COVID-19 Planning

THRIVE: CREATING AN ENVIRONMENT FOR FRATERNITIES TO EMERGE STRONGER AFTER COVID-19

Fraternal Think Tank Recommendations

These recommendations are based on discussions with industry experts and are intended to guide fraternities as they prepare for the 2020-21 academic year. The Fraternal Think Tank encourages reviewing the accompanying resources including watching expert discussions for more in-depth advice.

Prepare: Be overly prepared so you are not overwhelmed

  1. Fraternities and chapters should work with their stakeholders to develop and communicate their COVID-19 prevention and response plans as soon as possible.
  2. Students should adhere to all federal, state and local laws as it relates to COVID-19 for their welfare and that of their community. To help with this important task, host institutions, inter/national organizations and local volunteers should continually coach and work with students on how they can best operate within these new expectations.

People: Focus on your membership

  1. Research has proven that close friendships such as fraternal brotherhood minimize mental health concerns and maximize persistence to college graduation. Thus, all student interaction that adheres to COVID-19 guidance should be encouraged. The Think Tank prepared a planning checklist to help students prepare for how they might operate under various scenarios.
  2. Now more than ever, fraternities play a pivotal role in helping campuses retain their current and incoming students. To address student retention, mental health and ensure vibrant membership experiences—which have been deeply impacted this spring—Interfraternity Councils and campuses should remove all barriers to men joining, including deferred recruitment, for the 2020-2021 academic year.

College Affordability: Help students stay in school

  1. Students face unprecedented financial strain and need the support of their fraternity’s brotherhood to help them navigate this challenging period. Fraternities should be prepared to work with student members to ensure member retention and membership continuity, while continuing to provide services essential to a vibrant membership experience.
  2. Now is the time for maximum value from the college and fraternity experience. Campuses should not pass on their revenue shortfalls to students by assessing new or higher fraternity user fees.
  3. The NIC will continue to advocate for frontline jobs that support fraternities, increased alumni support opportunities and student loan forbearance.

Watch, Review, Discuss Check List

Is your fraternity/interfraternity council prepared to manage through a public health pandemic? Develop your plan early. The following topics have been assembled to initiate planning discussions among inter/national fraternity headquarters, chapters, advisors, housing corporations, interfraternity councils and vendors.

 

Public Health Discussion

  • Any gathering over 10 people will be a risk this fall, including philanthropy, meetings, parties. No big gatherings in June. July is questionable.
  • Must have a way to isolate and treat students who get sick when they return to campus. Encourage students to report if they are feeling unwell and not be scared of the stigma.
  • How can we establish a culture of hand washing in our chapters? Students will need access to supplies, processes for facility cleaning, commitment to offering hand sanitizer stations.

Government Guidance

Government Guidance

Review federal, state and local guidance as it relates to COVID-19 and then communicate to the members how these guidelines will impact their fraternal experience.

Individuals’ Health

Individuals’ Health

What level of monitoring is appropriate:

  • Review the feasibility of doing temperature checks before major gatherings.
  • Review with campus health center the campus’ COVID-19 testing procedures. Consider how to communicate this information to the chapter.
  • Review the feasibility of daily temperature check or sample of at least 20% of residents and members. Consider requiring a temperature check for all guests.

Housing/Facilities Discussion

  • Budget for additional operations funds for cleaning and related services.
  • Consider health screenings for employees and staffing needs. How can you help team members avoid getting sick?

Facility

Facility

Considerations for your house or facility:

  • Review a process for determining who should be permitted in the chapter facility? Residents? Staff? Chapter Members? Guests?
  • Purchase hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies well in advance of academic year.
  • Develop a process for daily disinfecting of chapter facility.
  • In advance, secure isolation room(s) in chapter facility if not provided by campus.

Meal Prep

Meal Prep

Consider how best to safely serve meals:

  • If social distancing is still in effect, place 6 foot markers in the serving area for proper distancing while waiting in line for meals.
  • Install sneeze guards in all serving areas if they do not already exist.
  • If utilizing a buffet line, staff should serve – no “help yourself.”
  • Consider all meals served preset (disposable containers and utensils not required).
  • Consider all meals served in disposable containers and utensils.
  • Treat the kitchen like a quarantine zone. Keep the foot traffic to only the people that have to be in day in and out (if applicable, staff only – no guests or residents).

Recruitment Discussion

  • Building interpersonal relationships can be challenging over video and phone.
  • Shifted focus on social media and video calls after major summer events already canceled.
  • Financial strain on families is a concern and affordability of fraternity membership.
  • Establish regular touch points with new members, particularly at new colonies.
  • Also, Phil Rodriguez, CEO of Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity, discusses online initiations starting at time: 14:29

Chapter Operations & Recruitment Discussion

Key Points:

Chapter Ops

  • Form new committees and expand number of brothers in volunteer roles to increase engagement
  • Strategic planning for maintaining brotherhood in various scenarios (limitations on group sizes, how to bond online, what if some live in the house and some don’t)
  • Restructure study groups and academic support systems to virtual
  • Start to plan now for fall philanthropy events, especially if transitioning to online

Recruitment

  • Expand size of recruitment committee and ensure it has tools to take action
  • Create strong presence for your chapter through campus communication channels and social media
  • High school seniors are less busy than normal right now since major events like prom and graduation are canceled, so they’re looking ahead to fall and excited to think about university experiences

Recruitment

Recruitment

With expected declines, recruitment will be key:

  • Ensure recruitment activities align with gathering guidance issued by governmental entities.
  • Ensure the chapter has a plan to recruit their brothers back and incoming students to campus. The plan should focus on proactive recruitment which should start before the academic year.
  • Review the chapter’s social media and web platforms to ensure they are focused on engagement with potential new members.

Technology & Virtual Experience Discussion

  • Recognize that students are more comfortable with technology than organizations are.
  • Provide tools for chapters to continue operations, philanthropy and service.
  • Shorter is better, students will not be willing to sit through long virtual experiences.
  • Find ways to retain personal touch or students won’t connect well.

Student Life Discussion

  • Major changes are coming for Fraternity/Sorority Life. Fraternities need to have hard conversations going into fall.
  • How can fraternities support campuses as they deal with sick students? Connections with health departments and residence life will become critical.
  • Modify protocols from past situations (Example: Mumps cases).
  • Prepare to coach students who are unwilling to follow protocols.

Collegiate Athletics & Campus Life

  • Expect delays and changes, particularly with football season and tailgate culture.
  • How can fraternities get a seat at the table to reiterate the importance of our role as a retention tool for the athletics department?

Gatherings

Gatherings
  • Develop a plan for gatherings which aligns with federal, state and local guidance.
  • Decide if gatherings should be held outside of chapter facility with local social distancing guidelines – with or without guests.
  • Ensure hand sanitizer is readily available upon entry of gatherings.

Communications

Communications

Early, clear communication is important:

  • Develop a plan to communicate with members, parents and campus administration.
  • If you have member(s) exposed to COVID-19 or a confirmed case, have a plan for communicating to members, parents, campus administration and inter/national headquarters.
  • Review with your intern/national organization their crisis management communication plan.

Chapter/Council Finances

Chapter/Council Finances

Your budget will be impacted:

  • Develop budget scenarios based on your campuses plan for the 2020-21 academic year that maximizes membership while providing essential services.

Financial Operations Discussion

  • Reconfirm good cash management and fraud protection practices with chapters.
  • Be working on budget scenarios at the headquarters level now and how you can manage decreases in revenues.
  • House corporations should proactively communicate with their lenders before there are problems.
  • Do you have a plan to apply for SBA loans?

Legal Affairs Discussion

  • It is key to educate and help chapters stay informed of applicable shelter in place and social distancing orders.
  • One important issue is monitoring for consistent application of public health orders/guidance across campuses. The government does have the authority to restrict constitutional rights, such as the freedom of association, in the context of a national emergency, but this authority is not limitless. New university policies and guidance should be neutral with respect to different types of organizations.
  • We should anticipate that neutral policies, consistently applied, will receive great deference from a court. It is important to note that private schools will have broader flexibility to implement policies they see fit. Chapter officers need to be cognizant of both civil and criminal liability if these policies are violated.
  • Virtual recruitment and meetings likely comply with the existing orders. Planning for start and stop scenarios is key as there could be more flareups of the virus.
  • Regarding Force Majeure provisions, the language of the contract is key. Be sure to comply with any required notice provision.
  • Houses with food service should take a close look at how that is addressed in leases.
  • Chapters should have policies and protocols in place for how to address a positive diagnosis within its membership, especially if that person lives in a chapter facility.
  • If your entity is involved in pending litigation, you should be pursuing early resolution.

Fundraising Discussion

  • Keep fundraising despite the temptation to stop. Focus on stewardship.
  • Use this time to invest in connecting with your alumni and recruiting volunteers.

Enrollment/Admissions Discussion

  • May 1 national deadline will provide best data. (Some campuses may delay deadline.)
  • Decline in returning students is likely, just not sure how steep.
  • Decline in new students very unsure still.
  • Parents have the biggest the influence in enrollment.