Covid Zooniversity

Editor’s Note:  Zeta Psi actives and elders have been impacted in many ways by the Coronavirus pandemic.  Many chapters have had members with infections and all have had their university experiences reshaped since the start of Spring 2020.  Zeta Psi has offered consistent messaging and guidance throughout the pandemic — and we owe a debt of gratitude to the active and elder leaders that have “made do” under absolutely unimaginable circumstances.  

Fraternity 2020: Covid Zooniversity – Actives Speak Out
Many may look back at their undergraduate years as a time of learning, a time of growth and a time of self-actualization. For many of our active brothers, it is now a time of adaptation. Many terms have been thrown around to capture this unique time, but nothing has proved more poignant than “New Normal.” Connor Dawe, Phi of the Alpha Mu (Dalhousie) chapter, reflects on this “New Normal” and bears the sentiment that “it is clear that this will not stay normal, nor should it.

Connor further explains that “from an academic standpoint, as an undergraduate student, the learning experience could not get any worse. Universities were not ready for these changes. Professors and teachers have no clue how to teach or run their classes virtually. Cheating in courses is extreme because there is zero chance of being caught or facing any repercussions. Faculty and universities don’t have answers either, as it can take weeks to get an email reply. The worst thing about this is from the standpoint of education and learning. It feels like no one is learning because they are not engaged. Why do we pay thousands of dollars and increases in our tuition for this learning experience/program? Especially when you could have gotten the same quality and understanding from YouTube or Khan Academy for free. It is a scam.” With students expressing these concerns, it’s pertinent to note how this cannot remain as the new normal. Furthermore, it’s extremely important to consider that while a virtual classroom offers more accessibility, the sudden change has imposed another level of stress on students, who under normal circumstances, work tirelessly to achieve high academic success. 

Connor then described the effect of the “New Normal” from the standpoint of his fraternity membeship as it “has easily been one of the most trying times as an active member of my chapter.” While trying to abide by the many laws and ordinances issued by local, provincial, state and federal governments, our chapters may see a some disengagement. Connor continues to state how “events [that] are limited in size, [sees] guys rather stay home.

Brother Dawe ends his thoughts that touches on an important aspect for our active brothers, and that is their mental health. He points out that “you wonder how guys’ mental states are doing. It may be challenging for guys to discuss these problems. Chapter life seems very much like a shell of what it used to be.” Brother Grayson Martone, Alpha Beta (Minnesota), shares how the semester is different and how they have had to “[focus] on brotherhood and still [focus] on what it means to be a Zete.

These brothers speak for many active Zetes across the globe as they emphasize that this period is one for reflection as to what the undergraduate experience means and what the value of the fraternity is about. The fraternity is a part of what all our active brothers are facing, and that means adapting to a world in constant flux. 

This pandemic has challenged the undergraduates both in their fraternal lives and their academics. However, the “New Normal” has a different effect on everyone and the necessity of a safe space is an ongoing concern for our undergraduate brothers.

Social and academic lives have overlapped. Spaces that previously allowed brothers to study and commit to their academics are no longer available. The chapter’s study room, the campus library and the local coffee shop have all become locations that are no longer available. The “New Normal” has taken these options away from our active brothers. 

Due to the rise of virtual learning, our active brotherhood has moved into different geographic regions. Some brothers have even opted not to return to campus. The ability to have necessary social experiences has proven to be difficult. As stated by brother Tyler Makover, Tau (Lafayette), “COVID-19 has transformed my semester experience. While I expected to have space to study, space to live, and space to eat and socialize, now I must do all of that in one singular location. I am lucky that my parents have given me adequate space to focus on my academics. However, I know many that are not so blessed to have that experience.”.

Not everyone may have the adequate space that they want or need. However, we are still a brotherhood and we need to maintain our identity. Reaching out to those that we haven’t heard from in a while during these difficult times falls on all of us. The undergraduates are doing quite well in that regard, but this expands past the undergraduates.

We are all a part of the Circle.