Alpha Sigma Phi held a maskless formal on November 5.
This event was hosted the same night Keene State sent out an email announcing an uptick of positive COVID-19 cases among campus community members with a total of 21 cases that week. According to photos posted on social media by multiple attendees, the indoor gathering consisted of more than 10 people. Photos show attendees posing without masks and others in the background also without masks.
The Equinox reached out to Alpha Sigma Phi President Cristian Valentin for an interview, however Valentin said he could not participate because of the national organization’s rules. In response to the event, Valentin did issue a statement saying the organization broke no rules at the formal.
“At our formal, Alpha Sigma Phi adhered to all Keene State College policies related to COVID-19 for student organizations. All events we host are in accordance with Keene State College’s risk status matrix. We continue to take all precautions and guidance from the college to keep our members and guests safe,” Valentin said in a statement.
According to Keene State College President Melinda Treadwell that is not the case.
Treadwell said that for events hosted by clubs and organizations affiliated with the school, there is a gathering size limit of 10 and all attendees must be masked while indoors. She said the manner in which the formal was conducted was a breach of the school’s COVID-19 guidelines.
“If we can’t adhere to guidelines we can’t have events and that’s really where this lands,” Treadwell said. “We’ll stop being able to sponsor events if we can’t have compliance with guidelines.”
Treadwell added that the COVID-19 guidelines are made clear during the approval process for formal events.
Student Center Programs Coordinator Brandon Carta, an Alpha Sigma Phi founding member, said however, that formals like these do not have an approval process with the school. He added that the Student Involvement team is working on creating an approval process which he hopes will be finalized by the end of the academic year. Carta said that although organizations are still allowed to hold social events and formals, he disagrees with the practice during the pandemic.
“I don’t think it’s responsible to hold any socials if I’m being honest,” Carta said. “There’s a lot of negative perceptions about fraternities and sororities in general about whether they care or not and I think this is a good example of a time when some of those perceptions are a reality.”
As of now, the school is only registering events with fraternities and sororities, Carta said. “There are obviously club sports and other groups that are throwing events or who have houses but because socials aren’t a part of their mission and we don’t have a process to register those events so that’s problematic.”
Director of Student Involvement Jessica Gagne Cloutier said that any organizations that violate any of their social policies or public health policies would go through the Office of Community Standards.
“Do I think that it’s appropriate for us to practice the best standards, absolutely,” Cloutier said. “But making sure that every student is held accountable to the policies and expectations that the institution has set out.”
Carta said that although he still thinks it’s irresponsible to host social events during the pandemic, he noted that he thinks it’s more irresponsible and problematic for students or organizations to hold open parties without guest lists, which he said is prohibited for Greek Life.
Hunter Oberst can be contacted at