FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – Nearly 29,000 University of Arkansas students are back on campus starting today, August 23, while COVID-19 cases continue to spread.
Last year, a CDC study suggested an Arkansas college’s rush week to be linked to the spread of COVID-19 at the start of the school year, with 31% of cases coming from students involved in fraternity and sorority activity.
This year, that could be a concern again at the U of A.
“Obviously, there have been some images from bid day this past weekend of large group of students over at the Greek theatre- many wearing masks some not wearing masks,” said U of A Communications Manager John Thomas.
Morgan Middlebrooks is a graduate student at the university, feeling concerned after seeing photos surface of nearly 2,000 sorority members not social distancing before the first of the school year.
“I searched the hashtags for UARK rush or rush 2021 and then saw the actual scale of it and that really freaked me out,” she said.
“As of right now, there’s no law or mandate that says you have to wear a mask outdoors,” said Greek Life Assistant Vice Chancellor Parice S. Bowers. “Again, I can only speak for the portion of bid day in Greek theatre that I’m responsible for.”
Bowser said all CDC guidelines were followed throughout recruitment week.
“Last year, we held a virtual recruitment process with the exception of one day being in person, which was bid day,” she said. “This particular year, everything was in person except for our first round.”
But, Middlebrooks said she still wishes the university could have given her an option to study from home after events like these- with the only online classes offered this year being through the school’s global campus.
“There was this huge sorority recruiting event two days ago which makes me a little worried about the case numbers and if it were up to me, I might have chosen to be asynchronous during high population times.”
With a mask mandate in place for all classes, Thomas said the university is doing everything possible to keep students safe.
“It’s not going to be a perfect scenario,” he said. “Some people may contract COVID-19, but we’re going to do everything we can to make sure people understand the situation we’re in.”