Greek life adapts to COVID-19

Hannah Hippensteel, features reporter

COVID-19 has changed how every part of campus runs, and Winona State University fraternities and sororities are no exception. 

Social and philanthropic efforts, as well as general management of Winona State’s sororities and fraternities has transformed according to representatives from different campus organizations.

Lindsay Marosi-Kramer, assistant director of student activities for greek life & leadership, spoke to her experience overseeing the organizations throughout COVID-19. 

“These students are so resilient and thoughtful in how they work on community give-back and staying engaged. They’re choosing to try; right now, that’s a big effort during a tough time,” Marosi-Kramer said.

President of Delta Phi Epsilon, third year business administration and pre-law double major Madison Olsen explained the differences in formal and informal recruiting. 

“Informal recruitment is more laidback. It also gives freshmen a chance to adjust to college life,” Olsen said.

The theme for DPHIE’s informal recruitment for spring semester is “Sweet As Can Be, We Are DPHIE.”

The theme was decided in part by Cheyanne Luckhardt, the continuous open bidding (COB) chair for the sorority.

Kayln Sheak-Blair, a term two nursing student and DPHIE’s vice president of recruitment explained the relationship between the event theme and the sorority’s values.

“Bees have their colonies and they come together as one to create honey. We come together as one to put on our events,” Sheak-Blair said.

Sheak-Blair also wanted to incorporate the sorority’s flower, which is the purple iris.

As part of informal recruitment, Olsen explained  event attendees have more freedom when it comes to deciding which sorority events they’d like to attend, in comparison to mandatory recruitment events in fall semester.

Olsen served with panhellenic in fall 2020 and noticed the rise in COVID cases for Southern sororities from recruitment events. 

As a result, Olsen said she worked to plan events that adhered to the COVID guidelines for spring’s informal events.

“We took a lot of caution. In the fall, we went ahead and did a partially structured recruitment that was completely virtual on Zoom,” Olsen said.

Olsen said she received positive feedback, despite the switch from the traditional recruitment and bidding process.

The sorority held two in-person events for spring recruitment in what Sheak-Blair called “picnic-style” discussion to promote effective distancing while interacting with potential new members, including hybridized components to stay accessible to all

In other shifts the sorority has faced, DPHIE shifted their typical tie-blanket making philanthropy event, which donates blankets to hospitals, into a food drive.

Weekly chapter meetings are also held virtually.

Although the pandemic has challenged the way DPHIE has recruited, Olsen mentioned her goals for the members have remained the same.

“I want everyone to feel supported and that there’s always someone there for them in the tough times,” Olsen said.

Second year HR management major Dominic Tovsen is the president of Sigma Tau Gamma. 

He previously served as the philanthropy, community service, and social media chair.

He was introduced to the idea of Greek life at Winona State by his orientation leader. 

Tovsen mentioned that he is a part of the LGBTQ+ community, which was a source of apprehension in joining Greek life. 

“Originally, I wanted nothing to do with Greek life,” Tovsen said.

However, after talking with the brothers of Sigma Tau Gamma during a club fair and playing volleyball with them, Tovsen decided to join.

“They’re a great group of guys,” Tovsen said.

Despite difficulties to make in-person connections, Tovsen said the other members are undeterred.

“It’s really good to see Greek life coming back to life because last year, we struggled a bit,” Tovsen said.

Tovsen also said the fraternity  used the quarantine period in January to plan and gather ideas.

For Tovsen, the meaning of his fraternity amid the pandemic is unchanged.

“It’s a friendship that lasts forever. It’s really cool to see friendships that grow from nothing into supporting each other in whatever we do,” Tovsen said.

Marosi-Kramer has also seen the Zoom medium as one of the biggest shifts in how Greek life operates.

She also talked about how Greek life is a lifelong commitment and her hopes that people who express interest find where they really click.

Although Zoom can pose challenges for meaningful connections, Marosi-Kramer described the engagement with Greek life members as “creative.”

As restrictions slowly lift and smaller group meetings are permitted, Marosi-Kramer mentioned the happiness she sees when Greek life members get to see each other face-to-face.

“These people who are committed to these organizations are now truly committed. It’s work to maintain the friendships, but that’s been an unintentional positive,” Marosi-Kramer said.