After a long year of remote events and disciplinary action, the Dean of Students Office is optimistic that Greek life on campus will begin the transition back to normality this fall.
“I’d like to have a normal year again, I think the whole world would like to have a normal year again,” said Steven Priepke, senior associate dean of students. “We’re thankful that there is some kind of light at the end of this COVID tunnel.”
Many of the fraternities complied with UM covid guidelines, but there were rampant violations. The dean of students office took disciplinary action against fraternities that hosted events without following university protocol. Alpha Epsilon Pi, Sigma Chi and Beta Theta Pi were suspended as result of disregarding COVID-19 protocols in the spring. Sigma Alpha Mu was kicked off campus last fall for unrelated reasons.
On May 27, President Julio Frenk announced changes to COVID-19 protocols for this fall in a video message addressing the University of Miami community. These changes include discontinuing the use of the daily symptom checker, lifting the mask mandate from indoor administrative areas and outdoors, and updated vaccine and COVID screening policies.
While these changes will have cascading effects on social and academic life across campus, it is still unclear exactly how much freedom UM’s Greek life will have for social events at the start of the semester.
“We just don’t have the framework yet to tell what will be approved come August,” Priepke said. “I don’t know when to expect that; I hope sooner than later and know students feel the same way. But you know, the more and more students that come back vaccinated, the better off we’ll all be to have those events.”
Priepke and Cristina Luna, assistant dean of students and director of Greek life, say they are hopeful that the normal operations of Greek life will gradually return to campus in the fall. However, as UM adapts its COVID-19 and on-campus public health policies, there is little certainty surrounding what Greek life will look like come fall.
“We had to hold student organizations accountable. You know, that’s difficult sometimes and can strain the relationship,” Priepke said. “We’re hopeful we don’t have to be in that situation again this year, but if we are, our office won’t hesitate to hold them accountable again.”
UM recognizes 26 social fraternities and sororities on campus from the Interfraternity Council, the Multicultural Greek COuncil, the National Pan-Hellenic Council and the Panhellenic Association. The three fraternities suspended for violating Covid guidelines are members of the Interfraternity Council.
Fraternities that were suspended have to meet education sanctions set by their respective national offices before returning in the fall. Some fraternities will return on some form of probation, depending on each case. Luna and Priepke did not verify which fraternities would be returning on probation.
Despite the discord between Greek life and administration last year, Luna says that there is “always a good working relationship” between the two bodies and says she hopes that this past year will be a point of growth for both fraternities and sororities.
“I think if anything, there were a lot of innovative and creative ways that they learned to engage members that may or may not have been socially invested,” Luna said. “I think it opens new doors to how they operate in the future.”