College Coronavirus Outbreaks Linked to Greek Life

Frats are still doing their thing, and so is coronavirus

uc berkeley fraternities
A fraternity house at UC Berkeley, which has seen nearly 47 coronavirus cases linked to Greek life.
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Unsurprisingly, it would seem that college students — a population of young people never particularly well known for their devoted rule-abiding ways — are continuing to do pretty much whatever they want on the many campuses around the country that have recently begun welcoming them back, pandemic or no pandemic.

Among fraternities and sororities, specifically, that seems to involve plenty of regularly scheduled partying. As one University of North Carolina student told the New York Times, “The frats are being frats: They are having their parties.”

As a result, many Greek life-heavy campuses are already seeing an uptick in coronavirus cases. According to the Times, at least 251 cases of the virus around the country can be tied to fraternities and sororities. Notable outbreaks linked to Greek life include 47 cases identified in a single week in early July at the University of California, Berkeley; at least 165 of the 290 cases identified at the University of Washington’s Seattle campus, as well as a “significant outbreak” in Oxford, Mississippi, where the state’s flagship university is located.

Unfortunately, while colleges and universities may have some protocols in place to limit the spread of the virus on campus, there’s little they can do to enforce those policies within Greek life communities, whose houses are not typically owned or governed by universities.

“Fraternity and sorority homes have long functioned as a kind of ‘no-fly zone’ for university administrations,” said University of Connecticut sociology professor Matthew W. Hughey. “The structure that’s already been set up makes them harder to control when it comes to the transmission of disease.”

In the past, this structure has also been partly to blame for other poorly regulated aspects of Greek life that tend to reflect badly on frats and sororities, such as rampant hazing, underage drinking and sexual assault. Time to add coronavirus to the list.

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