COVID-19 has changed the entire world in more ways than one.
For college students this year, one of the biggest impacts of the pandemic will be regarding school policies, including those pertaining to Greek life and activities.
Because some universities may try to impose restrictions, students may find themselves accidentally violating those restrictions without realizing it.
It’s important to understand how college policies may affect Greek life during COVID-19 in case you’re ever charged with violating a new rule or policy.
How Fraternities and Sororities Are Affected By COVID-19 Preventative Measures
Traditionally, Greek organizations have been hubs for social activity and enrichment for universities.
But Greek-hosted events, and the parties that these organizations’ members frequently hold, are thought to be potential hotbeds for COVID-19 transmission.
Thus, fraternities and sororities are now often being ordered to either host events differently than before or cancel plans to host future events to protect universities’ student and faculty populations.
Further complicating matters, a number of Greek organizations have ostensibly led to COVID-19 outbreaks at their associated universities.
For instance, the University of Washington recently experienced an outbreak where at least 136 students tested positive for COVID-19 as a result of those students living in and participating in events at fraternity houses.
Can Schools Discipline Greek Organizations?
Universities may attempt to stop COVID-19 spreading by preventing Greek organizations from holding any of the following social gatherings:
- Study groups
- Social events
- Job fairs
- Other gatherings
Schools may also implement additional pandemic safety policies.
However, whether or not a university can actually enforce those policies is up for debate and depends on additional factors.
Public or Private
Generally speaking, private universities have greater authority to discipline their students compared to public universities.
Many private universities require students to sign behavioral contracts in addition to other agreements.
Furthermore, private universities are not always required to prosecute students with the same requirements for due process as their public counterparts.
Public universities, however, are subject to due process in most circumstances and may share the responsibility for enforcing or punishing rule infractions with their hosting city.
On or Off-Campus
Whether a fraternity or sorority building is on or off campus can also affect university policy enforcement. On-campus buildings are much more susceptible to university enforcement since the potential danger of a rule infraction can reasonably affect other students and/or teachers. Such buildings usually fall under the university’s jurisdiction.
On the other hand, universities may find that they have limited authority to discipline students or Greek organizations for behavior or rule infractions if that behavior takes place off-campus.
Thus, students worried about whether or not they’ll face disciplinary charges for behavior need to consider whether their university’s threat is legitimate. Student conduct and defense attorneys can help identify the issue one way or the other.
Things become trickier for universities that attempt to implement strict college policies on Greek organizations during COVID-19 due to matters of practical enforcement.
Any school or administrator will need to:
- Learn about a violation happening in the first place
- Determine who organized the violating event or how the event was organized
- Find out who was present for the event
- Determine exactly what rule infractions took place
All of this may be next to impossible, even if the university makes several threats or demands. With the help of an experienced student defense attorney, students may be able to provide reasonable doubt as to their rule-breaking if sufficient evidence is not secured by a university’s prosecution team.
Contact Student Defense Attorneys Today
Any student facing the possibility of expulsion, suspension, or any other penalty for breaking a COVID-19-related rule should contact DC Student Defense. Your options are far from limited, and we can help protect your name at your school and assist you when navigating any disciplinary hearings or proceedings. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.
These materials have been prepared by Cohen Seglias for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.