Students host weekend parties despite warnings not to

Corryn Brock, News Editor

“It’s not Unofficial” was the slogan of the weekend as two house parties took place during the time when Charleston typically sees the annual event. 

Approximately 75 students took part in the two parties, one on Fourth Street and the other Sixth Street. Many of those there were members of Eastern’s Greek Life.

Some members of Interfraternity Council organizations Lambda Chi Alpha, Pi Kappa Alpha, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Sigma Nu and Sigma Phi Epsilon could be seen at the two parties that took place. 

Reporters saw two individuals with masks.

Eastern’s administration was expecting Unofficial to occur last weekend or March 18 to 20 and sent out a message to students preparing for the weekend. 

“With the speculation of off-campus social events and warmer temperatures, we recognize the desire to gather together is strong. But here’s the blunt reality of the situation … COVID is absolutely still in our midst, and we must be mindful of it. We thank you for the action you have taken thus far to protect yourselves and our Panther family. We thank you for masking, social distancing, and maintaining small group sizes. We recognize that has not been easy. We also urge you to please stay the course. Please continue to mask. Please continue to social distance. And please continue to limit group sizes in accordance with EIU guidelines. Together, we continue to Protect Our Panthers.” 

The message was signed by Anne Flaherty, Vice President for Student Affairs, Noor Ul Haash Khamisani, Student Body President, Jordan Arnold National Pan-Hellenic Council President, Karen Gonski, National Panhellenic Council President and Eric Hunter, Interfraternity Council President. 

Currently, Greek Life is not allowed to host large social gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a message that has been given many times to the community from the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Programming.   

In August 2020 a document was sent to all chapter presidents explaining how chapters should operate with the new guidelines the pandemic set in place. The document said those chapters who hosted social events could potentially face social suspension for the reminder of the academic term, a letter will being sent to chapter’s National Headquarters/administration office or they may face suspension from the institution depending on severity of the event.

“Chapters that host social events during this time will be held accountable for their actions through the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Programs, along with the Office of Student Accountability and Support, and their National Headquarters/Office of Administration,” the document said. 

Before the weekend, leaders in Greek Life were hopeful that there would not be partying over the weekend. 

“Karen, (Nathan Wehr, Director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Programs), and I have repeatedly asked IFC and PHC chapters not to host parties or and social events as we are in a pandemic. Our community knows that COVID-19 is a serious threat and we must protect ourselves by following COVID guidelines,” Hunter said. “Those who chose to partake in these social events will have consequences.”   

Dr. Sheila Simons, Eastern’s lead COVID-19 investigator, shared concerns of the event being a super-spreader. 

“There’s bound to be cases that come out of this, it’s just simply going to happen. How many cases I, of course, can’t make a prediction; whether the parties are inside, outside, all of these things are factors. How long are they there, what they’re doing, how close they are to people, there’s a lot of things that make it difficult to give an estimate on how much cases will increase by but with the situation as it is even if the parties are inside or outside, when you add alcohol you see a lot of behaviors that develop as a result of that because our inhibitions decrease so we’re more likely to do things we normally wouldn’t do,” Simons said. “That’s a concern, those behaviors, because for me and my team I could have a thousand contact tracers but the problem is we’re not changing individuals’ behaviors and until that happens, behavior change, we’re not going to see this go away any time soon, and of course the vaccine is helpful but it’s still a concern because of the amount of time it’s going to take to get it to the younger age group.”

Following the weekend event Flaherty said she does not comment of alleged conduct violations but encourages students to report any concerns they have with alleged conduct violations.

“I encourage any student who wishes to report a concern to do so at https://cm.maxient.com/reportingform.php?EasternIllinoisUniv,” Flaherty said. “My hope is that all students and RSO’s follow university policies and engage in behaviors that will keep their fellow panthers safe.”

Wehr said he was unable to comment on alleged conduct violations but hopes the Greek  community follows FSP Pandemic Planning guidelines.

Hunter referred all questions to Flaherty and Wehr.

Presidents of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Sigma Nu spoke to representatives of The Daily Eastern News at the parties but did not respond to request for comment via email as of press time Sunday.

 

Corryn Brock can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]