 8 of the IFC’s COVID-19 Response Policy, which governs requirements for events and gatherings, conveys a level of independence on the part of individual frats from the IFC’s requirements. It prohibits events or gatherings in the common courtyard of the Greek Village or in front of member chapter houses outside of the village. Still, frat house events are “permissible in backyard spaces.”
In response to this, Redl said that all houses are required to act in accordance with provincial guidelines.
“The execution of how that is accomplished is trusted to each house’s risk management, as each house is unique in the composition of their personal open space.”
But even with COVID-19 adjustments, some schools in the United States have not been so lucky when it comes to rush. At the University of Mississippi, despite a ban on in-person recruiting, rush parties and Greek social events still took place. Outbreaks were reportedly linked to more than 160 students testing positive for COVID-19 in June.
A helping hand from UBC
UBC also currently has a working partnership with the IFC. Redl said the IFC and UBC will coordinate surrounding the safety of the village and weekly meetings and assistance on COVID-19 policies.
“Campus Security conducts regular patrols of the campus, the exterior perimeter of the Fraternity Village and of the surrounding neighbourhood,” wrote Matthew Ramsey, UBC media relations director of university affairs, in an email.
“Campus Security officers contact RCMP when they observe issues of concern, including noise and potential violations of provincial health guidelines,” Ramsey wrote, but he noted that fraternity houses are owned and operated by frats through long-term leases. “They are entirely independent of UBC and UBC has no role in their management.”
Despite the IFC’s independence, Redl stated that UBC is providing masks, hand sanitizer and temperature guns to the organization on behalf of each house every 60 days.
Ramsey confirmed this, stating that “the university has provided non-medical masks and thermometers” to the IFC.
As for the broader student body, hand sanitizing stations are available across campus and residence staff are supplied thermometers.
“In addition, UBC has ordered 25,000 non-medical masks for students, faculty and staff and we expect to have distribution details clear in the coming days,” wrote Ramsey.
For clubs and undergraduate societies, students should make plans to acquire face coverings and personal protective equipment should they hold in-person activities.
“The AMS is unable to provide all of our 350+ subsidiaries with this equipment for various reasons including cost, logistical barriers, and supply chain restrictions,” said AMS President Cole Evans. “The AMS will be able to provide a limited amount of equipment to clubs upon request, but these orders will have to be debited to the club’s financial account.”
Evans said the Office of the VP Students has indicated to the AMS that they are willing to help any student groups that require assistance procuring masks and other equipment.
“We encourage clubs that would like assistance and supplies to reach out directly to the Office of the VP Students for support,” said Evans.