The Home We Love So Well: Stories from Home Series
Greek Life: Sisters and Brothers United
It’s Greek Week!
Normally, the Huntingdon College campus would be teeming with competitions between sororities and fraternities displaying camaraderie, allegiance to each other and to the College, and excitement for the special sisterhood or brotherhood they share. There’d be laughter, Greek letters and colors, pie-in-the face or egg-a-professor fundraisers, dunking booths, teeter-totter or cornhole contests, Mock Rock, … and the best of students sharing the best of times—some of them knowing that, in just a few weeks, their college years will end and the rest of their lives will begin.
This year, during the Pandemic of 2020, the only sounds on campus are lawn equipment, bugs singing, and birds chirping. In-person classes were suspended March 16, but sisterhood and brotherhood are still alive, buzzing through the Internet, social media, Zoom, GroupMe, and various other virtual methods. No matter what, Hawks will find a way to gather.
“Although strange, this pandemic is the kind of thing that tests your relationships,” says Alpha Omicron Pi chapter president Kerigan Pickett ’21. “Greek life and sister bonds are prepared for this. We are to be there in the good, the bad, and the ugly … and now quarantine!”
Established in 1975, AOPi is the College’s longest-standing Greek chapter. This spring, they’ve kept in touch through Tik Tok, a Netflix watch party, an online yoga class, and an online cooking activity. Weekly Leadership Council meetings and two chapter meetings are being conducted through Zoom, an online meeting platform. At last week’s first all-chapter Zoom meeting, the women wore the dresses they had chosen for their annual formal, which would have taken place this month.
Zoom has also kept the brothers of Sigma Phi Epsilon, the College’s longest-standing men’s fraternity chapter (1977), connected this semester. “It has been really nice to take some time and discuss our weekly business agenda,” says president Zack Fox ’21. More often, though, Zack says the meetings have become a way for everyone to catch up and “keep the chapter relationships and camaraderie as strong as possible.”
“This is a chaotic time, but having people who love and support you can make all the difference in the world,” says Kayley Yates ’21, president of Chi Omega women’s fraternity, established at Huntingdon in 1976. “We should lean on each other as we all try to figure out how to live in such a weird time. We should also lean in and brainstorm ways to make this season a little bit easier on each other and those around us.” Her chapter has stayed close through GroupMe and Zoom.
For the more than 25 percent of full-time day students who are involved, the bonds created by Greek life reach around connections formed by commonality of majors or involvement in athletics, band, choir, and other organizations, and cement a family within the greater Huntingdon family. Each of the Greek organizations has worked to maintain those concrete relationships, even as COVID-19 threatened to turn them into gravel.
“The Rho Chi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, has been active on the campus of Huntingdon College for nearly 21 years,” says chapter president Justala Simpson ’20. “Since the chapter’s chartering in 1999, Rho Chi has produced many dynamic alumnae and actively engaged Huntingdon students. While we have not been able to meet physically [this spring], we have completed a few virtual tasks.”
Sigma Nu president Mac McNeilly ’21 says his chapter has kept in touch via social media rather than through formal chapter meetings. “We feel that our brothers are close enough that we reach out to each other without the need to [meet in] an official chapter event, and it’s been awesome to see everybody making sure everyone’s okay,” says Mac.
Phi Mu women’s fraternity, established at Huntingdon along with Sigma Nu men’s fraternity in 2008, has kept in touch through GroupMe and will begin chapter-wide Zoom meetings this week. “Being involved with Greek life has changed my life/college life tremendously,” says chapter president Sydney Morgan ’21. “By being involved with Greek life I’ve grown as a person and a leader.”
“As far as Greek life during a global pandemic, I can assure you that it is challenging,” says Blake Meadows ’21, president of Lambda Chi Alpha, established in 2016. “However, I am extremely fortunate that I have a group of guys who are enthusiastic about focusing on the positives during this stressful and uncertain time. Every day someone is posting a Bible verse in the GroupMe and an inspirational quote as a reminder that it will get better, and everything will eventually go back to normal.” The chapter has conducted Zoom meetings weekly and used social media and phone contact to stay in touch “almost daily,” according to Blake.
One of the main tasks for chapters each year is raising money for their connected philanthropies, but all such fundraiser plans were canceled after March 12. Still, some individual Greek members have contributed in their own ways, with Phi Mu members Abby Cody ’22 volunteering at a food bank; Caitlin Wright ’21 passing out food to elementary school children; Colleen Collins ’20 creating a T-shirt campaign that raised more than $1,000 for Blue Lake Camp; and Chassity Page ’20 making masks for Huntsville hospital nurses. Alpha Kappa Alpha members promoted response to the 2020 Census and celebrated Global Impact Day, and the alumni chapter made a donation to the College. ChiO Shelby Blair ’22 continued filling sunshine buckets—containers of goodies to present to hospitalized children who are from socio-economically challenged families. In a sweeping gesture, Lambda Chi Alpha donated the remainder of its social budget for the spring term to purchase gift cards from Five Points Deli for distribution to nurses at local hospitals, thereby helping both the local economy and the hometown heroes fighting COVID-19. They also donated their canned goods to local schools to distribute to children who depend on school lunches for guaranteed meals.
“One thing that has been made evident to me during this pandemic is how willing our students are to help Huntingdon College in any way they can,” says Kathleen Penney ’15, director of student activities and coordinator of Greek life. “It’s great to work with a group who look to the future in a positive way in light of all that is happening around them. These leaders are just another example of why I am a proud Huntingdon and Greek life alumna.”
All of the Greek organizations look forward to adding new members as recruitment gets underway in the fall. “Greek life has had the biggest impact on my Huntingdon College experience,” says Mac. “I truly found a group of people who believe in what I believe and we challenge ourselves to push past our limits and hit new marks. I have the deepest love for each and every one of my brothers, as well as those in other organizations who push to grow Greek life. Greek life is a place where people can be taken out of their comfort zone, and it’s a true incubator for leadership development.”
Thursday evening, April 16, Greek organization members will gather for the annual Greek awards ceremony, which will be conducted virtually this year. Together, they will celebrate the bonds created through brotherhood and sisterhood that will keep them connected for the rest of their lives.
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