Tents Appear in Fraternity and Sorority Yards as Social Hosting Guidelines Change

Following a weekend of fraternity recruitment on Broad Street, changing guidelines surrounding on-campus social hosting continue to impact how Greek organizations on campus carry out their typical events. As fraternities work with the Colgate administration, most fraternities on campus have coordinated the set-up of event tents in their lawns where social events are currently approved to take place at limited capacities.

To compensate for the inability to host large gatherings inside buildings on campus and on Broad Street, Colgate has resorted to white canvas tents as an alternative. Tents have become common sights across campus for various events from orientation, to class dinners, to homecoming weekend happy hours in order to allow traditionally indoor events to continue outside with increased airflow. For fraternities, these tents allow similar options. 

One of the Phi Delta Theta social chairs, junior Harry Shook, explained how tents became an option for fraternities as social distancing guidelines continued to be reinforced. 

“Before [Colgate] put the tent up, there was no possibility for any registered events indoors. The school worked with us and the other fraternities to come up with a way for us to still have planned and registered events, while still working under the school’s COVID[-19] protocols,” Shook said. 

Now, the five fraternity organizations on campus are permitted to host their typical events in four-hour time slots and convene in a provided tent outside their respective residences on Broad Street. Each fraternity is allotted three of these registered events per week assuming that they follow the guidelines. According to the social chair of Phi Kappa Tau and junior Daniel Bettino, Campus Safety conducts walkthroughs twice within the four-hour-long event and mandates a strict shutdown of events at 12 a.m. when the hosting fraternity’s sound permit expires.

“Generally, [Campus Safety] just wants to make sure that there aren’t any serious hazards in the tent or things like too much alcohol. We’re still in charge of enforcing that only those over 21 can drink, and we get wristbands that we give out to those of age when they come to the party. Everyone is expected to have a mask on their person and is told to be wearing them while they aren’t actively eating or drinking,” Bettino said.

Due to events being held outside, fraternity social chairs are required to obtain a sound permit filled out by the Village of Hamilton that allows for noise up to a limit of 80 decibels from Broad Street. This permit, per guidelines of all events in Hamilton, expires at 11:59 p.m.

Although hosting their parties in tents may not feel exactly like what fraternities had hoped for this year, having this option allows returning and potential new members of Greek life to meet in person, rather than resorting to a hybrid or online format as they were forced to do in 2020. Bettino believes that the tent arrangements between fraternal organizations and Colgate have been, for the most part, successful. 

“Having each party in a tent in our parking lot definitely isn’t ideal, but I think everyone is just pretty excited that we can finally host events at our house again. It’s been a big adjustment, as it’s a completely new space, but I don’t feel like the rules are too crazy or restrictive […] I’m really happy that it seems like things are moving towards going back to normal, because with essentially a completely vaccinated student body, I really do think we can have social events in a safe environment,” Bettino said. 

However, Bettino explained that the Colgate administration has not been explicit about exactly which guidelines fraternities must follow and how the situation may change in the coming months.

“I will say that the rules on what we can and cannot do haven’t been perfectly communicated, but, for the time being, I think most people understand that this is the best and most sustainable option. Everyone’s hoping that when [the weather turns cold] we’ll be able to move events back inside, but there hasn’t been any concrete communication about that […] pretty soon it seems like a decision is going to have to be made on what the second half of the semester is going to look like,” Bettino said. 

Junior Cecilia Senyk expressed confusion over the restrictions, stating that the University’s COVID-19 rules have been inconsistent.

“Tents provide a new and interesting party location, however, the confusing and inconsistent rhetoric surrounding COVID-19 concerns and requirements on campus make the [tents] seem not necessary,” Senyk said.

For the current time, however, as weather permits outdoor gatherings, fraternities have begun to throw their first registered events since before the pandemic. After his organization hosted their first event last weekend, Shook expressed that, in general, the public sentiments about the new health guidelines for fraternities are positive. 

“At first people didn’t really know what to expect, but after this weekend I think (for the most part) people feel pretty good about them… overall I think the tents will serve their purpose,” Shook said. 

Four out of five of Colgate’s fraternities have tents in their rear yards or parking lots to supplement social gatherings at their chapter houses. These tents have been in place for over one week, and with sorority recruitment approaching, many of the same tents are appearing in the yards of their Broad Street houses. Sorority recruitment will begin on Thursday, Sept. 30 and conclude on Sunday, Oct 3.

Sorority recruitment events will occur in these tents for at least the first two days of recruitment, eventually moving inside at limited capacities later in the rush process.

Assuming Colgate’s COVID-19 cases stay at a minimal number, organizations can expect guidelines to continue to change regarding social hosting spaces.