CSF luau criticized for lax COVID protocol for second consecutive year


A crowd of UK students jumps up and down to music during Christian Student Fellowship’s Luau Party on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, at CSF’s temporary location on Columbia Avenue in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

A luau party thrown by UK’s Christian Student Fellowship has caused quite the Twitter stir, and not for the first time. A video of Friday night’s mostly maskless and not socially-distanced event posted by Kernel photographer Jack Weaver (@jack_weaver_) has received over 200,000 Twitter impressions as of Monday, Aug. 23.

Friday night’s event was part of CSF’s annual K Week events, which also typically include a s’mores roast and free pancakes at midnight.

Before the video was posted, CSF had COVID guidelines and a YouTube video about COVID safety on their webpage, but it has since been removed.

CSF’s COVID guidelines originally stated that “Events are being structured to allow for social distancing, with increased spacing between chairs, tables and walkways.”

UK spokesperson Jay Blanton said that the event was registered with the university, and that since it was held outdoors, masks were not required, although they were recommended for those who are unvaccinated and near people for an extended period of time.

“To the extent people have concerns about noncompliance, we urge them to let us know through our coronavirus email address ([email protected]) or through our Office of Student Conduct,” Blanton said. “Importantly, we also go back and review events afterward to examine if and when there are issues or concerns as part of our process.”

Some might consider this CSF’s second strike. Last year during K Week, the organization was banned from hosting events after social distancing issues arose during their luau cookout.

In the weeks leading up to the start of the semester, UK has been pushing to get the vaccination rate to 80%, which is currently at 72.5% and doesn’t include the incoming freshman. On Friday, Aug. 20, there were 224 new cases reported in Lexington-Fayette County and a 7-day rolling average of 190 cases, according to the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department. There are 37 active cases among UK students as of Tuesday, Aug. 24.

With classes currently in session, some faculty members are concerned about the effects of the party.

“Between low vaccination rates among students, no social distancing in classes and masking that isn’t terribly effective, the consequences from events like UK CSF’s certainly can spill over to other students or faculty who didn’t ask for it,” said economics professor Aaron Yelowitz.

Yelowitz added that even if UK reaches the 80% vaccinated mark, the chances of having at least one unvaccinated student in a class of 45 is over 99.9%.

Dr. Christal Badour, associate professor of psychology, was also disappointed to hear about the luau party.

 “I thank the university for pushing vaccinations and encouraging students to do so,” she said. “But it’s incredibly disheartening to see them not taking the proper precautions. I’ve had many conversations with my colleagues who feel the same way.”

While several professors were concerned, students were largely indifferent. 

Freshman Christina Winfree said she didn’t have an issue with the event, and doesn’t think that masking was necessary. 

“I’ve had COVID twice. It’s the most mild illness I’ve ever had in my life,” Winfree said. 

Junior Robert Walker doesn’t know whether or not he’s had COVID, but he agrees that masks are an unnecessary fear tactic. 

“In my opinion, if you don’t want to wear a mask, and you’re a consenting adult, you’re right,” he said. “This is America.”

While sophomore Caanan Neaves was bothered by the uncontrolled crowd walking back and forth across busy streets, “standing in the middle of the road like they wanted to get hit by a car or something.” He thought the lack of masks and social distancing was inevitable.

“When you have a bunch of students on college, and they’re all trying to find ways to be social and hang out, you’re going to have large gatherings of people without masks — it’s just gonna happen,” Neaves said. “It’s something the university can’t control, as much as they think that they can.”

The Kernel has reached out to CSF for a statement.