This week, the Wheel reported that a number of first-year students disregarded the Community Compact by frequenting bars and clubs during the fall. However, the Editorial Board also recognizes that the article failed to mention two important groups: off-campus students and Greek life, two groups that are significantly contributing to the transmission of COVID-19 as indicated by the Emory dashboard and three student accounts. The Wheel and the University alike have failed to publicly investigate off-campus gatherings, which irresponsibly creates a blindspot and misrepresents our community’s shortcomings.
Greek life and off-campus students are not required to follow the same weekly testing protocol as on-campus students, yet if they completed the onboarding process, they still have access to campus facilities. By exploiting two major gaps in Emory’s pandemic contingency plan, off-campus parties pose a major risk for the Emory community’s safety and also generate challenges for the administration as it plans to invite more students to live on campus next semester.
Many of the problem stems from off-campus gatherings that blatantly disregard COVID-19 safety protocols. A sophomore, who requested to remain anonymous, recalled a white lies themed event she attended that was organized by Sigma Alpha Mu (Sammy) on the night of Nov. 7. Members from sororities spanning Kappa Kappa Gamma, Alpha Delta Pi, Delta Delta Delta and Kappa Alpha Theta were also in attendance. The Wheel corroborated the source’s account with two other people, who also provided photo evidence.
“There are so many off-campus events unaccounted for and unaddressed,” she said. On the night of the event, she and her friends received a word-of-mouth invitation to a party at Maggie’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill, where masks and social distancing were abandoned at the door. It is an especially alarming report given that secondary and tertiary transmission was more likely after the surge in off-campus COVID-19 cases following the weekend of Halloween. She added that off-campus fraternity events persisted throughout the semester, with members often extending invitations to on-campus students.
While we recognize first-year students have been stripped of their college experience, their actions have put the entire Emory community at risk. By going to off-campus parties, on and off-campus students alike are harming those they come in contact with that don’t have access to routine testing, such as Emory faculty and Campus Services employees. Even if this doesn’t apply to all first-year students, this signals a lack of consciousness and responsibility from those with the privilege of residing on campus.
Simply put, students who attended these unsafe gatherings demonstrate a disconcerting passivity, and their actions beget further negligence within the Emory community. Their apathy will dissolve the framework in which we are attempting to regain semblances of normalcy. All students that have signed the Emory Student Community Compact — first-years, transfers, international students and off-campus students — must recognize their behaviors are endangering vulnerable populations.
The Wheel previously urged the University to take larger steps in response to the rise in COVID-19 cases at Emory and statewide. This upcoming spring, Emory must increase its testing capability to mandate weekly COVID-19 tests for off-campus students, faculty and staff. As cases surge, the University must address an issue that has been continuously brought to their attention.
Indubitably, the Wheel must make sure off-campus events aren’t swept under the rug. By solely reporting on first-year students who broke the community compact — and neglecting Greek life parties and off-campus students — the Wheel failed to cover key groups’ contributions to the increase of COVID-19 cases, thereby enabling off-campus gatherings to continue unscrutinized. Going forward, we urge the Wheel’s news team to not ignore these critical communities and the danger they pose for the Emory community at large.
To those students who have participated and planned off-campus events, it’s time to take responsibility for your actions. College students will be one of the last groups to receive the COVID-19 vaccine; yet, we are also more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors that place others in danger. Such a discrepancy will continue to wreak havoc on our public health standing nationwide and prolong this exhausting quarantine. With COVID-19 cases reaching new records and the holiday season approaching, disillusionment is necessary.
The entire Emory community must remain vigilant about events or groups jeopardizing the safety of our community, and more specifically that of our faculty and staff. These individuals ought to acknowledge their transgressions and set aside childish whims once and for all.
The above editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s Editorial Board. The Editorial Board is composed of Sahar Al-Gazzali, Brammhi Balarajan, Viviana Barreto, Rachel Broun, Kemal Budak, Jake Busch, Sara Khan, Demetrios Mammas, Meredith McKelvey, Sara Perez, Ben Thomas, Leah Woldai and Lynnea Zhang.
Jake Busch is a member of Sigma Alpha Mu and has recused himself from this article.