Courtesy of Cornell University

After the recruitment process, fraternities face investigations for reported COVID violations and covert in-person rush events.

February 26, 2021

Two Fraternities Under Investigation for Allegedly Violating Behavioral Compact

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Much of this semester’s fraternity recruitment happened through online presentations, remote game nights and Zoom breakout rooms. However, some houses may have violated the behavioral compact, and are currently under investigation.

Two fraternity houses are under Sorority and Fraternity Organizational Misconduct investigation for breaking behavioral compact rules, according to an email sent to the Interfraternity Council Listserv by the incoming and outgoing Interfraternity Council presidents, Max Trauring ’22 and Terence Burke ’21. 

Social fraternities have largely finalized their spring classes — most new members have signed their bids. While some fraternities are under investigation for potential in-person recruitment events, 480 applicants registered for fraternity recruitment according to Kara Miller, director of sorority and fraternity life, an increase from 468 last year’s spring semester. 

Only 284 people have both received and accepted a bid so far, according to Trauring. This may be because many potential new members forgot to register on time, Trauring said, making them ineligible for formal recruitment but can still participate in continuous open bidding.  

“I know it is the mindset of some that they can not follow the compact so long as there is no proof or repercussions of it, and that they will be fine,” Trauring and Burke wrote to the listserve. “However, we have been following up on reports of members breaking the compact and currently have 2 chapters involved in SFOM processes due to such allegations.”

While Trauring and Burke declined to comment on the proceedings because the investigations are ongoing, they confirmed that they are not aware of any COVID-19 clusters linked to the fraternity recruitment process. John Carberry, senior director of media relations and news for Cornell, also stated that outcomes are not disclosed until the judicial process is over.

The virtual recruitment process started Feb. 15, delayed six days in part due to rising campus COVID-19 cases, many of which originated within Greek life. 

“We had chapters dealing with isolation protocols,” Burke said on Feb. 12. “We wanted to make sure that everyone could focus on public health first, and then recruitment later.” 

A fraternity member who wished to remain unnamed to avoid involvement in University investigations, confirmed that in-person events at some chapters included house parties and dinners at local restaurants. He believes that some fraternities felt that keeping all of their recruitment events virtual would make it too difficult to fully understand how potential new members might behave at parties.

“When you’re bidding someone and you’re bringing them into your building, you’re also accepting all their insurance and all of the liability for them,” the student said. “It’s hard to take kids when you haven’t seen them drinking before, you haven’t seen them around women before. Those are some real concerns.”

Meanwhile, other fraternity members disagreed over whether they could get to know potential new members well over Zoom. Everest Yan ’22, president of Phi Delta Theta, said during his fraternity’s online recruitment process, he was pleasantly surprised by how well he got to know potential new members.

The first few days of recruitment included a Zoom presentation and virtual open houses. Potential new members moved between Zoom breakout rooms hosted by different fraternities, getting to know the houses before invitation-only events. Bids were distributed on Sunday, and potential new members then had three days to confirm which fraternity they wanted to join.

Some fraternities that followed the COVID-19 guidelines found creative ways to get to know potential new members. Connor Tamor ’22, president of Alpha Zeta, said his chapter’s virtual recruitment process included a virtual paint and sip night and an online escape room. 

Yan speculated that campus life, made even more isolating through COVID-19 restrictions, may have pushed some first-year students to join fraternities.

“With incoming freshmen who have had their entire college experience online and have been very restricted on campus experiences they’ve been able to have, they really wanted the social, tight-knit community of Greek life,” Yan said.

Even while the two fraternities face investigation, many have adapted to this virtual recruitment and are taking the behavioral compact seriously. According to Burke, fraternities that hold in-person gatherings and break public health guidelines may face serious consequences, potentially including losing recruitment privileges and their recognized status on campus.

“I think fraternities understand the gravity of the situation, so no one said that this [these consequences] are unreasonable,” Burke said. “It’s a pandemic, people don’t need to be gathering.”