On Friday, Oct. 2, several members of the Beta Theta Pi (Beta) fraternity hosted a large party at the privately owned Beta Temple, leading to the organization’s interim suspension. This suspension comes amid general concerns about on-campus parties that violate COVID-19 protocols.
President of Beta Theta Pi Michael Picone ’21 said that about 30 people were present at the peak of the event, though Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Harper Bonham ’92 suggested there were more. “The estimates from the Campus Safety report were somewhere around 50 to 60,” she said.
Dean of Campus Life Laura Kane, who is handling the investigation, described the suspension as a pause intended to “ensure that anything like the reported information from the Beta Temple would not happen again.” It will remain in effect while the organization is under investigation.
Picone described the incident as a planned event which quickly got out of control. “The gathering was supposed to be a bonfire with just a small group that grew into something bigger unintentionally,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian. Picone also added that “members were wearing masks, especially when people who were not supposed to be there had shown up,” and that Beta members had tried to keep people from entering the building.
Speaking about the investigation process, Greek Council President James Loveland ’22 said that this was not necessarily a Beta-affiliated event, but rather an event hosted by a few members of the organization. “I expect that [the investigation] will go pretty quickly, just because it seems relatively straightforward,” he said.
In addition to undergoing the College’s Student Conduct process, the chapter was reported to their national fraternity organization, from which they could face additional consequences.
Unfortunately, this gathering is not an unusual instance of partying on college campuses during a pandemic. Since late July, 130,000 positive COVID-19 cases have been traced to colleges, according to the New York Times, 42,000 of which were reported since September.
Although this case of partying among the Betas is not unique in comparison to other campuses, this is not the first time that the Betas in particular have been under scrutiny on Kenyon’s campus. In the 2019-20 academic year, the Betas were found to be non-compliant with the College’s Standards of Excellence for the third consecutive year, putting them at “Third year, Level One” noncompliance, which is the most severe category of noncompliance.
However, this is not the only large gathering reported to have occurred on campus; there have also been concerns about parties in Caples Residence Hall. One Caples resident, who was granted anonymity to protect their privacy, said that large parties have occurred almost every weekend. “[Campus Safety officers] write people up every [weekend] night,” they said, with some events containing “upwards of 45” people.
In response to these large student gatherings, the Department of Athletics has reinstated additional restrictions for sports teams. In an email sent to student-athletes, Director of Athletics Jill McCartney described what this process would look like. “Out of an abundance of caution and concern for the well-being of faculty, staff, and students, all of our athletics teams will need to remain or return to Phase 2 training for this week,” she wrote. Notably, Phase 2 will limit the size of group practices.
In addition to these changes, Bonham discussed new, safe ways in which students can gather and adhere to the social distancing guidelines laid out in the College’s Student Conduct Addendum. She acknowledged that students need to socialize, but suggested that they do so safely. “We really need students to come forward with their good ideas, and not engage in unsafe behaviors,” she said.