A University of Colorado Boulder student and fraternity president criticized campus leaders and Boulder County Public Health on Friday for failing to adequately support Greek houses in their coronavirus response.
In a Daily Camera editorial, Chi Psi President Conor Bates-Janigo wrote that he was not given any guidance by CU Boulder or Boulder County Public Health about coronavirus protocols for the 35-person fraternity house until after the semester had already started.
Bates-Janigo, 20, wrote that he created a plan to limit spread in the house by isolating sick members and quarantining those living in the house for two weeks. Chi Psi has had two positive cases this semester.
But despite successfully controlling the spread of coronavirus, Chi Psi was one of 37 properties that must abide by “Stay at Home” restrictions for two weeks under a public health order.
“To ask 18- to 22-year-olds to self-regulate in ways that other populations are not expected to is, at the very least, unfair. If our national, local, and university leaders cannot manage this, expecting a 20-year-old student to manage his peers through a pandemic without the support of BCPH, police, and most importantly CU, is incredibly naive,” Bates-Janigo wrote.
There were no reports of Chi Psi violating public health orders this semester, said Boulder County Public Health spokesperson Chana Goussetis in an email. The last report the county received related to Chi Psi was in June.
Bates-Janigo said there have been no parties or social gatherings at the house this semester.
Boulder Police Department records indicate there was one citation for a noise violation issued at the property since Aug. 1 and one citation for criminal mischief that was not connected to the fraternity. The property is not included in the current list of nuisance abatement properties, spokesperson Shannon Aulabaugh said.
Goussetis acknowledged that public health officials are making a big request in asking specific groups to change their behavior.
“We understand that the limitation on gathering is difficult, especially during an incredibly important social time of life,” Goussetis said in an email. “And we believe young adults have the strength and wisdom to be able to make this temporary change for the greater good. Much like older adults have had to stay indoors for many months, we need young adults to separate for a period in order to keep the whole community safe.”
Bates-Janigo said he’s developed a better working relationship with Boulder County Public Health since the semester began, but is still frustrated by being included in the stay-at-home order. Several members have been unable to go to work as a result. Overall, moonlighting as a quasi-public health official for his fraternity brothers has been overwhelming, he said.
“I’m balancing 18 credits, trying to also manage the 35 guys that live here along with the other 75 that don’t live here, trying to keep them up to date on the new rules coming out on what’s allowed and what’s not allowed. It was very unclear, we’re getting different answers from BCPH, the school and the police on how they’re enforcing it — it was a lot to try to manage without any kind of real assistance until later on,” he said.
Goussetis confirmed that Boulder County Public Health did not do any outreach to the Greek community before the beginning of the semester because of a lack of resources.
Bates-Janigo also stated that no contact tracers worked with the fraternity after two members tested positive early in the semester and no one gave them guidance on quarantining or isolation.
Goussetis said that could be because labs were sending test results to out-of-state addresses associated with patient health insurance. In an email, CU Boulder spokesperson Melanie Marquez Parra said campus contact tracers worked with one person in the Chi Psi house.
Chi Psi is not affiliated with CU Boulder, Parra said, and chapter houses are privately owned and independently operated regardless of university affiliation.
“National organizations are providing guidance for their own membership to ensure they are compliant with their individual insurance policies,” Parra said. “Our Fraternity and Sorority Life office is liaising with Greek houses that are affiliated with campus to ensure proper quarantine/isolation measures are in place and sharing information and resources for testing and medical care.”
Parra also confirmed that CU Boulder and Boulder County Public Health hosted a webinar for Greek organizations on coronavirus safety on Sept. 16.
“Each house was asked to provide a single point of contact, so that Boulder County Public Health could work with each,” she said.
Chi Psi is affiliated with the Interfraternity Council on the Hill, and IFC Greek Advocate Marc Stine said IFC chapters met with every relevant organization — CU Boulder, Boulder County Public Health and city and police officials — to try to determine guidance and rules for fraternity houses, starting at an Aug. 23 all-day retreat. Most of those agencies provided different answers until Boulder County Public Health issued a health order limiting group sizes.
Chi Psi’s national organization advised chapters to abide by state and local requirements, Bates-Janigo said, which seemed to be constantly changing. The university’s response also illustrates an ongoing divide between it and unaffiliated Greek organizations, he said.
“It’s unfortunate that even during the pandemic, they don’t want to bridge that gap for the community as a whole,” he said.