The Elon University chapter of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority is on disciplinary probation after they were found responsible for holding “mini-formals” during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a student conduct report obtained by Elon News Network.
Alpha Chi Omega was found responsible for “Failure to Comply with the Directive of a University Official,” “Behavior that Endangers the Health and Safety of Self and/or Others” and “University Policies Governing Student Organizations.”
Organizations are generally found responsible for their actions through a “mutual agreement” based on the “preponderance of evidence standard,” according to the conduct report dated June 10, 2020.
The mini-formals, held around May 2, 2020, occurred during an executive stay-at-home order in North Carolina to combat the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, the order prohibited public and private gatherings over 10 people.
“The organization participated in events and behaviors that could increase the spread of the coronavirus and impact the health and safety of individuals and the community,” the conduct report said.
The university received a Student Conduct Incident Report about an alleged violation of the Code of Conduct by “members of a student organization,” according to Elon University News Bureau Director Owen Covington.
The initial report said that “the gatherings occurred at times when sisters returned to the Elon area for moving out of their respective residences” and the members “did not adhere to social distancing guidelines,” according to the conduct report.
“I attended a mini-formal myself,” Alpha Chi Omega Elon Chapter President Rachel Cifarelli said in an email addressed to members, obtained by ENN. “Looking back, I should not have, and that’s on me. But looking forward, I know better now. You all must know this too.”
The organization will be on disciplinary probation throughout the fall semester until Dec. 4, 2020. Under disciplinary probation, students and their organization can remain on campus, attend class and participate in activities “outlined by the Office of Student Involvement.” However, the organization “is not considered in good standing with the University,” according to the conduct report.
If the sorority violates the Code of Conduct in the future, it “may result in more severe outcomes, including the possibility of suspension or permanent separation from Elon University,” according to the conduct report.
“I need you to understand the severity of this situation,” Cifarelli said in her email. “Especially with the new coronavirus restrictions in place for the fall, we need to ensure we’re following the rules and actively working to keep our community and each other safe. We want to be done with this probation on December 4, and the only way to do that is to keep each other accountable.”
Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Jana Lynn Patterson said a safe return to campus “will require dedicated efforts” from the campus community.
“It is incumbent upon our student organizations to be leaders in promoting safe and healthy practices on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Patterson said in a statement to Elon News Network. “We expect student leaders to be models when it comes to wearing masks, maintaining physical distance and gathering safely. We will continue to hold members of our community, including student organizations, accountable for supporting a safe and healthy Elon.”
When asked if student organizations should expect similar repercussions for gatherings in the fall, Covington said organizations need to recognize the importance of guidelines and physical distancing.
“Members of our community should expect that university, local and statewide directives related to health and safety will be enforced,” Covington added.
In addition to their disciplinary probation, the chapter will also undergo a discussion and reflection designed to review values, decisions and future adherence to the University’s “Ready & Resilient Fall 2020” reopening plan. The chapter will be required to go through education and outreach to inform “primarily student organizations and sororities” about the University’s plans.
Associate Director of Student Involvement Jordan King said his office will work with any organization found responsible to complete a developmental action plan.
“We will continue our philanthropic efforts and strengthening our sisterhood while abiding by the state and university guidelines, as all Panhellenic [organizations] plan to once we return for the fall semester,” Cifarelli told Elon News Network.
The charges come as the university plans to welcome students back to campus in the fall.
“Students, as much as you would want to get together and party, that would be irresponsible,” Elon University President Connie Book said in a recent video. “It’s just not worth the risk.”
Covington said The Office of Student Involvement is working on a communications plan for all student organizations for the fall. This will include information regarding “restrictions on large gatherings and steps organizations should take to encourage and enforce physical distancing practices.”
During the last school year, two Elon fraternities had their national organizations revoke its charter. In September 2019, Kappa Sigma International revoked its Elon chapter and in March 2020 the National Council of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity revoked the campus’s associate chapter status.