Amid heightening COVID-19 restrictions and stricter mask mandates, many non-Greek selective living groups have had to reimagine their rush processes to comply with Duke’s safety standards.
The University announced new COVID-19 safety protocols on Aug. 30. Now, undergraduate students hosting social gatherings on- and off-campus must ensure all attendees are masked and must limit attendance to more than 50 people.
However, unlike last spring, Duke has not identified any new fall rush guidelines for SLGs, leaving some groups rushing to figure out the format of their rush events in the coming weeks.
Senior and Round Table rush chair Andrew Krier said that he is cautiously optimistic about the possibility of in-person rush events but wants to ensure flexibility through virtual access.
“We went into this knowing that you have to be flexible,” Krier said. “We're trying to make all of our events fully attendable virtually so that people should be able to participate if they’re not comfortable with the COVID situation.”
However, both Krier and Lauren Garbett, a junior and Mundi’s co-social chair, have felt confused at certain safety aspects of rush. Garbett said that nobody from Duke has reached out to Mundi directly.
“I've had to reach out to the person who helps us coordinate, but we’re honestly going in blind,” she said. “We mostly talk to other SLGs to see what they’re doing.”
Garbett said that Mundi planned an in-person rush calendar, but they held off on posting it in case conditions at the University changed, which they did last week.
“We’re a little lost in terms of guidelines. We haven’t had that much guidance from Duke.”
Krier feels that Duke has been giving unspecific answers to questions surrounding COVID-19 and rush, but acknowledges that everyone is trying their best to navigate the situation. JAM! rush chair Olivia Wikstrom, a junior, said that she believes that rush is at the bottom of Duke’s priority list.
In the meantime, SLG representatives are doing their best to interpret Duke’s school-wide guidelines.
“[SLGs] got the same communication that everyone else did,” said senior Nehal Jain, president of Illyria. “We just had to assume that it applied to our events as it applies to everyone else’s events.”
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Jain, however, has been able to find clearer guidance on guidelines, which she appreciates. “We were able to get in contact with [Housing & Residence Life], and they were very helpful,” Jain said. “Once we got in contact, they were immediately helpful.”
Though social events remain a staple of rush, Jain hopes to reimagine rush events to be safe and enjoyable, including outdoor events with different groups of people sectioned off from each other and dividing rushees between multiple rooms for indoor events. Jain said that she is planning to spend the next week observing Duke’s restrictions and guidelines before Illyria’s rush process begins.
“We actually pushed our rush plans back one week in order to get a better sense of what's happening with COVID-19 because [Duke] did say they were going to provide us with an update at the end of two weeks,” Jain said.
Wikstrom said that she is erring on the side of caution, no matter what Duke guidelines say.
“We were never planning on having large events in the first place, given our new members’ and my own personal concern about COVID spread,” Wikstrom said. “It’s not necessarily a Duke-mandated change to make events safer.”
Despite such a drastically different rush process than usual, SLG leaders are still optimistic about the rushee turnout.
“[First-years] last year were deprived of so many opportunities to get to know the community,” Wikstrom said. “In general, I think there's going to be more interest this year than last.”