Stories about virus at residence halls vs. greek houses misleading

To the editor:

In your Friday edition, you asked the question “How have the residence halls at KSU avoided the outbreak?” I found several comments worth exploring, so I turned to the Kansas State University website. I commend officials for being transparent by releasing COVID-19 cumulative testing data which is updated weekly.

Writer Savannah Rattanavong compared campus housing with recent reports of fraternity and sorority houses that have been labeled as nine outbreak sites by the Riley County Health Department. She quoted KSU housing and dining Assistant Vice President Derek Jackson, K-State spokeswoman Michele Geering and director of fraternity and sorority life Jordan Kocher.

Yet, in another Manhattan Mercury article in the same edition, writer Hailey Dixon, reporting the latest Riley County covid totals, shed more light on the extent of the greek house outbreaks. I compared what K-State reported this week on its website with the totals the Mercury reported in the greek house outbreak sites. This may not entirely be apples to apples, but what did I find?

The accumulative positive cases at KSU through Sept. 1 is 479 cases. As of August 21, the accumulative total was 63. This is an increase of 416 positive cases or 760%.

The accumulative positive cases at the nine greek outbreak sites reported by Dixon is 81 cases. Then I read in the Sunday paper, a 10th chapter house has five cases for a new total of 86 cases.

Quoting writer Rattanavong, “(KSU) Officials said there’s also likely a difference in behavior between students in residence halls, which are under control of the university, and students in greek houses.”

Quoting Assistant Vice President Jackson, “Our students are, from what we’re seeing on campus, very serious about following the rules and keeping safe.”

Really? All of them? I repeat, 479 positive cases vs. 86 positive cases. How many students are in isolation at Van Zile Hall and Jardine Apartments? This virus is one contagious little devil no matter where one lives.

FSL director Kocher elaborated about all that off-campus greek chapters did this summer to prepare for students’ return this fall. It was substantial as she related.

I am fraternity adviser to Pi Kappa Phi, and my chapter spent several weeks this summer on Sunday night conference calls to develop our COVID safety protocols. Those directly involved were all the student officers, advisers, housemother, chef and the national housing corporation representatives. We wrote a three-page, single-spaced document incorporating recommendations from the National Centers for Disease Control, RCHD, KSU and Kansas Agriculture Dept. Food Health Safety.

Prior to the Aug. 8 move-in, our protocols were sent to every student member and to their parents. We are strictly enforcing these protocols, and, knock on wood, we have not yet had a single positive covid case. To Jackson’s comment, I can truthfully say Pi Kapps are trying to keep themselves safe, as well as keep their housemother, chef, cleaning staff and advisers safe.

But, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

There are 31 greek chapter houses in Manhattan. I feel confident saying all my peer advisers are attempting to keep their young men and women safe, the same as K-State Housing and Dining officials.

During a greatly appreciated Zoom meeting Aug. 26 between President Richard Myers and Vice President for Student Life Thomas Lane with the greek student presidents and advisers, I learned there are several hundred campus isolation rooms available to off-campus students for $50 a day. Thus, KSU would invoice a student $700 for a 14-day isolation.

The reality is I advise some students working one and two part-time jobs, and I know they would have difficulty paying that.

One final comment, 479 vs. 86. It is a heavy badge to wear and unfortunately it will continue to get heavier for both of us.

Tim Lindemuth

President

Alumni Fraternity Council

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