Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, when photos emerged of unmasked students participating in fraternity and sorority “bid-week” activities, some students grew concerned.
“As an FSL alum, I am pretty disappointed with what I am seeing, especially from their social media pages run by the organizations themselves, which seem to be promoting large groups without masks, traveling and no signs of following social distancing,” said Brittany Sellars, a graduate student in applied behavior analysis.
As of Sept. 1, there have been 825 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The Springfield-Greene County Health Department offers insight into what students should be doing.
“When we are with anyone outside of our household, be that friends, a class workgroup, coworkers, whatever it may be, we should be masked and physically distant,” Clay Goddard, director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department said.
FSL is a student organization on campus and is required to social distance and mask-like Goddard recommended, according to Tara Benson, director of student engagement.
However, she said there is only so much social distancing that can be done. Many of the students live together in the houses, so it is unlikely they will be able to distance. Additionally, if they live off-campus together, the university cannot require them to distance.
“Many of the houses have incorporated a mask and social distance policy in common areas, but not all houses have common spaces,” Benson said.
Michael Chapman, president of Delta Sigma Phi, said their fraternity is one of those enforcing these regulations.
“We are 110% enforcing masking and social distancing,” Chapman said. “I am aware not all chapters have been practicing this, but we at Delta Sigma Phi are aware that as leaders in the community, we must do our part to keep ourselves and others safe.”
Aside from distancing and masking during “bid-day,” other FSL events are expected to change.
“Regarding events, (FSL members) should follow guidelines set forth by the university if it's an on-campus event and the guidelines set by Springfield-Greene County regarding off-campus events,” Benson said. “Student organizations who do not follow the guidelines on campus should be reported to the Office of Student Conduct, and events not following Springfield-Greene County restrictions should be reported to the Springfield Police Department.”
Goddard said even though there are restrictions on events, he thinks students can still make the most of their events.
“I think if they put their mind to it, our area college students can find ways to be social, physically distant and masked,” Goddard said. “That’s probably not going to be a big house party. It’s not going to be the same kind of event as last fall. But, I think this generation are problem solvers who can find a healthy path forward.”
Chapman agreed with Goddard’s statement.
“Clay Goddard is right in regards that there are ways to make our programming within our chapters physically distant to remain social,” Chapman said. “The first step to do this is to realize that we as campus and community leaders have an obligation to do what is right.”
Chapman said he has changed the structure of the fraternity’s chapter meetings. Members have the option to attend a Zoom meeting. But, if they choose to attend meetings in person, they must remain six feet apart and wear a mask.
Although Springfield is not under a stay-at-home order, Goddard said COVID-19 needs to be taken just as seriously.
“COVID-19 hasn’t changed — it’s still looking for our vulnerabilities, and it’s gotten better and better at finding them,” Goddard said. “We still need to take this seriously, especially now as cases continue to climb.”
Goddard acknowledged that this is a hard time for students. But, it is not time to return to normal.
“Take it seriously. I know we’re asking for some sacrifices. Many of you probably didn’t get the high school graduation you wanted,” Goddard said. “Many of you probably aren’t having the college experience you wanted. But, this isn’t over, and we are all in this together.”