Greek Life Finds the Positive Amid Pandemic

Greek life organizations find some silver linings to the challenges brought by the pandemic.

By C. Aileen Blaine

Active in-person involvements used to be the hallmark of Greek life organizations, but leading brothers and sisters had to think outside the box to maintain safety during the pandemic. 

Ian Ward, a junior biology major, is the vice president of finance and administration for YSU’s interfraternity council. He said the pandemic greatly impacts many aspects of Greek life participation, from recruitment and fundraising to engagement with philanthropic causes.

“Some chapters have almost no hope of raising money for their philanthropy. They have turned their efforts into raising money for other charitable organizations, like our local Guinathon on campus. It hasn’t been easy, but everyone is doing a great job,” Ward said.

Prior to March 2020, Greek life organizations held many in-person events. These included fraternity and sorority mixers, restaurant takeovers and Greek competitions and intramurals. But now, mixers are limited to online meetings and many restaurants can’t accept organization takeovers. In-person competitions and sports are limited to a small number of participants, and there are restrictions on what activities can take place.

Judin Balella, a business administration marketing junior, is president of Pi Sigma Epsilon, a marketing and sales co-ed fraternity.

When campus shut down in March 2020, Balella decided to place PSE on a hiatus from meetings for the remainder of the semester because he wanted members to put family, schoolwork and other obligations first. 

Balella said one of the biggest differences now is how PSE conducts fundraisers. 

“The product is the same, from restaurants to food and so on. But the way we deliver — the delivery system — is different. Now, we’re trying to focus on online as much as we can,” Balella said.

Before, PSE often used in-person interactions, such as recruitment tables in Kilcawley Center or Williamson Hall, to raise funds. Now, online PDF flyers and QR codes replace the in-person events. But Balella remains hopeful for the organization.

Despite the challenges the pandemic brings, Balella said he thinks it helped the organization establish a stronger online presence with virtual meetings so members can participate even if they’re not on campus.

Erin Urbaniak, the vice president of Panhellenic Council recruitment and a human resources and management sophomore, is a member of Zeta Tau Alpha. 

ZTA’s philanthropy month takes place during October, where the organization holds a large event called Pink Out to raise money for breast cancer education and awareness. However, the organization had to host several smaller fundraisers, such as restaurant flyers and online bracelet sales, to take Pink Out’s place.

However, Urbaniak said the pandemic provides the opportunity for closer relationships with her Greek sisters.

“We have more time, now that everything’s online,” Urbaniak said. “We have more time with each other at meetings, rather than everybody just running around and just staying in their cliques and everything.”

The organization saw fewer new members in fall 2020 compared to the previous year, but Urbaniak remains hopeful for the organization’s future.

“We’re still trying to do fun things on campus,” she said. “So even though it looks different, the experience that comes with it, I honestly think is a little better. It’s a little more enhanced.”

Ward also remains optimistic for the present and future of Greek organizations due to the connection members have to each other.

“Students in Greek life, although they may be isolated, don’t ever have to feel like they are alone,” Ward said. “It’s certainly a huge advantage right now to lean on someone when your mental or physical health is suffering, and you always have that reassurance with a fraternity or sorority.”