by Sohan Gade ’23 (he/ him), Staff Writer

On February 1st, 2020, first-years woke up to celebratory serenades by upperclassmen eating house members to welcome their new members. Hallways were packed with a palpable sense of excitement and limited knowledge of the COVID-19 pandemic. A month later, on March 12th, President Quillen sent out a campus-wide announcement that the college would be ending all in-person classes and activities.

In the coming months, the highly contagious virus would grow rampant across the United States. Now one year later, Placement Day is scheduled for Saturday, February 21st. Due to COVID-19 protocols, Placement Day will look different this year, using Zoom and virtual programs.

Due to the rapidly-spreading nature of COVID, the college imposed strict protocols on student gatherings. Jane Guidera ’21, President of the Patterson Court Council, said that “if caught, then [an organization] will not be able to admit any new members into the organization.”

Guidera said that “two non-IFC fraternities, the Alphas and Kappas, were not having a rush process this spring to be safe from COVID.” 

Turner Placement Chair Georgia Morris ’23 echoed Guidera’s statement. Morris said, “We [Turner House E-board] have also chosen to err on the side of caution in planning all events, making safety our main priority.” 

The extra precautions could also be attributed to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases on campus, reaching the 50-case mark in early February.

For decades, eating houses have provided Davidson students with friends and long-lasting relationships. They have also been known to associate with different stereotypes. Warner Hall Secretary Mary Shandley ’23 explained that this year is an opportunity to display each organization as multifaceted.

“The [first-years] have been asking a lot about the stereotypes for each eating house, and we’re trying to change that narrative. That’s what each house is about because there’s just so many different people in each one,” Shandley said.

Shandley also mentioned that having Zoom events can include members currently in quarantine or isolation spaces.

“One of our Placement Chairs is in quarantine, so having Zoom events can ensure everyone can make it to the events,” Shandley said.

Two first year students, Alice Garner ’24 and Meredith Haines ’24, shared their experience with the placement process.

“Most of us are really excited for Placement Day. [The Placement Chairs] have done a good job… Regardless of [whether the events are] online or in-person, there are still cases where you may not necessarily fit into the group,” Garner said.

“We are only looking for a great community – it’s been tough to meet upperclassmen this year, and eating houses will help us do that,” Haines said.

On the IFC side of things, Rush Chairs have run into similar issues. The balance between creating the community and keeping all members safe has been tough to reach.

Varun Maheshwari ’23, Rush Chair of SAE, spoke about said challenges. “I am a true believer in face-to-face interaction. We are trying to emulate the experience as much as possible over Zoom,” Maheshwari said.

The reasons to join the fraternities and eating houses remains the same, even with virtual events. While first-years did not have the opportunity to experience a lot of Davidson traditions (such as the Cake Race, Honor Code Signing, and Flickerball), many expressed significant interest in joining eating houses and fraternities.

“We’re looking at 192 people joining eating houses this spring, and 60 to 70 [people] rushing fraternities,” Guidera said.

First-year Victor Taylor ’24 expressed his desire to use the rush process to gain new connections. “I’m interested because I really want to meet new people and have another solid group that I’m a part of on campus. COVID has definitely impacted my ability to meet as many new people, and I think rushing is a great way to make up for it,” Taylor said.

Maheshwari also sees the COVID rush as a unique opportunity to change how the fraternity rush process works at Davidson.

“I think everyone in the fraternity is on the same page that we’re going to show our true colors. And naturally, you know, the people who still are with us through these really boring, long sessions [will join us],” Maheshwari said.

Overall, the organizations are hopeful to build their communities this spring, despite the unusual circumstances.