30-Day on Downtown and New Regulations: Severe or Necessary?

Trevor Gulock, Senior Writer

The rise of the COVID-19 Omicron variant has inspired more caution and a sense of emergency nationwide as COVID-19 cases peaked in January of 2022. The variant, while currently less severe but exponentially more contagious than its original variant, has challenged communities to limit the spread without reducing the global progress already made in response to COVID-19. We are out of quarantine, our economy has become more demanding, and people are excited to return to normal life. While both the Delta and Omicron variants have certainly made putting COVID-19 in the past, the changes we are experiencing as a society feel experimental when considering their impact. Just as soon as we have been told to open as a society, we are once again in the midst of trying to control an even more contagious variant.

Confusion and stress have been felt across the University and surrounding Lewisburg community as the new mask recommendations and testing regulations have been applied seemingly at the last minute. However, did the University administration have a choice? With new cases topping at one and a half million as of January 10, an immediate and urgent response was necessary, especially when considering the goal of stopping the spread to protect those who are compromised from getting sick. As a part of this emergent response, the Buffalo Valley Regional Police Department and the Borough of Lewisburg’s Declaration of Disaster Emergency Management Coordinator discontinued the issuance of Regulated Social Gathering Permits. This effectively ended Greek Life parties at the University for the next 30 days as of January 10, the day COVID-19 cases hit an all-time high. 

For sororities and fraternities, this inspired more confusion and frustration towards the University administration’s response to the ongoing pandemic. This regulation not only reduced the sense of community within these Greek Life organizations but raised the question of “will we get our money back for these permits?” The Buffalo Valley Police Department immediately promised refunds for all permits, but holding money from college students still matters, even for Greek Life. Increased frustration continued as the University mandated the booster vaccine over winter break — a difficult feat for many considering high demand and a respectively limited time frame. Many Greek Life members feel as though if we are triple vaccinated, we have the right to hold social gatherings. As a student who has no affiliation with Greek Life, I can safely say that I would be upset too.

Nonetheless, it is important to note the social impact this regulation has had on our University community. Bars and local restaurants have now become the ‘hot’ place to attend social gatherings, at least by default. These bars and restaurants offer more age restrictions and provide, what I would argue, a safer environment for University students to congregate. However, this age restriction is making it particularly hard for underclassmen to partake in social gatherings that help provide friends, mental health stability and opportunities to express themselves. Nonetheless, our surrounding community offers more visible and public spaces to ‘unwind,’ — limiting at least to some extent, cases of underage drinking, sexual assault and other offenses associated with culture that plague Greek Life’s reputation. Moreover, these local hotspots support the Lewisburg community while simultaneously providing a more inclusive environment for a more diverse array of perspectives.

While my roommates and I often joke that “it’s too cold to go out anyway,” our ‘no partying in Downtown houses’ mandate for January is a small price to pay for potentially saving people’s lives — and more importantly, highlights other opportunities for students not in Greek Life to still partake in the University’s thriving social scene.

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