Article Originally Published by Samuel Gomez on North Texas Daily
The university has not yet established protocol for students or student organizations that do not abide by safety procedures, but a few students have already started to hang out in groups, despite the pandemic.
Christa Coffey, Director of Student Activities, said the university currently does not have a set of guidelines for meetings and events due to the number of COVID-19 cases in the area. For now, students and organizations are expected to maintain social distancing and forgo meetings.
“I would imagine we won’t learn what rules and guidelines will exist and apply to student orgs until the number of cases starts to decrease,” Coffey said in an email to the North Texas Daily.
Coffey said the university has not yet determined the protocol for students or student organizations that do not abide by safety practices, either on- or off-campus.
“It’s something that still needs to be discussed,” Coffey said.
On July 24, the fraternity Sigma Chi shared a now-deleted photo on Instagram of a group of approximately 40 people, whom appeared in close contact without face coverings in a barge on Lewisville Lake, during an annual “Party Barge” event.
The fraternity faced criticism in comments and tweets for gathering during the pandemic and not showing evidence of following safety precautions as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.
The organization deleted the photo within a few hours of posting, but some students shared screenshots of the post on social media.
The Daily contacted Sigma Chi but did not receive a response to requests for comment.
Trent Harris, the Membership Development Advisor for Phi Sigma Pi who formerly served as its president, said he disproves of organizations holding events such as Sigma Chi’s “Party Barge”.
“As brothers and UNT students, we must set the best example for what people ought to do during the pandemic,” Harris said.
Harris said the fraternity is focusing on holding events virtually for now, since many members live in different cities and are not yet comfortable meeting in person.
He said the fraternity will consider holding in-person events in fall but will be sure to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19.
“We will ensure social distancing, masking most events outdoors, and ensuring all activities lack physical contact,” Harris said. “In-person events inherently carry risk. But if student orgs can’t meet at least those precautions to minimize the risk, then they probably shouldn’t hold the event.”
While the university has not made a statement regarding their course of action if a group of students or an organization meets, other Texas universities have condemned parties both on- and off-campus.
The University of Texas at Austin’s Vice President for Student Affairs, Soncia Reagins-Lilly, issued a statement on the university’s stance on social gatherings.
“While the orders and guidelines continue to evolve, parties (whether on or off campus) put peoples’ health and safety at risk and raise anxiety levels,” Reagins-Lilly said in the statement. “No parties on or off campus are allowed.”
According to the Denton County Public Health’s statistics on COVID-19, the most positive cases in the community come from people between the ages of 20 and 29.
While the university has not developed a procedure to enforce safety protocol for students on campus, Texas has been under Gov. Greg Abbot’s statewide mask mandate since July 2. All counties with more than 20 confirmed COVID-19 cases have required citizens to wear face masks when in public.
According to The Texas Tribune, offenders who violate the mandate are issued a warning. Those who violate the mandate a second time will receive a penalty of up to $250.
Featured Image: The Center for Fraternity and Sorority Life, located at 621 S. Welch St., on July 31, 2020. Image by Samuel Gomez
Source: North Texas Daily