Following a week of Texas A&M Panhellenic recruitment events, The Battalion has confirmed at least 10 A&M students in sororities have tested positive for the coronavirus: five in Kappa Alpha Theta, two in Delta Gamma, two in Kappa Kappa Gamma and one in Delta Delta Delta.
These positive cases were reported to members of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority via GroupMe, according to screenshots obtained by The Battalion.
“Howdy, howdy !! Given that other sororities have begun to have members test positive for COVID-19 (Theta: 5, DG: 2, Tri Delt: 1, Kappa: 2), it is all the more important that we be following…,” the screenshot reads before it is cut off.
Gamma Phi Beta President Madi Telschow declined to comment on the message, but A&M Collegiate Panhellenic Council (CPC) President Alexandra Campbell confirmed the reports.
“In response to the messages made about individual sorority members having COVID-19, CPC and the 14 Chapters of this community did adhere to university policy and submitted reported cases to the University immediately by these sorority women,” Campbell said. “These cases were discovered before Bid Day and safety precautions such as quarantining exposed members and tests given to other members of the Chapter were taken. We will continue to advocate and be responsible by ensuring active members can self isolate properly and the university is well informed of the cases in our community.”
When asked how many sorority members were self-quarantining after exposure to a positive case, Campbell declined to comment, citing FERPA regulations.
According to a July 8 press release issued by the Texas A&M CPC, sorority recruitment events were scheduled from Aug. 7 through Aug. 16. The release states that all events aside from Bid Day were to be held virtually through online presentations and Zoom calls.
Bid Day, held for potential new members (PNMs) on Aug. 16, was hosted by individual sorority chapters and was supposed to follow state, local and university health guidelines according to the release.
Instagram tells another story.
Social media posts from members of various sororities show violations of A&M’s mask mandate and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s prohibition of outdoor gatherings of 10 or more people.
According to the A&M Office of the Provost, face coverings must be worn by all individuals on campus or at off-campus activities that are sponsored by A&M or A&M recognized student organizations.
Sororities with members who have posted photos depicting violations of state, local or university health guidelines are: Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Delta Pi, Alpha Omicron Pi, Chi Omega, Delta Delta Delta, Delta Gamma, Delta Zeta, Gamma Phi Beta, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Delta, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Pi Beta Phi and Zeta Tau Alpha.
Only Xi Kappa (the A&M chapter of Chi Omega) and Zeta Tau Alpha applied for approval from the mayor for outdoor gatherings of 10 or more people and both received approval, said Barbara Moore, assistant to the College Station City Manager.
“We ask that all groups applying for approval have outdoor events to adhere to COVID-related safety guidelines and best practices to ensure they are doing all they can to keep their guests safe,” Moore said.
Sorority chapters also created their own guidelines to ensure the health and safety of all current and potential members. Campbell said they fell short of meeting the expectations set by their guidelines.
“Bid Day was intended to be a pre-planned event with firm guidelines that Chapters had to get approved by CPC and reviewed by their staff/faculty advisor,” Campbell said. “The leadership of every Chapter sincerely intended to follow the plans submitted to CPC and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life at Texas A&M University, and although the intentions were good, a shortcoming occurred.”
Campbell cited excitement among members as a reason approved plans were not followed.
“On Bid Day, individual members became excited in welcoming home new members that some of the approved plans were not followed,” Campbell said. “CPC does recognize the shortcoming, and moving forward, we plan to do better with events our community hosts this semester, and beyond.”
When asked if any sorority chapters have had members test positive for COVID-19 since Bid Day, Campbell declined to comment.
In an email sent to student organization leaders and advisors on Aug. 18, Director of Student Activities Christine Gravelle said reports of positive cases of COVID-19 in student organizations are increasing with students’ return to campus, and she reinforced that recognized student organizations are required to follow A&M’s event planning guidelines.
“There is an expectation for all student leaders to work with their respective members to ensure compliance with current university, local, state and federal guidance,” Gravelle said. “If your organization has hosted or intends to host in-person events that fall outside of these guidelines, please adjust your plans accordingly to ensure compliance and to protect the health and safety of all involved.”
Associate Vice President of Marketing and Communication at A&M, Kelly Brown, said student conduct officials are reviewing and investigating reports while communicating with select student organization oversight or umbrella organizations.
Texas A&M leadership has not yet announced any plans to release information regarding increases in COVID-19 cases in the university community. The Battalion has filed an open records request for documentation of all reports submitted to A&M about positive cases among faculty, staff and students.
Hannah Underwood and Meredith Seaver contributed to this article.