A look into sorority formals: COVID-19 edition


Victoria Clement, senior special education major, Delta Zeta member and acting president of Kent State’s Panhellenic Council. Photo courtesy of Victoria Clement.

Morgan McGrath Feature Writer

COVID-19 has altered almost every aspect of modern life, including the in-person college experience. At Kent State, clubs and organizations are trying their best to remain active through Zoom calls, small gatherings and virtual events. 

“It’s a lot of adapting and figuring stuff out quickly,” said senior special education major Tori Clement.

Clement, a member of Delta Zeta, is currently the acting president of Kent State’s Panhellenic Council

“Essentially in this role, I oversee the council [and the chapter presidents],” Clement said.

Her presidential role is multifold, with responsibilities like creating calendar schedules, planning events, checking in on sorority presidents and connecting the sororities with the university.

Clement said her position is difficult but rewarding. 

“[Being in a sorority] has brought me so many different opportunities, and especially with the pandemic, it’s been really cool to see all the events and programs we’ve been able to hold in a virtual setting,” Clement said. 

Each spring, Kent State’s eight sororities host their own formal events, which typically involve dressing up, going to a banquet hall, aquarium or somewhere of the like and celebrating sisterhood in a fun and friendly environment. 

For the Panhellenic Council, this means booking venues, busses and scheduling meetings with event coordinators, Clement said.

However, because of COVID-19 restrictions, the sororities have had to adapt their formals to fit the new normal. 

“We’ve been telling members … plan for a hybrid and in-person [formal],” Clement said. 

She said they’ve been planning for virtual formals as well. 

As of April 5, the state of Ohio has continued to recommend in-person gatherings to be limited to 10 people or less. 

Thus, formals have primarily shifted to either virtual celebrations or informal gatherings with a small group of sisters getting dinner or going downtown with other members. 

“They can’t have that typical venue where everyone normally gathers,” Clement said.

Kent State’s Panhellenic Council has advised sorority presidents to encourage members to sign up for small group dinners, host Zoom meetings and host virtual award ceremonies as a way to modernize formals. 

Additionally, there have been grab-and-go events where sorority sisters can pick up treats from their houses located right off campus on Fraternity Circle. 

“The grab-and-go events would encompass a lot of things,” Clement said in an email.

One example would be an interactive craft-making sisterhood event “where sisters come pick up their materials (these are pre-packaged separately and is a contactless pick-up) and would then return home to hop on a Zoom and enjoy the sisterhood together,” she added. 

Sorority members have made sugar scrubs, tea bags and cookies thanks to grab-and-gos, and each of these virtual events helps create a sense of community amongst members. 

“We did a cookie decorating contest where we got pre-packaged cookie decorating kits from a bakery nearby, then hopped on Zoom, decorated our cookies together, and caught up with one another,” Clement said in the email. 

Currently, any in-person formal celebrations must either be held at an off-campus location (restaurants or other local establishments) or at an outdoor space (parks or diners with outside eating options) and attendees are required to comply with Kent State’s Flashes Safe Eight policies, which Clement said is very important.

With the stress of COVID-19, Clement said it’s hard to plan for events because there can be changes at any moment. 

“I think the biggest challenge right now is with the phasing process; we’re stopping and re-evaluating … with that constant change, it’s hard to plan,” she said. 

According to Clement, phasing refers to the process of shifting from virtual to in-person meetings and events. She said the Panhellenic Council is trying to make this happen as safely as possible. 

Clement said planning for formals in 2021 is “kind of a continuous process rather than a specific time frame.” 

In fact, some sororities have chose to postpone their formal events until the fall 2021-spring 2022 semesters. 

Clement and the rest of the Panhellenic Council have been communicating constantly as a way to ensure the safety and health of all sorority sisters. 

Clement said she is “trying to combat all of those different things and trying to figure out what’s safest for most members.” 

Formals might look different this spring, but the hope is for a more normal, face-to-face future. 

Morgan McGrath is a feature writer. Contact her at [email protected].