Published: April 23, 2021
5 Minutes With: Allen Lopez ’21
Allen Lopez ’21 served as president of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity from November 2019 to November 2020, keeping the brotherhood connected amidst a pandemic.
This feature first appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of the UT Journal. Read the magazine online.
What made you choose Alpha Tau Omega?
I liked that you didn’t have to fit a mold in order to be part of ATO. Everyone is still their own person, and it’s really brotherhood that ties us together.
How were you able to keep your brothers connected and mentally strong during the COVID-19 crisis?
On the GroupMe platform, we have a “serious” chat where the announcements are sent, and then we have a “random” chat. At the beginning of the pandemic, to keep spirits up, our chaplain and members of our executive board would ask weird questions, like, “Who would win in a fight, King Kong or a dinosaur?” They were questions that have no correct answer, but they spark conversation. It was always lighthearted to try to distract everyone from the stress of reality.
How did you handle hosting events?
We had to cancel some in the beginning, like our color run philanthropy event and our formal. That was disappointing, but everything everywhere was getting canceled so we all slowly got more accustomed to having an online presence. We held our weekly Sunday chapter meeting over Zoom, and we turned our recruitment events into virtual events. One day we played Battleship online in breakout rooms. We also had Zoom parties where we’d watch football games together. Once things calmed down and everyone got used to the new normal, we had some in-person events — they just had to be safe, and we always had masks and sanitizer. Our most successful one was at the beach. I think that alleviated a lot of pressure — just being able to see brothers in person helped a lot.
Were there any bright spots?
Since we weren’t holding as many events, we did have some leftover money. So we were able to buy all the brothers new jerseys with their nicknames on the back.
What was the most difficult part of serving as president during the COVID-19 pandemic?
It was hard, in general, to keep everyone’s spirits up and keep everyone motivated — especially when I felt that sometimes my spirits weren’t up. Many days I just felt defeated by the situation. I’m lucky that I’m friends with presidents of other organizations, and they would tell me the same thing. Knowing that I was in the same boat as so many other people on campus made me feel better. I wasn’t alone.
What have the hardships from the last year taught you about the power of brotherhood?
It taught me to appreciate my brothers. When I graduate this spring, I know that I’ve spent a lot of time with them, and I’ve built connections with them that probably won’t die because of how close we are. We tutor each other, and we help each other network on LinkedIn and get jobs. In the good times and the bad times, we try to be there for each other.
—MALLORY CULHANE ’21