Greek Row at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is less active after many chapters closed their houses due to COVID-19, but Greek life students continue to adapt and look to the future.
About 2,000 students typically reside in the 32 Greek houses on UNL’s City and East campuses, and 18 of those houses have fully closed, according to Leigh Thiedeman, director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life. Less than 150 Greek life students still remain on campus, most living in groups of less than 10 students, and they continue to receive guidance on how to connect with chapter members and approach recruitment under social distancing guidelines.
To overcome lost connections and uncertainties, many chapters continued to connect over Zoom, and some have continued regular chapter meetings, according to Thiedeman. She said some students started letter writing campaigns to meet new members of their chapters to continue to bond with one another and provide emotional support.
“It’s been really heartwarming to see how people have reached out to one another and how they’re supporting each other from a distance,” Thiedeman said. “This is hard, it’s hard on everyone, everyone is impacted by this, but it’s been so great to see how the connections remain, even from a distance.”
Thiedeman said open communication to the more than 4,500 students in the 56 chapters on campus was critical to ensuring all members of Greek life received the proper information.
“We’re all trying to figure out what’s the right thing to do right now,” she said. “And for me, that has meant getting as much information as possible from our stakeholders.”
Greek Interfraternity Council president Parker Williams, a junior mechanical engineering major and member of the FarmHouse Fraternity, said one of the biggest worries now is how to continue with summer recruitment.
“It’s a totally new culture and we’re exploring new ways that we can help our chapters rush through the obstacles and some things that we would like them to keep in mind as they’re rushing this summer,” he said.
Thiedeman said IFC usually focuses recruitment around New Student Enrollment, but since that shifted to be remote, recruitment events have shifted as well. She said IFC leadership is discussing how to continue recruitment in the first few weeks of the Fall 2020 semester.
Even if recruitment numbers are impacted due to the coronavirus, with many events linked to university enrollment, Greek life remains important, according to Thiedeman.
“Things are so uncertain with COVID-19 of what the fall is going to look like,” she said. “But no matter the number of students in our community, the support is going to continue to be there.”
Recruitment for the Panhellenic Association, which usually occurs before school starts in the fall, is still proceeding as planned with applications opening May 15, Thiedeman said, but the office is constantly updating plans as new information is made available.
“We’re just staying really flexible in preparing,” she said. “We’ve got plans B, C, D, E, F ready to go so that we can make the best decision for our community.”
The National Pan-Hellenic Council and the Multicultural Greek Council recruit during the school year, but many chapters continue to offer recruitment opportunities throughout the year, according to Thiedeman.
Williams said everyone is adapting to a less than ideal situation, but if people continue to do what is asked for them, Greek members will be able to return to their networks and get in touch with each other in no time.
“It’ll be very sweet when we get to be back together on campus and see each other again,” he said. “If we just keep on doing what the authorities ask us, I think that we will be able to enjoy each other’s company soon.”
On the other side of the pandemic, Thiedeman said Greek life will continue to grow and take the community from good to great, despite the current disconnect.
“Things are incredibly uncertain right now, but you can be certain about your membership in your organization,” she said. “You can be certain about those ties that you have and that people are there to support you no matter what.”