On Sept. 8, the day after Bid Day for sororities at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the university announced that six Greek houses were on temporary suspension, prompting a petition pleading the university to undo the suspension.
The basis for the suspension was photo and video evidence of gatherings which occurred on the lawns of those fraternities and sororities. There are currently 11 Greek chapters in quarantine, and two of those houses — Delta Gamma and Kappa Alpha Theta — were among the group of chapters put on suspension.
Currently, more than 2,000 people have signed the petition against the suspension. The petition was published with an attached letter which argues that Greek houses are being unfairly targeted. Frankly, this petition is as unfounded and tone-deaf as the Husker football players’ lawsuit against the Big Ten.
One of the main themes that runs through the petition letter is the idea that sororities and fraternities are targeted specifically due to stigma and preconceived notions about Greek life. But the suspensions were based off of multiple accounts of large groups without masks congregating on Greek Row.
It is unfortunate for Greek life that their main purpose — to connect, socialize and participate in activities together in person — has been made nearly impossible by the current situation. But any reputation the houses may have does not change the fact they were seen disregarding social-distancing measures and mask mandates.
After these pictures surfaced on Twitter, users responded to the tweets. Some, such as a member of Phi Delta Theta, argued that the members gathered outside their fraternity house were all live-ins, and they wore masks around the house and followed social-distancing guidelines inside the house.
If these members wear masks in communal areas in the house, that doesn’t stop them from spreading germs to each other when they stand unmasked in a crowd.
UNL’s official policy is that anyone who is on campus must wear a mask outside if it’s not possible to stay 6 feet away from others. There are no exceptions to this policy, even for housemates, and the pictures clearly show members of the suspended sororities and fraternities not following social-distancing protocol.
While I commend the sororities who have respected their quarantines, bringing people together from all over campus who have interacted and will interact with an extended network is unacceptable.
The petition also argues that the university has no right to sanction Greek houses when there have been campus-hosted events, such as the Club Fair, which ignored social distancing requirements.
They’re right. Even if the Club Fair had a mask requirement, the university should not have promoted such a large in-person gathering in an area where social distancing would not be possible. The university has not been anywhere close to perfect when it comes to enforcing social-distancing measures and keeping people safe.
But the university’s mistake does not give fraternities and sororities the right to gather in large crowds during a pandemic, and it does not give them the right to contest these suspensions on the grounds of “unequal treatment” and a lack of due process.
UNL has every right to discipline any student organization if they have proof of misconduct, and there was an abundance of proof that no explanation was going to rectify the amount of people gathered without masks on Greek Row.
Instead of putting their time and energy into crafting a petition, members of sororities and fraternities who were suspended need to put their efforts into taking accountability for their actions and creating safe ways for members of their communities to connect.
Sydney Miller is a junior psychology major. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.