A police report states that more than 50 people were at the unsanctioned, on-campus parties, calling into question not merely the usual concerns about safety and underage drinking, but also the risk of spreading COVID-19 as the virus' Delta variant rages across Florida and the U.S. And it comes as students fully return to in-person classes for the first time since the onset of the pandemic.
When approached by the officers, the 20-year-old presidents of the two fraternities, Sigma Chi's Noah Burstyn and Sigma Alpha Epsilon's Marc Chodos, admitted to holding the parties without prior approval from the university and claimed they didn't know the proper procedures. Police shut down the gatherings.
"Both presidents also indicated that they didn't think it would get out of hand," the report states.
When asked to clarify its COVID-19 policy as it relates to Greek life and whether the fraternities were disciplined for their behavior, the university declined to comment to New Times.
"Any reports or allegations the Dean of Students Office receives are investigated, and if it is determined policies have been broken, students and/or student organizations are held accountable," Megan Ondrizek, UM's executive director of communications and public relations writes via email.
Reached by New Times, Burstyn declined to comment on the matter. Chodos didn't respond to a request for comment.
As of May 26, fully vaccinated and asymptomatic faculty, staff, and students are not required to mask up in administrative areas of the university's campus and students no longer need to complete the daily symptom checker to enter university buildings. Still, masks are required in classrooms and public spaces regardless of vaccination status.
Since August 15, nearly 300 students have tested positive for COVID-19, according to UM's COVID-19 dashboard. The dashboard shows a spike in cases toward the beginning of September.
On-campus parties at a designated frat house must be registered, which includes a requirement that IDs are checked to guard against underage drinking, that no liquor is served, and that a graduate staff member is on hand to chaperone.
After an unregistered Sigma Chi party in December 2010, 19-year-old Sigma Chi brother and UM sophomore Taylor William Emmons was fatally struck by an SUV on San Amaro Drive.
Unregistered parties can be grounds for either the university or the national organization to revoke or suspend a fraternity's charter.
The Miami Hurricane reported last September that UM fraternities were continuing to throw parties despite university rules banning large social gatherings. Sources who attended the parties or viewed clips of them on social media described seeing dozens of maskless students crammed inside frat houses.
When none of the Greek organizations involved were disciplined or shut down at the time, some students alleged a disparity between the school's treatment fraternity members and its treatment of the rest of the student body.
"Frats never get in trouble, it’s messed up," an unnamed sorority member told a columnist with the student paper, the Miami Hurricane, last year. "They just get way too many probation periods."
Sigma Chi was suspended for part of the fall 2020 semester for hosting parties in violation of the university's COVID-19 policies, then brought back in the spring semester "in good standing", only to be suspended in late March, again for COVID-19 violations.
"These frats are basically immune to getting kicked off of campus because of their history and alumni donations," an unnamed junior told the Hurricane. "Mid-tier frats aren’t throwing parties because they know they aren’t invincible and would get kicked off immediately."
Still, some UM students say it's unfair to blame the fraternities for throwing gatherings during a pandemic when the university is hosting large sporting events packed with maskless people.
"If the school can do a football game and there be at least 10,000 people attending," Katerina Romanach, a 19-year-old sophomore studying psychology, tells New Times, "fraternities shouldn't really be getting as much hate."